Long ago games were simpler, they had one thing you were supposed to get good at, now flying a plane as the only gameplay point is risky even for an established franchise.
Many years ago games were a lot simpler. They had one gameplay mechanic and the point was to get really good at it, be it crossing the street as a frog, rolling a ball or flying a plane.
If a game as simple as that were released today, you’d consider it short on content and not really worth your time. We’re used to games being complete, you can go from running around on foot with a gun in hand to flying a helicopter or driving a tank.
So, a game that focuses on a single thing is a risky move even for a well established and well known franchise such as Ace Combat. From a modern gamers viewpoint, what does a game where you just fly a plane have to do and consist of to be a AAA title?
Well, Bandai Namco accepted the challenge and they created and released Ace Combat 7 for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. I remember the long nights finishing the games campaign, but it’s not the story or characters that really made the game, it was the gameplay. The fun and exciting, yet simple gameplay is what made the game. Simple controls, simple missions and simple objectives, you had the entire sky to prove your dominance.
Even though the story isn’t too important for the franchise it brings some intrigue if you follow it. You play as Trigger, a pilot who was most often the bait, a punishment for committing a crime during a previous mission. The Kingdom of Erusea declares war on the Osean Federation and the problems start.
In general, the story is interesting and it’s done in the same style as previous games. In case you’re not a fan of Japanese fiction, you can focus on just the amazing gameplay. One thing that’s great about a fictional setting is that the devs can recreate actual existing planes and add some interesting top secret planes to mix things up.
The missions have enough variation to keep your attention. It’s the standard stuff, fly low to stay off the enemies radar and cause chaos in their base. There’s also the classic destroy all targets missions, but there are a few that I am not sure how they found their way into the campaign. Specifically, having to reach a score in a certain time.
On the other hand, most of the missions are enjoyable, they have a great flow and interesting objectives. You’re sure to play some of the missions again even after you finish the campaign. In other words, the gameplay is so great, that once you finish the game you’ll be sad there isn’t more.
The best thing is the simplicity upgraded with modern technology and gameplay elements. Just like in some of the previous games, you can pick between the classic flight mode which is more arcade like, and a realistic mode which I wouldn’t recommend if you’re short on patience or get annoyed easily.
Besides the standard interface and great graphics, the interaction with air during flight adds to the experience. The turbulence, the plane vibrating, wind, rain, storms, everything that impacts a plane’s flight is done very well. Even the controllers vibrations are perfectly synched to the game.
Besides those small details, the graphics are absolutely fantastic, everywhere from the hangar to the skies. Even the rain drops on the glass of the cockpit and reduced visibility based on the weather. No matter if it’s big or small, it is done amazingly.
There’s also a real multiplayer mode after the unsuccessful Ace Combat Infinity, a free to play game that was supposed to focus on online battles. There are two modes, Team Deathmatch and Battle Royale.
In Team Deathmatch, teams of four players fight for air superiority, the other one is pretty obvious. As soon as you spawn you fight for your life, but instead of hiding behind buildings and rocks, you try to fly further away from combat or behind clouds. It’s less a Battle Royale and more a Free-for-All with not respawns.
Finally, the most interesting addition is the VR mode, exclusive to the PS4 and PSVR. Everything the game represents perfectly translates into VR and you absolutely must try it if you have a PSVR.
Unfortunately, there’s only three missions that take place before the game’s campaign. Fortunately, Bandai Namco announced that they will release more VR missions in the future.
In general, Ace Combat 7 is a big step forward for the franchise. Not so much when it comes to the mechanics, which realistically can’t change that much since the point and its execution are rather simple. What really took a leap forward is the presentation, graphics, multiplayer and VR mode.
This is the most complete Ace Combat title yet, so it gets a 9/10.