Ace Combat 7 marks the series’ console return to the fictional alternate-reality version of Earth, known as Strangereal, after 12 years. Once more, you take to the skies as an ace fighter pilot fighting to turn the tide of this latest war in your countries favor.
You play as Trigger, an ace-turned-criminal who may, along with his teams, be what turns the tide of this latest Osean and Erusean war and find redemption. Outside of combat though, you follow the story of Avril Mead, a mechanic that was imprisoned after building her own jet and taking it for a test flight The story jumps around a bit and can be tough to follow occasionally. But it does a serviceable job of giving you reasons to shoot down enemies in your jet.
Your missions will task you with escorting high-value targets, sneaking into enemy territory undetected, destroying a set amount of enemies before time expires, or simply surviving. Most mission types I didn’t mind that much, but I did find myself getting frustrated with some of the target kill point total missions due to the fact of having to start the whole mission over if you die. More than once did I get close to the end total only to die and have to do it all over. Surprisingly, I found the stealth mission segments to be the most pulse pounding. Choosing the quicker routes and having to thread the needle through a very small gap in the enemies radar left me holding my breath each time.
With “combat” in the series’ name, it is implied that the aerial dogfighting is the most important factor and I’m happy to say that they have it nailed down for Ace Combat 7. Bandai Namco has nailed the sense of speed, precision, and raw power that these metal machines have as you fly around at sub-sonic speeds, dodging enemy fire, popping flares, and shooting down enemy aces. Thankfully, the controls do a great job in letting you pull these moves off without much issue after a little time in the cockpit. Initially, I begin playing using the expert style of controls, where you have the control the pitch and turning separately as it was what I was most familiar with in these games. Bandai Namco still manages to pull off tight and responsive controls with these games even after being away from the series for a bit. After some time though, I did myself curious as to how the other simpler control scheme would handle and was just as pleasantly surprised with it. It did take me some time to adjust, which resulted in a few instances of crashing into the ground, but the controls were still tight and responsive and a pleasure to play.
In motion, the visuals in Ace Combat are a striking visual treat. You’ll speed through gorgeous skyscapes as you chase after targets. You’ll be fighting for your life as you soar through puffy white clouds, golden sunsets, serene blue skies, and perilous thunderstorms. You can view all the action from a third person view outside of your jet or in first person inside the cockpit, with a HUD or cockpit itself. , However, when you get up close the visuals break down a bit. When you unlock a new aircraft, you will be treated to a short video showing off your new toy with some close-up angles. They don’t look bad, but you will notice the models lacking in detail in some spots, or the textures being a tad blurry.
Ace Combat 7 sports a vast unlock tree that would make even role-playing game fans swoon. With more than 30 different aircraft for you to choose from, and special weapons and performance-enhancing gear to unlock, you are encouraged to replay missions and play multiplayer. Taking the right plane and weapons into combat with you to fit that particular mission will be instrumental in making missions easier to tackle, prioritizing multi-lock missiles for levels with primarily dogfighting or bombs on ones where you will be taking out ground targets. I found that this made me really think about my load outs for each level as opposed to simply staying complacent and never changing things around.
In terms of the online multiplayer, game variety came in the way of either Free-for-all or Team Deathmatch, allowing you to alter additional parameters include the number of players and the cost limit each player had, which was associated with the type of jets they could use and with what equipment and weapons. The options available quickly left me wanting more choice. I had some issues getting into multiplayer matches as the game would attempt to join a room only for the connection to fail. In the instances where I got in to play matches, I didn’t notice any lag or connection issues with the other players. The experience was chaotic and pulsing pounding, as I found myself dodging missiles and guns from what felt like all angles at all times. While I wasn’t very good, I still managed to have a fun time and even got myself a kill!.
It was fun to get back into the cockpit of the Ace Combat series after so long, with my last venture being back in the PlayStation 2 days. Even if you aren’t deep into the lore of these games, you will still find yourself a fun time flying around fast and firing off missiles and your guns. With a ton of unlocks and some fun multiplayer, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your money’s worth out of this latest dogfighting experience.
This game was reviewed on a Standard Xbox One system with a review code provided by Bandai Namco.