The hangar remained closed for 12 long years and time since the announcement of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has also already passed. It looks like the developers at Project Aces aren't rushing themselves, which also raises expectations.
Ace Combat 7 is supposed to deliver a fully fledged campaign, a multiplayer mode and VR missions (on the PS4). Storywise, the game is kept pretty simple, as it fits into one sentence: One enemy continent attacks the other, and because its air force is badly decimated after a while, a few outcasts and cons have to climb into the cockpit to save the situation. All in all nothing new from the series.
But in the end, it doesn't matter, because, since its PS1 debut in 1995, the Ace Combat series is not known for its great stories, but for its extensive dogfights with a lot of shooting and wild evasive manoeuvres. The game is not about simulation, it's about arcade action. Nevertheless, developer Project Aces doesn't completely forego realistic influences in Part 7 of the series.
What is the Gameplay like?
The preparation of the individual missions is always the same: After an interim sequence, the actual briefing follows, which consists of a lot of talking - mostly you have to get enemy hunters from the sky and/or kill ground targets. You then choose your jet according to your requirements. In the beginning, you only have one machine to choose from, but new ones will be added quickly. This is a mixture of real and fictitious planes. Some will be unlocked through campaign progress, but most need to be bought.
The better you rank after completing a mission, the more MRP points you will earn as a reward. These, in turn, can be used in funding new planes, which have different strengths in areas such as speed, agility, or defence. This is directly linked to the available weapons: While the F-16C can fire up to four flying targets simultaneously thanks to the 4AAM missiles, the Gripen E LACM cruise missiles are ideal for attacking ground positions. Common to all pilots is a machine gun with unlimited ammunition and an impressive number of target-seeking missiles.
In addition, you can buy parts to improve the flight characteristics. Unlike weapons, these upgrades can be attached to any aircraft. However, each machine can only hold a limited number of them - think of it like the perk system in Call of Duty games. In this way, you can, for example, strengthen your missiles or make your plane more agile.
The campaign itself is varied: You fight against enemy fighters and unmanned drones, bomb ground targets like missile positions and radar systems or fly under the enemy radar. From time to time, you'll also have to protect allies from being shot down. While each task covers at least two sections with a checkpoint between them, each mission has to be completed within a time limit.
The battles take place in the desert, over the open sea or in the mountains. The layout of the areas and planes is one of the graphic strengths of Ace Combat 7. Vehicles and buildings, on the other hand, appear somewhat coarsely textured. However, this is of little importance, as you only notice them briefly when flying past.
The initial difficulty level (easy, normal, difficult) cannot be changed during the campaign, so be honest about whether you are a true ace or a beginner. Because even at a low level, flying around wildly and shooting randomly won't get you anywhere. You'll have to catch enemy fighters and nimble drones at the right moment, otherwise, your missiles will go nowhere. As if that weren't already difficult enough in combination with the time limit, you'll also have an enemy missile sticking to your tail all the time. Your decoys are limited, so permanent evasion is mandatory. This, in turn, makes it difficult to keep the focus on relevant targets.
The game becomes even trickier, however, when different weather conditions come into play. Optically and acoustically these are the highlight of the game, but they can also mean great danger. Heavy rain makes visibility difficult, especially if you are flying in one of the two cockpit perspectives. If you climb too high, the wings will freeze, preventing you from manoeuvring.
Furthermore, in the middle of a thunderstorm, lightning can hit the aircraft, which massively disturbs the entire onboard electronics. No less dangerous are stalls that cause your aircraft to sink all at once - this is particularly unfavourable during a flight only a few meters above the ground. Because collisions, no matter if with a rock or another plane, are almost always your end.
How do you control your plane?
There are two ways to control your plane: Choosing the standard controls, allows you to easily sweep your aircraft to the left and right, but does not allow you to use rolls for evasive manoeuvres. A more realistic feeling is provided by the Expert setting, which will also allow you to invert your plane. At the same time, this variant increases the demands noticeably, because you have to concentrate on altitude and direction way more.
True to its arcade orientation, the title gives you a pretty tight playing field, because its missions hardly let you off the leash. Instead, you'll have to memorize the course of a mission and concentrate on what's required of you.
How is the VR in Ace Combat 7?
One of the best virtual reality experiences yet is hidden behind the VR option. The immersion in the three special missions is great: You take seat in the cockpit, the joystick and lots of instruments in front of you. If you use a flight stick, the pilot feeling increases even further. In the air, you will then have to manoeuvre the jet with enormous dynamics to target enemies or avoid their fire.
Since you can only play VR with the Expert control switched on, you should be prepared for a variety of rolls and inverted manoeuvres - the resulting immersive feel is awesome! If, on the other hand, you have a weak stomach or even motion sickness, you'll reach your limits after just a few twists and turns. Gameplay and audio-visually wise it is a blast and therefore first-class demo material for the advantages of technology in VR.
If you are looking to buy the game, you can find an Ace Combat 7 PC key cheap here.