Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Set in 2019 you play as Ace Top Gun pilot call sign, Trigger. There is heated conflict between the Osean Federation and the Kingdom of Erusea known as the Second Usean War. 

You fly for the Osean Air Defence Force, called into action once Ersea declares war and launches its surprise attacks using advanced unmanned, drones remotely operated and deployed all around the region waiting to be called into service.  You start out as a rookie for Osea's Mage Squadron before, let's just say a rather dubious decision, lands you in a military penal unit tasked with flying sorties to keep the enemy fighters away from the real bases. From there the story takes off, excuse the pun. 

We've been waiting a while for Ace Combat 7 to be released after initially being announced in 2015. Releasing 18th Jan 2019 on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 with the PC release coming Feb 1. As is the norm of late Ace Combat 7 is being released with enhancements for the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X. From what I can tell the extra grunt helps to maintain a bit of a steadier frame rate. This review was done using the PS4 Pro and to date I have not had any noticeable frame rate issues.

One of the biggest changes with Ace Combat 7 is Bandai Namco have ditched their usual proprietary game engine for Unreal Engine 4. This has worked in their favour. 
The power of Unreal Engine 4  is really being shown off.  Each plane is meticulously recrafted inside and out down to the small details. Even though the planes look brilliant the sky looks even better. The clouds, oh the clouds.... I can see them being talked about for a while now. Each cloud is 3d rendered giving them depth and substance. The best part is though they are an integral part of the air space and can be used to your advantage, or your detriment.  

Spending to much time in the clouds will cause you to ice up, rockets lose track of targets, you handle differently and above all else, you're harder to see, though the same is said for the enemy. The only part visually that is a slight miss is some of the ground, which is a minor part being a fighter pilot sim. 

Game play is all about the flying, more importantly the dog fight. If you've not previously played an Ace Combat not to worry. There are two types of controls you can use, standard or expert. Standard will see the jet act somewhat like a car, but for the full experience turn on the expert control system. The jet handles how you would expect a jet to handle. It does however punish you substantially quicker. I found this out by trying to pull a high G turn and instead of pulling off an epic maneuver I stalled and ended up in the ocean. You quickly notice how much further advanced your enemies are, after all they are drones. They have better maneuverability and will swarm around you to get a shot off. 

Story progression is good an engaging, I don't want to get into more than I have already spoken about as it is a good story to experience. Progression unlocks more planes, weapon variations and special weapons. Skins are also available to be unlocked. 
Keeping with previous Ace Combat titles the weaponry that you have at your disposal only really has one foot in reality. There are some impressive pieces of tech there that are a little far fetched but close enough to feel like they could be a real thing. Before starting each mission or "sortie" you need to choose your plane to use and weaponry. Be sure to choose what is best suited for the mission. 
Each mission is tabled out in front of you before starting so that you know exactly what is going on. I was impressed with the depth that they go into before sending into battle. There is plenty of campaign there so get ready for a few hours of intense dog fights.    

Multiplayer is also included where you can play with up too three wingmen in a team versus team scenario and yes a battle royale variant is included. Weapons in the multiplayer have been nerfed slightly so that the games last a bit longer. Unfortunately at the time of recording I was unable to get into the multiplayer but will fill in as I go through. 

Lastly I wanted to let you know about possibly my favourite part of Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown. Yes we have VR support for the PSVR system. If you can, you need to try this. Though fair warning, those of you with a weaker stomach, keep a bucket nearby.  
There is only a very slight downgrade in graphical quality for the VR now, and that is null and void when you realise just how well it has been done. VR can only be used in three missions at this stage, I would have prefered to play the whole game in VR but for now I will take the three. As with the main part of Ace Combat 7 the jets have been meticulously re-created making it feel like you could reach out and touch them. As soon as I got into the cockpit and started my ascension to the flight deck aboard an aircraft carrier danger zone may have started playing. Everything plays out as it does in the rest of the game however this time, you're actually in the pilots seat. 

Let me circle back to the bucket comment though. The first time I was launched off the carrier I was fine, until I banked right over the ocean. The stomach may have knotted ever so slightly. This had nothing to do with blurring of the screen or anything hardware related, in fact the opposite, it all felt so real. Once I did a few barrel rolls I was fine. The sensation of movement still blows me away and it is actually frightening to crash. All in all the VR aspect is really well done. 

I do have one gripe, one frustration that caused me to turn off one night. While your enemy are formidable the constant warning of a missile being fired on you became frustrating. In too many of the missions it would seem like I was the only one engaging the enemy while the rest of my team were simply flying around in circles, not firing or being fired upon.  

Overall I have been very impressed with Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. The story is well told and intriguing. Controls are tight and responsive. Visually it is leaps and bounds over previous titles and there is enough there to warrant many hours of pure fun. 
Is it enough to get itself out of that niche market though? I don't think so. While everything about Ace Combat 7 is well polished and worth your time, it is still the type of game that will mainly appeal to those with an interest for flying or jets in general. 

Fans of the series have been waiting a long time for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown to get here and I think they will be happy to have waited. 


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