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Dogfight mode should be fed to the dogs
on 17 May 2012
I have been a massive fan of the Ace Combat series since I was 8 years old, back in 1997 when I had the original Air Combat bundled in with my PS1 for Christmas. I missed AC2 and AC3 because I didn't ever see them in shops and didn't know they existed... Then I got a PS2 and saw AC4 in a GameStation, and fell in love with the series all over again. AC5 is by far my favourite game in the series, and one of my favourite ever games of all time. ACZero was also great, and AC6 was the only reason I ended up buying a 360 console.
But enough of the history lesson. Let's get on to what I think of this game...
I spent the best part of a year waiting in anticipation for this game to be released. I was so hyped I think I had it pre-ordered for like 6 months. It was £40 new, which I thought was reasonable for a game which I am going to spend hours and hours completing and perfecting, as I have done with many AC titles before it.
It arrived through the post. Looked great, even came with extra stuff like a music CD (which I later found out was not a complete version (you can get that online though)) and a F-4J code which lets you download said plane for use in the game. Okay, cool.
The game starts by taking you through the controls... Everything seems perfect until... "Dogfight Mode"? Okay, I thought, this can turn itself off when it likes, because this on-rails is not how I like my dogfighting. I like it freestyle, you know, the way it's always been in every other AC game before this one. I honestly did try to battle through the first mission without using this gimmick, but it was nigh on impossible. And guess what? You can't even turn the damn thing off. You're forced to use it throughout the whole game.
So it is impossible to finish this game without using the Dogfight Mode. That takes the fun out of this game, since it was the freestyle aerial combat which sold its previous games and earned it the fanbase which exists to this day.
There were several other types of missions, such as flying attack helicopters, which isn't all that bad, just boring I suppose. Door gunner missions is also all right, but feels like it was ripped straight from Modern Warfare 2, and not done up to that game's standard either. Fairly bland and repetitive. However the AC-130 missions sees you controlling the weapons of said aircraft, again as you would in Modern Warfare 2, but I actually found this is quite enjoyable compared to every other type of mission type available.
The problem is that the game has tried too hard to fit in with the current craze of modern warfare-style games (Modern Warfare Battlefield series come to mind), and has failed. Dismally. The story may be good and intriguing, but the story alone is not enough to help me pull through the missions considering my hatred against the on-rails-style dogfighting. I believe I reached mission 6 and said "enough's enough. I can't play this s**t any more." And that is coming from a life-long Ace Combat fan who considers himself to be a reasonably good player of the previous AC installments.
My verdict: Avoid this game like it would give your 360/PS3 AIDS if you even so much as slipped it into your machine's disk drive. You do not want it. If you really are thinking about giving the Ace Combat series a try, this is definitely not the best place to start. If you have a working PS2 and are looking for a good AC game to try out, go and pick up Ace Combat 4: Distant Thunder (PS2), Ace Combat Squadron Leader (PS2), or Ace Combat: The Belkan War (PS2). If not any of those, but you do have a 360, pick up Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. Any and all of these would be a more enjoyable and worthwhile purchase compared to Assault Horizon. Squadron Leader is my personal favourite of all these, as I said earlier, but I wouldn't say no to any of them, either.
This game is not the Ace Combat fans know and love. If Namco heeds these words, and the words of many other like-minded fans who have spoken before me, they will not make this mistake again, instead sticking to the old formula which was fun and actually worked well. Yes, Dogfight mode really did ruin it that much. It has left me severely disappointed, and I commend anyone else who still considers themselves an AC fan after this painful hiccup in the series.