Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War Review
Ace Combat 5 isn't the huge step for the series that Ace Combat 04 was, but it's still a great flight combat game, featuring grueling arcade-style action and plenty of surprises.
- Outstanding presentation
- Dozens of different planes
- Captivating storyline.
- Notable absence of multiplayer features
- Unrealistic combat may disappoint those expecting gameplay as realistic as the graphics.
In 2001, Namco's Ace Combat series of flight combat games hit a high point with Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, which was the series' first installment on the PlayStation 2. Featuring incredible visuals, responsive action that captured the thrill of high-flying (and low-flying) aerial dogfighting, and a surprisingly complex and well-told narrative, Ace Combat 04 was a real winner. Now Ace Combat is back in another game bristling with beautifully modeled real-world jet fighters and cinematic cutscenes. Ace Combat 5 isn't the huge step for the series that Ace Combat 04 was, but it's still a great flight combat game, featuring grueling arcade-style action and plenty of surprises both in its mission design and its story.
Like its predecessor, Ace Combat 5 takes place in an alternate reality, much like a near-future version of our own, in which war is being waged between two great nations. In the game's campaign, which spans more than two-dozen missions, you'll play as a pilot who goes by the call sign Blaze. His relationship with his fellow pilots and the truth behind the war gradually unfolds during the course of the story, which unravels during the actual missions as well as in beautifully produced cinematic cutscenes between the missions. The story can be difficult to follow, since so much of it rapidly comes across in the heat of battle via radio transmissions. The narrative technique here is also more straightforward in comparison to Ace Combat 04's story, which focused on a main character who wasn't the pilot you played as. Nevertheless, Ace Combat's continued devotion to good storytelling is ultimately one of this game's best strengths, since the presence of so much plot helps to give the missions a sense of genuine significance and cinematic drama. The high-quality voice acting, constant radio chatter, and stirring, dynamic music combine with the action very well, giving Ace Combat 5 an epic feel.
At first glance, Ace Combat 5 resembles a realistic flight simulation, since if features dozens of different real-world aircraft, including plenty of American classics like the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet, as well as Russian planes like the Su-27 and MiG-29. State-of-the-art fighters like the F-22 and classic jets like the F-4 and A-10 Warthog are also represented. In real life, some of these jets handle drastically differently, but despite its realistic looks (complete with gorgeously detailed plane models and cockpits, and authentic heads-up displays), Ace Combat 5 is clearly not intended to be a realistic flight simulation. Each plane handles gracefully and responsively, yet unlike in real life, the most significant differences between them lie in their weapon loadouts. Differences in speed, maneuverability, and durability are also evident, but are not drastic, so it's easy to switch between different planes. For that matter, it's easy to learn how to play, and there's an effective, optional multistep tutorial to help you if you don't feel like figuring things out for yourself. The controls haven't changed much since Ace Combat 04, but they worked very well in that game.
Only a rudimentary understanding of how planes maneuver is needed to understand the mechanics of Ace Combat 5. There's really no need to worry about things like stalling or blacking out from extreme g-forces here--all you need to know is that planes roll, pitch, and yaw rather than simply strafe from side to side like a character in a first-person shooter (though, you can use your rudders for limited side-to-side motion). Actually, the game makes use of just about every function on the controller, but it's still quite streamlined; for instance, you can conveniently pop up a minimap of your surroundings to get a sense of the grand scope of a battle and to figure out where you are and where you need to be. The map button is pressure-sensitive, affecting the map's level of zoom. Most of the game's planes come packed with 50 or more guided missiles, which will be the mainstay of your arsenal. Your guns are useful for eliminating stationary targets or finishing off wounded aircraft, but a pair of seeking missiles--while certainly not unavoidable--is the most reliable way to take out a foe. There are plenty of alternate special weapons available, including powerful cluster bombs and far more damaging missiles with better targeting systems, but these will be available to you in short supply in each mission.
Ace Combat 5's diverse assortment of missions contains more surprises than you'd probably expect, though they focus on the unavoidable themes of either having to eliminate enemy targets or defend friendly ones, and they're heavily scripted so they play out similarly each time you try them. Even so, you'll square off against some unlikely foes and fight over land, sea, city, and more, during the course of the game. You'll also have to take account of numerous land targets in addition to aerial threats. Suffice it to say that you'll never quite know what to expect from mission to mission, which--in addition to the story--compels you to keep playing. Regardless, time tends to be of the essence in every mission, and achieving time-sensitive requirements tends to be where the real challenge and occasional trial-and-error-based frustration lies. Fortunately, multiple difficulty settings are available to take the edge off (or add replay value, as the case may be).
It's not hard to take down individual enemy fighters, which you'll be blasting away in droves. But it can be decidedly difficult to meet some of the overarching mission goals while fending off dozens of foes and not crashing into anything. Enemies will tend to swarm you and your HUD lights up in warning whenever one of them acquires you in a missile lock. Some basic evasive maneuvering is all that's needed to avoid getting hit at this point, but the combination of evading your foes, not colliding with anything, maintaining focus on your objectives, and managing your wingmen all adds up to having plenty to do in Ace Combat 5's tightly paced, intense missions.
- Player Reviews: 206
- Game Universe:
- Ace Combat Assault Horizon (X360, PS3),
- Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (3DS),
- Ace Combat: Joint Assault (PSP),
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (X360),
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (PS2),
- Ace Combat Advance (GBA),
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PS2),
- Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (PS),
- Ace Combat 2 (PS),
- Air Combat (ARC, PS)
- Number of Players: