Joint Assault has a lot to live up to as the 11th title in the critically acclaimed Ace Combat series. Though it's not an official sequel, it shares many features with its PSP-only predecessor Ace Combat X; an in-depth story-driven campaign, dozens of different aircraft to fly, and intense air combat. However, there also new features, including real-world locations, a new tuning system, and online play. We sat down with developer Project Aces for a brief look at how some of the new features work.
At its core, Joint Assault is an arcade-style flight simulator game that focuses on combat. Only the basics of jet-fighter control are present, leaving you to concentrate on blowing up the opposition with a range of high-tech weaponry. By default, you view the plane from a third-person perspective. However, cockpit views have been included to give a more realistic experience, with each cockpit mimicking the look of top fighter jets. Controlling your plane remains the same. Shoulder buttons make you speed up or slow down while face buttons fire your guns, launch missiles, cycle targets, and switch to your special weapons. The analog stick lets you roll and pitch your plane. You can choose from one of more than 40 licensed and fictional aircraft to pilot, with favourites such as F-16s and Harriers part of the roster.
The biggest overhaul to the game has been made to the multiplayer features. You can now play over the Internet or via the PlayStation 3's ad hoc Party mode, as well as locally via ad hoc. Up to four people can play together cooperatively, or up to eight can face off against each other in Versus mode. The enemy AI dynamically changes in multiplayer, becoming smarter when there are more people playing. Each game will ship with six different languages on the same disk, allowing you to play internationally while still hearing the game's commands in your native tongue.
The most exciting new multiplayer feature is dubbed Joint Assault mode. This allows you to play through the campaign mode with a friend but work on different missions simultaneously. Your actions can drastically affect what happens in your friend's game. For example, one mission requires you to destroy a set of naval aircraft. If you don't manage to destroy them all, those aircraft can make their way into your friend's mission. He or she will have to deal with an extra set of enemies, thanks to your failure. Each mission in the campaign is linked to another, so if you're playing in Joint Assault mode you have to constantly be aware of how your actions are affecting the other player. Only two maps can be played simultaneously, so if there are four of you playing, you are paired off. Both players must clear their mission to progress, and if either one dies more than three times, it's game over.
Several improvements have been made to the visuals. Firstly, real-world locations have been added. This means when you're flying over Tokyo, for example, famous landmarks, such as the Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge, form part of the landscape. Other locations, such as London, San Francisco, and Giza in Egypt, will also feature visible landmarks. The second improvement is what Project Aces has dubbed enhanced combat view. Previously, if a plane was far away, it appeared as a dot on your screen rather than identifiable aircraft. Now, planes are visible in greater detail at much longer distances then before, allowing you to easily identify what type of plane it is and the direction it's facing while it's flying. Other improvements include rewards for replaying missions, secret enemies hidden in the corner of maps, and an improved tuning system with more than 50 parts from which to choose.
Namco Bandai has promised that more features will be unveiled at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, so keep reading GameSpot for more on the game in June. Ace Combat: Joint Assault is due for release this summer on the PSP.