At Namco Bandai's E3 2007 meeting spot, the company is offering the press a playable demo of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for the Xbox 360. In our earlier coverage of the game, we talked at length about the beautiful graphics and some of the gameplay systems the game will feature. This latest build gave us the chance to look at a brand-new level, as well as the game's mission structure.
The environment featured in this new level was a far cry from the dense cityscape of the earlier level that Namco Bandai showed off previously. This level takes place high in a mountain range, with enemy bases tucked into the narrow valleys and heavy artillery taking up residence on some high bridges. Much like the city level we've seen, the ground detail is simply stunning. Puffy clouds surround the snowcapped mountain peaks, thickets of forest cover large chunks of the mountainsides and ground area, and all the while, you're blowing the living hell out of everything you can get in your target sights.
Of course, it's not all bang-bang rock-and-roll the whole time. There are mission objectives to pay attention to. One of the interesting things we saw in today's demo is just how levels will play out. In this stage, you begin with three different mission objectives, each in different areas of the level, and each integral to the overall battle. You can choose to embark on any individual objective at the beginning of a level, though some are more beneficial than others at the outset. For instance, you might be tasked with protecting a support plane. If you choose to ignore that objective and jump into another battle elsewhere, that support plane may not survive to the later stages of the battle, and that won't serve your cause particularly well. That doesn't guarantee you won't do fine, but it's good to pay some mind to what your objectives are and how they might impact you as a battle rages on.
As a battle progresses, you can jump back and forth between objectives seamlessly. Simply fly to another area, and you'll enact a new objective. Then fly back if someone needs your support, and you're right back into your previous objective. The levels are huge, but we found ourselves having little trouble getting to where we needed to get in time.
Combat is a relatively simple process. Ace Combat isn't aiming to be a simulation jet fighter, so you shouldn't have much trouble picking up the game if you've never played a game in the series before. Targeting an enemy is as simple as pressing the Y button when your targeting reticle has an enemy in its sights, and pressing B to launch your missiles. Of course, an enemy can evade your attacks, but if you line one up right, it's difficult for them to do so. One really nice feature is that you can hold down the B button after launching a volley and the camera angle will switch to follow the missiles all the way to their target.
Apart from a lengthy single-player campaign, Ace Combat 6 is set to include 16-player online multiplayer with multiple modes. Namco Bandai claims that the multiplayer modes will run just as smoothly as the offline feat, and based on what we've seen of the offline play, that ought to be pretty impressive. Ace Combat 6 is certainly shaping up to be a fun arcade jet fighter, and we can't wait to see more. We'll be sure to bring you more on the game in the coming weeks.