Developed by: Bandai Namco Studios, Project Aces
Published by: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
**The PSVR element of the game is not included in this review and does not affect the review score.**
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
The game was announced back in 2015 and was supposed to release two years later in 2017, before technical “hiccups” pushed the launch 2 years further to its eventual January 18, 2019 release date. Despite the long wait, however, Bandai Namco’s Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (AC7) remained without a doubt, one of the most anticipated game of 2019.
AC7 marks Bandai Namco’s 17th Ace Combat game (including non numbered versions and spin-offs) and the 7th entry to the numbered Ace Combat series. The older Ace Combat 6 which was launched as an Xbox Exclusive, was released 12 years ago in 2007.
Before we really start, AC7 is NOT a Flight Simulator.
AC7 is a combat flight action game and NOT a flight simulation.
How Shit Went Down…
The game takes place in AC’s world called Strangereal, where it’s divided into several continents. Fueled by its ambition and backed by a newfound technology, the Kingdom Erusea annexed smaller nations around it and declared war on the mighty Osean Federation.
The player will take the mantle a pilot, known by his callsign, “Trigger”, a combat pilot serving in the Osean Air Defense Force. All the combat elements in this game will be played through from Trigger’s perspective.
Like previous Ace Combat games, the gameplay revolves around Aerial Dogfighting and picking off ground/sea targets. The gameplay generally consists of 3 phases for every mission.
- Pre-Combat Phase where Cinematics are shown and Mission Briefings, Aircraft selection / preparations are made.
- Combat Phase, consist of aerial combats and in-game mission updates in the form of radio chatters.
- Post-Combat Phase where the battle is summarised in the form of a report (relevant to the plot) and earnings.
Players are briefed on their mission in “Mission Briefing”, which is properly done in this game. The briefings, done in a nicely voiced over pitch, offers a rich insight into the game’s socio-political environment, and why things unfolded the way they did. In the writer’s opinion, this accomplishment set the players in the right mood before they take to the sky.
Cinematic scenes after every mission await the players. These scenes are mostly presented over in a narrated story style. As brief as these scenes are, they are actually quite meaningful to the game’s storyline, kudos to the writers!
Meaningful and Rewarding Sense of Progression.
The return of “Aircraft Tree” system from Ace Combat: Infinity adds a meaningful and rewarding touch to the sense of progression in AC7. Players can purchase new Aircraft, Parts, and Weapons, allowing them more options to approach combat with.
Purchases are made using MRP (In-game currency) that is rewarded after completing a mission and multiplayer games. The currency is shared between both Single and Multiplayer modes.
Relying on one campaign playthrough will not earn the player enough to unlock everything in the Aircraft Tree. Players are expected to grind by replaying missions, restarting the campaign or participate in Multiplayer games for more MRP.
This also effectively increases the game’s replay value.
Flight Control Mechanics, Normal or Expert Mode?
So what is the Normal and Expert control, and do they affect your gameplay experience?
Yes, they do actually. The Standard control is the “Arcade Style” control and is no doubt the easier scheme to handle. However, it also restricts the player’s ability to perform certain stunts, say the acrobatics maneuver. This mode is very newbie friendly, but anyone who picks this mode will be sitting ducks in Multiplayer Mode and later in the campaign.
The Expert Control, on the other hand, could take some time for new players to get used to. This mode taps into a more realistic control scheme but actually not nearly as tough as a real simulator. It is in this mode that players get to perform their acrobatics stunts and pull those High-G moves!
Graphics and Visual Effects
Graphics wise, the planes look realistic, the sky looks nice but everything else is just so-so. Then again, this is a game where most of the player’s time is spent flying around, so the lack of ‘God of War’ like level of graphics on the landscape and buildings are really understandable.
Visual effects are simply amazing in this game. Players are pampered by realistic looking water droplets sliding over the canopy of their jets as they slice through the annoying but very beautiful clouds.
Speaking of clouds, flying into one will throw enemy’s missile guidance off target but spending too much time flying inside one will result in the plane “icing up”. The visual effects of the ice forming around the canopy is another amazing sight. So realistic!
The implementation of weather effects to this game is something worth commending. Getting zapped by lightning will cause a mini stall and resulting in the player’s HUD flickering for a while.
Visual Effect, Weather Effect, Wind Turbulence
Music and Sound Effects
The selection of Background Music (BGM) in AC7 is amazing. Though this view is purely subjective, the writer really enjoyed listening to its BGM.
Not only did the music sound amazing, but it also suits the mood and theme of the game. Some of the most impactful moments the writer experienced in this game came from when the Music suddenly kicked-in during the middle of missions. Epic.
AC7’s Multiplayer Mode is very straightforward, nothing new. Players get to choose between a Team Deathmatch which caters up to 4 v 4 maximum or a Battle Royale mode that pit 8 players against each other.
If you have a group of friends and fancy some private game together, the game allows the creation of a private lobby for this purpose. Weirdly, however, there is no option for the player to form a squadron with their friend before joining a public game together. This is quite a downer.
If you wish to join a public game with a friend, you’d need to either create a public lobby, invite your friend into it, then wait for the lobby to fill up with randoms. Or, you can try joining their game once they are in a lobby via the PlayStation Friendlist Join Game function.
What the writer wished was better though, or more precisely his wishlist.
- Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a co-op mode?
- Wouldn’t it be nice if friends can form a squadron before joining a public game together?
This game really showed what it would take to be a modern day combat pilot (or at least they didn’t make it look easy). More than just being able to pilot a fighter jet and look cool wearing the suit, a pilot must be calculative in his approach and constantly strategize even while manoeuvring in dangerous circumstances.
The game puts the player into the cockpit of a pilot who struggles to do his best for his nation. Be it flying through the dangerous mountainous valleys, intercepting a high-speed target, or meeting the enemy’s air and navy fleet head-on. It is through his cockpit that the player will take on the ultimate test, to take on the unknown skies.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown demonstrated why this genre still has a place in today’s gaming trend. A good story that drives all the action. And action that in return, tells a good story.
Plus all the properly placed and done mechanics and effects (sound and visual) AC7 is a good game in the writer’s book. One that will always remain memorable for the foreseeable future.
Must Play: ACE COMBAT: SKIES UNKNOWN 7 is the first MUST PLAY of 2019.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”222″ gal_title=”AC7 Review”]