Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Hands-On

We sampled up-close dogfights in this first-person-shooter-flavoured Ace Combat.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon executive producer Kazutoki Kono is content to have his flight combat game likened to a first-person shooter. He says he's "privileged" to have it dubbed a Call of Duty of the skies, and why wouldn't he be? If the comparisons bring curious FPS fans over to a genre they'd normally overlook, so much the better. And though Assault Horizon's styling and presentation are reminiscent of many a modern military shooter, the likeness is more than skin deep.

The game's showpiece is its close-combat mode: an up-close, lightly flight-assisted mode for airstrikes and dogfights. The mode can be triggered by approaching a target (a green circle pops up around the usual target marker when you are in range) and, in our Xbox 360 hands-on, tapping both bumpers. The camera snap-zooms in tight on your plane--an F-22 in the skies above Miami, in our demo--to let you focus on chewing up the enemy's aircraft with missiles and machine guns. The latter pulls the camera in tighter still while you shoot, over the "shoulder" of your craft, making for hectic, shooter-like firefights. The close-combat view also gets you a good look at your enemy's damaged plane as it spits out smoke and flames, spattering the camera with oil. AI-controlled enemies can also engage you in close-combat fights; you'll need to counter-manoeuvre to keep from being shot out of the sky.

Kono-san likens the combat controls and intensity to those of an FPS but also says that the "mellow, Japanese-ish" script and plot of previous Ace Combat games have given way to a more "realistic" script and setting, more suited for Western tastes (and again, more akin to a Call of Duty title). See the recent trailer, introducing enemy pilot Markov "The Shark," by way of example. Assault Horizon takes place across "17 or 18" maps in the main campaign and is set in the real world, like last year's PSP Ace Combat game, Joint Assault. In a presentation, we see action in Dubai, fighting from the airport to the coast, towards the sail-like Burj Al Arab landmark, and Russia, in a mission to bomb a train station taken over by the enemy.

Too close for missiles. I'm switching to guns (and also missiles).

The focused, one-on-one battles in close-combat mode contrast with the traditional long-range shooting in previous Ace Combat games--"chasing dots," as Kono-san describes it--but both are available to players. And though the difficulty is still being adjusted, Kono-san says, this game means to address the idea that the Ace Combat series produces only very difficult flight games. These nods to inclusion and accessibility bode well for shooter enthusiasts coming to the series for the first time. Between the short-range firefights, explosive up-close destruction, and swooping cinematic zooms (with composer Keika Kobayashi of Ace Combat 5 back on duty for a suitably rocky soundtrack), Assault Horizon makes a convincing case for itself as the new, FPS-inspired face of Ace Combat.

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Discussion

42 comments
homestarmy6
homestarmy6

I don't understand what everyone is crying about. It's not like you HAVE to use the new features. If you don't want the close combat thing then don't have fun and don't use it and continue to chase dots. really who cares. It's not like you can't dogfight traditionally like the old ones. They give you an option, so shut up already...

GSB93
GSB93

The first thing I do when I buy this game is turn off the unnecessary and overly disorienting Close Range Assault crap. I prefer locking onto enemies and performing evasive maneuvers myself. And the 'Optimum' flight control setup prohibits the player from controlling the plane realistically. Trying to dumb the system down so the FPS crowd will buy your game, Namco?

PMCN7
PMCN7

wow 3 months to go!, just can't wait that long i'm gonna burst into flames :3 its sooooo amazing!!

nogutsnoglory13
nogutsnoglory13

So hyped up for this already only played AC on PS2 before and it was one of the best games I ever played. It had everything, storyline,action,and you needed skill to fly one of those,especially through a narrow tunnel. This is going to be the best game on the PS3.

14musrocks
14musrocks

*sigh* Well seeing as I played through AC4 at least a dozen times and how much I loved the flying and multiplayer in AC6, I will not judge the game until i've tried it. I was entirely fine with HAWX taking the reigns of the "arcady, loose controlled flight game" but why did you have to mess with Ace Combat Namco? It was the one last flight combat game that felt like more of a sim than arcade.

DanBoiani
DanBoiani

As excited as I am about this title, I vow, to all of you, my virtual brothers and sisters, that I shall NEVER preorder a game, or buy it on debut ever again. I will await a review from trusted reviewers before spending one red cent. Every time I've done that, I got shafted.

-NinjaTurtle-
-NinjaTurtle-

Looks awesome! Finally a decent story mode and a way to make the guns/cannons on the planes useful. I've had every AC title since the beginning and cannot wait for this to come out!

Gruug
Gruug

Never really been a fan of these games. Other then looking pretty, they just are not realistic. Too much arcade and not enough real flying.

rbop
rbop

Ace Combat is always a rad game. Garuda Team FTW!

mechag2
mechag2

"Ace Combat: Assault Horizon executive producer Kazutoki Kono is content to have his flight combat game likened to a first-person shooter. He says he's "privileged" to have it dubbed a Call of Duty of the skies..." Hmm... I'm as extremely excited about AC:AH as the next guy, but I'm not sure if this news is actually GOOD for an Ace Combat title. I can't help but hear this little voice in the back of mind saying, "in trying to revolutionize the series, Kono and the Project Aces team are losing touch with their fan base, and could potentially alienate them." I sure hope it's wrong, 'cause so far Assault Horizon looks friggin' A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. ^_^ We need more info! Fortunately, E3 is right around the corner! \m/

Cruxgen
Cruxgen

Omg i was juz think of ACE combat so i came to this website and a new AC is coming out cool ^_^

ReaversRevenge
ReaversRevenge

still unsure with it being based on "real earth" over the past games all being part of the AC world. we shall see.

brain56
brain56

I love you, Jane Douglas. I really do.

MN121MN
MN121MN

@ GunGriffin Isn't the enemy a Russian?????

GunGriffin
GunGriffin

Move over HAWX.......... Your Evil Russian killing right wing stories are old news....... Time for a good game to take the crown........ Ace Combat is not only way better but looks amazing plus it wont have all the slow downs that HAWX on Xbox360 dose because it was a shotty PC port. Just look at the footage! AMAZING!

buds228
buds228

this is a flight sim. why the flip is there a plot?

deubago15
deubago15

this game is gonna be awesome!

Pete5506
Pete5506

I've enjoyed the other AC games, I hope this is is great also

galerian86
galerian86

Ace Combat games of yesteryear was hard? Gimme a break, it was almost perfect! You can't go from mellow to realistic plot and make it easier! *sigh* I just want AC6 on the PS3... Guess that is too much to ask for.

SigitP
SigitP

oo,, air flight fighter new gameplay mode..

treehel
treehel

No! No! They cannot that simply kill the last playable airsim series! I dont want another IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, I dont want a shooter. I just want one more AC6 - shinier and better. Why the hell they're doing it?

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Hmmm.. Intriguing I'll give it that. Nice mix of gameplay and video in the trailer, but I have a feeling it may get slightly repetitive. I had Ace Combat 4 - which was cool.. But I duno, this still seems like there's something missing. We'll see!

187umKILLAH
187umKILLAH

Trailer looks impressive, new ace combat game with a chance to kill commie scum! Can't wait!

Leefx
Leefx

Dont make it like CoD im bored of CoD it needs seriously updating especially visually!

Black_Id_Jenova
Black_Id_Jenova

They said it's like Call Of Duty, hey give us break would yaa??? don't judge thing light headed just like that let us see the actual game first. After i see the trailer, i would say,"The game is not Call Of Duty of Skies" meh.. Sorry for those of you who offended, but i feel that The Developer should be careful when choosing their word, if the actual game can't represent Call of Duty, i may as well said that this game not worth being level as caliber as call of duty.. gentleman that's it from me..

Black_Id_Jenova
Black_Id_Jenova

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

Looks nice, sounds alright, but will it be any good? If they're trying to turn it into a 'COD of the skies' then does that mean it will be a mostly multiplayer focused game with a short single player - which wouldn't fit well with the AC series since they've always had a well sized single player. And would the game be dumbed down to the point where a one pawed, one eyed cat could complete it with no trouble? The constant 'Let's turn this game into COD!' nonsense is tiresome. Still it seems promising, would have to try a demo before buying it, if a demo appears.

oneofthefall
oneofthefall

Ace Combat 6 was awesome and its great with a joystick! as long as i can stay in the 1st person view then ill buy this,

Dragonsingh3000
Dragonsingh3000

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, as u can tell i cant wait lol

zeifel
zeifel

I also feel sceptical about this 'Westernisation' of Ace Combat.. but as long as the rest of the game is up to standard, it's okay to let the devs experiment a bit on the story. and a little correction there: I think the composer's name is Keiki Kobayashi, not Keika.

Krescentwolf
Krescentwolf

I'm not sure I like the CoD'izing of military games lately. I've been an avid fan of Ace Combat for a while now, so I'll definitely be giving this game a chance... but I'll miss the strange-real world and moving storylines from AC4 & 5

nhall00195
nhall00195

another dumbed down game for the moronic masses...I will be giving this a miss

106473
106473

Also on a side note if I don't get an emotional story like what happen in Zero, I will be sorely displeased.

106473
106473

This is going to test my abilities in the sky for sure. But akining the game to CoD puts me off a little. Don't mess up my favorite flight-sim please?

Cheesehead9099
Cheesehead9099

Man I was looking forward to this so much..but now... I'm worried.

Scynt
Scynt

I'll definitely try it but... Normally, Ace Combat games are a day-1, blind purchase for me. However, everything I'm hearing, this one has dropped firmly into the not buying till I've rented and played it category.

c_rakk
c_rakk

Is this coming on PC? Because I saw this Hands-on on PC page... o0

Novemberfreeze
Novemberfreeze

sounds good but im a bit curious about what they intend to do with the story. i really enjoyed the stories of AC4, 5, and Zero but i'll give their new idea of a story a shot.

Everiez
Everiez

Fair enough. I'll give it a try but I don't like-- "this game means to address the idea that the Ace Combat series produces only very difficulty flight games" statement. Ace Combat is difficult? Really? And "mellow, Japanese-ish script and plot of previous Ace Combat games have given way to a more 'realistic' script and setting, more suited for Western tastes". Does that mean no more emotional moment like those in AC5 and Zero? Oh well, we'll see how it goes.