Let’s get this straight: Ace Combat 7 is by no stretch of the imagination a flight simulator. It is, however, one heck of a flight action game, filled with airplanes that will make even the most aircraft-obsessed person weep with joy. With plenty of room to maneuver your planes and shoot down enemies, Ace Combat 7 will make you feel like Maverick in Top Gun, blasting MIGs and F-14s out of the sky while doing a quick barrel roll, all in the comfort of your own chair.
This is a game that would grab your attention by the short hairs and yank really, really hard. It has a great single-player campaign, with a story that would actually make sense and make you care about the characters. It has a multiplayer option, making all the training in single-player go right out the window as you’re learning everything you need on the fly. All in all, I have to say I was impressed.
I will begin with the single-player campaign. It sees you, a rookie pilot codenamed ‘Trigger’ from the Nation of Osea, joining a squad of pilots at the start, slowly building yourself up to becoming the ace of the squadron. Trials and tribulations are par for the course, and you will find your character being thrown into all sorts of trouble on the way to becoming the best fighter pilot to ever rule the skies. Along the way you gain in-game currency called MRP, which is then exchanged for airplane upgrades as well as new airplanes. The missions vary quite a bit, from primarily bomb runs to *gasp* escort convoys as well as sorties where dogfights are the main dish of the day. Upgrades to your plane include making your aircraft more agile, your weapons more deadly, and other miscellaneous things that you would normally take for granted, like the icing up of flight parts while going through cloud cover, a la Iron Man. Upgrades require slots, which are limited in number so that you do not make a death machine that can tackle any mission, making for challenging outings that require you to think beforehand what upgrades might be useful and what to leave out.
Anything you unlock during your time in the single-player is carried over to the multiplayer mode; you are encouraged to finish the single-player campaign before embarking on the multiplayer in order to be on a more level playing field. There are two types of multiplayer; Battle Royale, where it is basically a free-for-all until one player reaches a required number of points, or Team Deathmatch, where two teams battle it out to reach a set number of points or the highest number of points before the timer runs out, depending on which comes first. With the amount of missiles flying around and lead being spewed out of planes, battles can be intense, but it makes for fast-paced action, where you have to think on your feet to avoid being attacked while dishing out damage of your own. I just hope more different modes get filled in soon, as a destruction derby can get rather tiresome after a while. Maybe target-the-objective or destroy-the-leader modes could be added to keep things interesting. There are plenty of medals and nicknames to be unlocked as well, making for plenty of replayability.
Ace Combat 7 returns with two different handling styles, Normal and Expert. Normal type flying makes it easy for beginners to enter the fray, relying on moving the joystick or mouse to determine direction, much like driving a car in games like Need For Speed. This makes it relatively simple for beginners of the franchise, only having to worry about speed control and limited maneuverability. Expert mode, however, is where the game truly shines. Pitch, yaw, speed control, altitude control… they all come into play, allowing you to make moves with such a degree of accuracy that makes flying an absolute joy. For first time players, being able to pull off a move you see in the movies is a dream come true. Soon, with adequate practice, you will be able to execute moves to evade enemy fire, all while moving into position for your own attacks.
Graphics-wise, this game definitely pulls off amazing looking visuals. The geography of the game looks absolutely awesome, where the natural environments look like the real deal. Plenty of detail has definitely been poured into the creation of the environments of the game, making it one of the more gorgeous looking games in the series so far. The airplanes are no slouch either. Every nut and bolt is where they should be, and no detail is spared in the creation of a digital aircraft that looks like its real-life counterpart. Airplane contrails are visible when doing large turns, and so are missiles, showing their trails to the enemy aircrafts and exploding into satisfying showers of smoke and fire reminiscent of a Balrog from The Lord of the Rings franchise.
The audio is well-executed too, with the music in the background egging you surely on. Different weapons have distinct sounding firing mechanisms, making it noticeable when you accidentally fire off the wrong weapon. There are time delays in explosions as well, depending on your distance from the target, making for a really immersive experience. Chatter between pilots is common, too. However, it isn’t played at too high of a volume as to take you out of the experience. They do talk a lot though, and sometimes you might miss crucial pieces of information like added objectives and incoming fire as you pour your focus into chasing other objectives. Each airplane’s engine sounds different, too, making each of them even more unique.
On the whole, this game fulfills every Top Gun enthusiast’s lust for the skies and becoming an ace pilot. Even with the lack of multiplayer modes, just flying alone through the wide open blue of the world makes this game more than worth its salt.