Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Become an ace pilot and soar through photorealistic skies with full 360 degree movement; down enemy aircraft and experience the thrill of engaging in realistic sorties! Aerial combat has never looked or felt better!
-Full length single player campaign
-Death match and battle royal modes in multiplayer
Main Story: 10 hours
Completionist: 16.5 hours
PS4 and Xbox one: January 18, 2019
PC: January 31, 2019
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Flight Simulator
Ace Combat has been a staple in the arcade flight combat simulator for over 20 years. The first release of the series debuted in 1995 on the original Sony PlayStation, where it received both critical and fan base acclaim. There is not much you can do to innovate a series with such a simple goal: to make flying an immersive and enjoyable experience. The folks of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown have done that. This game is a nice throw back to the perfected basics.
I have been playing Ace Combat my whole life and I love the series. I remember the days of my childhood, huddled in front of the screen with my friends, trying our hardest to shoot the yellow jackets out of the skies in Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies. This one became the standard to all fans of what a beautiful game with great flying controls can be like. However, there was a period of time in recent years when the titles being released were not as good as I would have expected, due to either terrible controller and flight mechanics or just a bum story. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is here to remedy those complaints and gather back their lost fan base. This new game features varying weather, updated mission types and PSVR compatibility, offering much to been seen for both old and new fans.
In a modern selection of mission types, Ace Combat 7 offers a variety of objectives per level. This game still falls under the common format of levels in terms of playing (i.e. level 1, 2, 3). With the start of each mission, the briefing consists of context-sensitive dialogue, and a blueprint schematic modeled after what the mission will look like. It doesn’t offer anything new in terms of features, but it’s tried and true to the series. It helps the player to mildly understand what the new mission will consist of.
These objectives aren’t 100 percent clear and sometimes change on a moments notice. An example of this took place in a mission where the player squadron was to intercept enemy fighter drones. As the mission continues, you hear over the radio comms that a teammate of yours is retreating back to base. Your primary objective is changed to providing that team member with a safe flight to home base. After multiple mission failed screens, I became frustrated with how unclear the shift in objectives was. I finally noticed that the comms are one of the most important forms of information flow throughout the game. I plan on using that information in future replays.
There are many ways to accomplish the objectives. Once you’ve completed a level according to the canonical story, if you decide to retry and change the strategy, you can select the free play missions and repeat any past missions you have completed, with the bonus of earning spendable currency. In the free play missions, you can choose from any of the planes you own, and, depending on the level, you can select from over 20 airplanes, such as bomber style, stealth planes, etc.
If you’re a fan of exploring all possible aircraft options, these Free play missions are super helpful for funding your RPG-esque upgrade tree. With the upgrade tree, each plane offers some sort of improvement on the last. There are also attachable equipment pieces you can equip for your own flying style. There are a wide selection of missile types and machine gun pods to help those who want to personalize their victory with flight stabilizers, increased airspeed and defense.
The Beauty of Strangereal
The game is set in the familiar world of Strangereal. An alternative earth, it’s quite spectacular to see. The way this game looks is impressive. The game is a great indicator of how far the series has come visually. A great example of this is the first mission. It begins with a mission briefing—a cut scene where the specs for the mission are drawn out in a blueprint similar to the older games, when suddenly the base you’re at comes under fire. All units are scrambled to get their planes in the sky as quickly as possible.
The first takeoff scene is beautifully rendered to look like a coastal military base that’s been speckled with pillars of smoke and fire, assuring you of the damage to come if your combat squadron (code-named MAGE 2) doesn’t intervene. In the different locations of the game, you have a wide variety of highly intelligent enemies to battle against. The addition of interactive weather leaves you with the choice to fight against it, or use it to your advantage. In some cases, you’re flying in beautiful skies with minimal wind. On the other hand, there are missions where you’re flying against storm clouds and oppressive wind. The game has a lovely balance.
Displays of Flying
It’s a beautiful sight to see with the improvements of modern technology. The graphics really do their part in immersing you in the strange world. Flying the planes is impressive to see from all perspectives. The planes fly with 3 different options for view: cockpit, digital, and third person. In all views, there are impressive recreations of the actual planes. I’m not a big fan of the first-person cockpit view, but in this view, you can see real renditions of all the pilot’s aviary tools.
From altitude to speed and even pressure; they’re all readable in the cockpit. My favorite is the third-person perspective as it lets you see the beautifully made plane as well as the amazing environments. Playing the game with expert flying controls, I was amazed to see what a simple tilt of the analogue stick would cause the plane to do. As the plane turns, you see in real time all of the mechanical adjustments a plane does in real life from the tilting of the wing flaps to the auto stabilizers working in unison to make that maneuver come to fruition. Making you feel like you are, in fact, flying.
All in All
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a fantastic addition to the series, with its great mechanics flying true (Get it? Flying?). The game is rough around the edges when it comes to story, but it’s not terribly noticeable with the immersion of taking to the cockpit. The beautiful graphics coupled with the modern selections of planes makes it beautiful. All in all, I highly recommend it for people who are fans of flight combat simulators. Those who don’t have much experience in these genres, starting with this game, or Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies, will be a great introduction.
+ Great flying controls and combat
+ Varying environments, weather and mission styles
+ RPG-esque upgrade tree for planes and parts
- Muddled story
- Hidden objectives that result in a mission failure
- Difficulty understanding radio transmissions with teammates
- Harsh language