Over the past few years, flight games seem to have fallen a bit by the wayside. Ace Combat 7 is bringing it back in a big way, offering oodles of arcade shooting fun, with some serious flight tech to really nail that Top Gun-esque feeling of being hot shots behind the throttle.
We got to play some of a fairly early mission. It saw us taking off from an aircraft carrier, flying over the sea before making it to a lush, forest area. Piercing through the cloud cover, we soared through blue skies with our wingman towards a dogfight that was already taking place.
We started out viewing our sleek plane from third person, but toggled through to first person and cockpit view. The latter two seemed to feel a bit more natural when it came to aiming for aerial combat, toggling between different missile types, lining up the targeting reticle until our system tells us we have a lock, then firing away — while laying down some machine gun fire for good measure.
Banking to the side and weaving through the air to avoid missiles, while simultaneously trying to retaliate and get a lock on enemies is a pretty slick balance. Your results will vary depending on which plane your pick, all decked out with different stats and configurations to let you play how you want, and tackle missions in different ways. It’s easy to get a handle on — Ace Combat has always been about using sim elements (such as TrueSky, which we’ll get to later) to make the arcadey feeling even better, rather than overwhelming you with anything too complicated.
It’s more than just shooting down small bogeys. The mission we played ended with a huge bomber aircraft joining the fray, surrounded by a whole new squad of planes. Having to tail it and aim for the cannons and propellers took us way back to some of the arcade shmups of old, where your tiny spaceships had to take on behemoths. If there’s more variety like that in the missions, Ace Combat 7 is sure to avoid getting stale.
But the true star of Ace Combat 7 is the “TrueSky technology”, alongside the game’s Unreal Engine 4. TrueSky does what it says on the tin, transforming the skies of Ace Comabt 7 from just an area you can fly up and down in, to a three dimensional battlefield crafted dynamically by the sky’s conditions.
Clouds can provide dense cover you can’t target through, and flying through them can buffet your cockpit with rain, and (go deep enough) ice buildup. The controller naturally shakes to mimic the turbulence you’re forcing upon your craft. At one point we even ducked back down below the clouds to seek refuge above the forest, only to find since our ascent a storm had broken out.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is absolutely taking advantage of leaps in technology since the genre began to wane, proposing a new Ace Combat and a new flight game like nobody has ever been able to do before. So far it’s shown to be filled with lavish detail in terms of the planes and the sky tech — but every part is in the service of making it approachable and terrific fun.