Liberty and freedom in the free world is at stake in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, with its plot reminiscent of straight to DVD or streaming action flicks, but worthy of critic disparaged summer blockbusters. Assault Horizon belongs to the Ace Combat (“Esu Konbatto”) arcade video game series by famed Japanese developers Bandai Namco. Even by old video gamers’ timeline, 1992 seems a long time ago. Ace Combat usually flies on consoles and Assault Horizon is the only PC instalment to date in the venerable series. Saddle up and fly along your teammates as part of a United Nations sponsored aerial taskforce. Take on the Blatnoi, a Russian criminal organisation with access to warships, tanks, planes and a mysterious conventional bomb with the power of a tactical nuke.
Playability: Arcade flight
It’ll take mere minutes to fly high with Assault Horizon. The first mission is a smooth tutorial that teaches the basics of airplane joystick or keyboard flying, weapon systems and radar. Helicopter controls are a little bit trickier to get used to, but adds to the variety of aircraft available. Assault Horizon is not a simulator; it prides itself on being an accessible arcade game for immediate fun.
Annoyance: Dogfight lock off
Even on rookie difficulty, ace pilots will be tricky to bring down. Shooting lead targets from afar with long range missiles won’t work, up close with a machine gun is the way to fly. Assault Horizon features a rather unintuitive Dogfight Mode (DFM). When the distance to the target plane is less than 2500 feet, pressing the right set of keys will initiate dogfight. The game will automatically align the enemy plane, override some flight controls and the player must try to keep the lock on (easier said than done). DFM takes a bit of time to get used to and at times feels a little bit too arcady, but it does speed up the approach to focus on blow up action.
Beauty: Plane spotters
Explosions galore, missiles streaking the skies and rewarding slow motion cutscenes showing planes breaking apart provide appropriate props for an all star arsenal that includes the old ubiquitous MIG 21 Fishbed, the economical Gripen NG or the elegant Mirage 2000D. Airplanes have been faithfully rendered to look the better part. Various war paints and customisation options add nice personal zany touches from leopard stripes to Hello Kitty pink.
The Old Video Gamer's Prattle: Predictable but flying high 80/100 points
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has the trappings of a big budget popcorn movie: lots of real explosions, loads of high quality special effects, ambivalent acting (no Oscar nominee here, but uttering the lines of dialogue without laughing is already an achievement), pop symphonic music, nonstop G-force excruciating action and beautifully rendered warplanes. The somewhat inane testosterone scenario is highly predictable but that doesn’t prevent Assault Horizon from being a highly entertaining arcade game.
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