Review

Ace Combat Infinity Review

  • Game release: December 31, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Killing the bird that made the breeze.

I am tired of being a mercenary. Tired of the coldness we like to imagine they espouse: the dispassionate remove from warfare, the apathy toward allegiance and ideology. Doubtless it's those very qualities that make mercenarism so appealing to the big wigs of video game publishing. The mercenary neatly lampshades the globetrotting and casual mass murder that serve as cornerstones of all the best-selling war games, and he is compensated in a currency gamers accept: the means for newer, more efficient tools of a violent trade. But those easy associations belie a vital loss, because when a series goes mercenary, it sacrifices its heart.

It's hard to look at an entry like Ace Combat Infinity and not see the ways it's diminished by that cynicism. You play as a pilot, of course, engaged in battle against a frightfully well-armed terrorist organization operating out of Central Asia. But you're also a mercenary, so any emotions that premise might elicit get a stiff-arm before they can drag the action down. Why question warfare, when there are kill count competitions to chuckle over on the comms? Why dwell on consequence, when there are battles to be had over skylines from Dubai to Tokyo? Once upon a time, Ace Combat drew its own borders, around names like Ustio and Strangereal. It has since found it more efficient, perhaps, to outsource that effort, and lean on the mental connections we make on our own when we hear mention of foreign countries or words like "terrorist."

But lazy expectations should be challenged, as Infinity's own antecedents once showed. Flight simulation is a niche genre, even when it's given an arcade slant that eschews realistic limitations--as Ace Combat traditionally does--on a plane's maneuverability and payload. We expect such genre games to serve genre fare and little more. A racing game should render unto us prettier cars; a sports game could pursue nothing more noble than a reasonable facsimile of its chosen sport. But Ace Combat once chased its Top Gun guitars with Agustin Barrios Mangore. It interlaced vignettes about the personal lives of rival squadrons in among its screeching dogfights.

Those old games were idealistic and enthusiastic (occasionally embarrassingly so), full of operatic flourishes and moments of pathos that few video games can claim--let alone ones about planes. These were games that knew that when engagements take place over the span of miles, between pilots who never see each other's face, it's the little personal touches that keep the whole affair from feeling like a training exercise. The melancholy cutscenes. The frantic radio chatter. The call signs and emblems and the way enemies sauntered onto the field of battle like WWE wrestlers...that was what made Ace Combat human.

Once upon a time, Ace Combat drew its own borders, around names like Ustio and Strangereal.

You can still find vestiges of those features in Ace Combat Infinity, but they've been shuffled up in what's essentially a remix of the series' greatest hits. Asteroids shower Earth, decimating the population. Monolithic flying fortresses take to the skies over Tokyo. The vaunted Stonehenge cannonade from Ace Combat 4 now fires over canyons in Turkey. This all takes place over the course of five brief missions, with three more planned but nevertheless absent. The first two tastes are free--the rest must be unlocked either through weeks of workmanlike commitment, or a $20 instant access payment that feels wildly out of proportion. I find it hard to confront the commodification of those old memories. Seeing how sausage is valuated is only slightly more fun than seeing how it's made, as it turns out.

If we're to adopt the mercenary's Spartan sense of appraisal, I'd put the real value on Ace Combat Infinity's cooperative multiplayer. Sorties there are paid for with a per diem of "fuel," or an alternative that's depletable and restocked with cold hard cash. But a generous stream of fuel-giving challenges, gifts, and randomized bonuses ensures a thrifty player can take to battle with little in the way of personal commitment.

Therein, it's a four-on-four scramble to see which side can bag the most targets, while still maintaining enough semblance of alliance to score a strong combined rating. It's a unique system, and the light competition provides an impetus to perform without ever becoming overbearing. The feeling of being chased is conspicuous in its absence, though. In, say, Strike Vector, there's a give and take--a constant, whirling fear, where a sudden burst of gunfire sends you into the most convincing approximation of Brownian motion you can conjure up on the spot. Infinity's mostly inert enemies, by comparison, can feel like shooting gallery fodder.

Ace Combat has returned. So has its unchanging heads-up display.
Click above for more Ace Combat Infinity images.

The classic refinement of Ace Combat's gameplay can still shine through. And when your squadron is thrust into a pop-up battle against one of the game's white whale superweapons, it blazes. You get flickering glimpses of the underlying attraction, that passionate artistry that once allowed the series to liken the dogfight to flamenco, and not seem crazy for doing so. It's an impression that can still intermittently catch me when I watch Infinity's abstracted replays, and see my predatory arrow tracing contrails around bogeys, tying bows over enemy ground positions until the besieged markers disappear.

But that damned cynicism, again. It's pervasive. Maybe that's the consequence of life lived as a virtual mercenary: a joylessness that poisons the nostalgia well. The soaring bird that has long served as the metaphor for the Ace Combat pilot becomes a vulture fighting over highway carrion, looping away incautiously when the odd car passes a little too close, before returning again for a final few scraps of flesh.

The Good
Dogfighting gameplay can still quicken the pulse, especially against superweapons
Microtransaction model offers a generous helping of free multiplayer
The Bad
Paucity of content, recycled assets, and cliched story
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Nick Capozzoli has done more trademarked Ace Combat trench runs than he cares to admit. For the purposes of this review, he played through Infinity's available campaign missions and a few weeks' worth of multiplayer.

Discussion

53 comments
thewhiskeykid
thewhiskeykid

behold... the Dennis Miller of game reviews!

livenafrank
livenafrank

This free iOS game simulates the well-known Poker game Texas Holdem. It is designed for iOS and it's coming soon iOS store.

Shadow_jdct
Shadow_jdct

This guy must have a thesaurus strapped to his face.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

You know, for all you people complaining about Nick's style of reviewing, he's still submitting reviews to GameSpot and getting them accepted. Apparently, some people at GameSpot are impressed enough to keep taking his reviews.

You are not the ones with the final say, really.

Pavlara
Pavlara

this is a video game review? more like an uninspired attempt at a profound critique about mercs in games by a guy who wants to put his writing major to some use.  blah blah. says nothing about the game.

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

I hate the flat satellite photo approach to city modeling in flight sims. Where they just take a satellite photo, wrap it on top of some topographic grid and then drop a bunch of cubes looking loosely like buildings randomly on top.

It is such a cheap and unsatisfying way to recreate a city. Looks OK when you look at it from a distance, say from the moon, but when you play in a fun way, brushing your wings close to buildings and flying at supersonic speed on street level, it looks absolutely awful.

I know the city is just a backdrop for an arcade game here, and the game is not a simulator. But to me any 3D flight oriented game is attractive as it gives you the opportunity to fly around and explore huge areas - free as a bird. 

When what you explore is just a huge photo with cubes on top and some atmospheric effects, then I think I prefer to play an old school coin op game like 1942 instead. At least that game is honest about what it is. A straight forward action game with no realism or exploration freedom whatsoever.

shakensparco
shakensparco

I get the gist of why he doesn't like the game but I know almost no details. So you said the gameplay has been refined, yes? The graphics are good? The missions are long? Tell me something for Pete's sake!

hishamramzan
hishamramzan

i don't care what people think ace combat infinity, ace combat is my favorite aerial combat franchise and will always be.


Unless they make a game exactly like War Thunder but with modern aircrafts

DaEliteCommando
DaEliteCommando

I do agree, I dont like reading Nick's reviews because they are what he feels about the game, or the story line, rather than having solid, gaming merits to it. Not a single word was mentioned in that review about the game play, or anything gaming related. Just feelings.. Gives you the impressions that he says "Guys, i dont like this game just coz" cant really find a decent reason in that whole review to why it was awarded 6. 


Gamespot, reviews should be based on Game Play, not feelings

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

Way too much poetry for a review....

I have no idea what I just read.

As in... I ain't reading all of that.....

phbz
phbz

Nick writes well, but it;s an awful reviewer (sorry). His talents would be more appropriate to write in depth journalist pieces, or opinion articles. And I can see how that could make some great Gamespot articles, but as a reviewer, no. Just no. 

gottastirfry
gottastirfry

PSA

Don't shoot the the bloody Moby Dick cockpit/core early you nuggets

Etherwinter
Etherwinter

You fly as a Merc in previous AC games. I don't get what this reviewer is going on about. So what, being a mercenary in a video game is bad now?


Bravo, game journalism. Bravo. How much deeper does the rabbit hole go? Pretty soon you'll be shitting your pants when you see a murder a in game? 


ACI isn't perfect (or great), but pinpointing 'being a merc' as a flaw is like saying a 'straight white male' lead character is a flaw. It's something minor, and stupid for you to complain about.

10Sly10
10Sly10

I find it hilarious how Nick is mostly complaining about how Ace Combat Infinity is about mercenaries, when you flew as a mercenary in Air Combat, Ace Combat 2, and Ace Combat Zero. It wasn't a problem for reviewers back then.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

This reviewer is full of himself. I can visualize him rereading his article and smiling about how well-written it is.

suolhuldor
suolhuldor

The rumored reason for Ace Combat's recent shift to the real world is apparently an order from the higher-ups at Bandai-Namco due to AC6's lackluster performance. You can tell in the interviews that the lead game designers on Project Aces are not happy about this.


While Strangereal was undoubtedly the best setting for this series, they can make the real world setting work so long as they avoid the cliched "USA vs whatever communist country". That, for me, is what ruined Assault Horizon the most.

Chr0noid
Chr0noid

This isn't a video game review at all!  It's masturbatory rhetoric!  I take issue with this blighted writing!  The first 3 paragraphs are superfluous nonsense and tell us nothing at all about the game!  NOTHING.  Do you people over there at GameSpot realize you're supposed to inform us, the readers, in a about a page or two, the strengths and weaknesses of a game, the facets of the experience, and whether it's a worthy purchase or not?  Sorry Nick, but you're supposed to explain your opinion on the game, not try to impress us with your writing ability (which is admittedly, exquisite) 


I give this review a 1/10. 

Franzkill
Franzkill

Does this have trophy support like Tekken Revolution, Warframe etc?

Aaleyada
Aaleyada

Eloquently written, but... What's the gameplay like? How do the planes fly? Is there more than one? Is it more flight sim or arcade?

croxus
croxus

Silly them, in the next gen battlefield, they wuold have no competition, they could profit simply by being there...

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

I love the first paragraph of your reviews, Nick! Happy to see more and more of your work on Gamespot!

sakaixx
sakaixx

Ace combat is one awesome game, really loved ace combat zero cause of it's music so I'm downloading this

Talldude80
Talldude80

why only ps3?  damn them!  Please bring this to Xb360 too!

Renoo27
Renoo27

"Microtransaction model offers a generous helping of free multiplayer." Is this game F2P? If not, what the hell does this mean? 

Llama345
Llama345

@hishamramzan I can't stand the controls of War Thunder. I need my right stick to be movement.

SambaLele
SambaLele

@DaEliteCommando I thought this one was the closest to a review from all of his work in GS. He doesn't mention anything about graphics, for example, but he does talk about story and gameplay a lot, this last one even if by hints, but these, at least for me, it seems to manage to tell the whole story of how the game actually plays.


With Always Sometimes Monsters being neither a review or a critique work.


And Sir, You Are Being Hunted a work that is not a review, but game critique, at least for me.


I guess he's "tweaking" the bits to get a balanced review - game critique work, and this one seems to be on it, or almost on it.


But like phbz said before in this comments section, maybe Nick's hability would be better used in articles, not product reviews.

SambaLele
SambaLele

@10Sly10 I'd point that he implies that now the game itself is a mercenary, more an arcade flight combat game with Ace Combat-like gameplay, rather than a full-fledged new series entry, with all it's qualities. I think that's what he meant, this is just a money grabber.

SambaLele
SambaLele

@Chr0noid Well I think he tells us a lot in the first 3 paragraphs, though it's not about game mechanics and objetive qualities in graphics, soundtrack, etc.


This is not a bad work, but like most already pointed out, probably this kind of work is better suited not for reviews, but for articles, analysis on games with a specific thematic determined beforehand. Or maybe for reviews on games that are narrative or story driven, more than gameplay driven.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@Chr0noid wow. chill out bro. do you feel he didnt explain the game?  i agree nick's writing style is more suited towards reviewing more artistic and thoughtful type games. 

hitomo
hitomo

@Aaleyada  valid questions ! ... but hey, this is nicks blog ^^

alien-hell
alien-hell

@leikeylosh maybe, but for a non English reader like me, they're terrible and not talented
. I don't like them

10Sly10
10Sly10

@Talldude80 Microsoft is known for not supporting this style of free-to-play with an energy system. It's not happening.

jollyboy00
jollyboy00

@Talldude80 why bother if its anything like AH. Im completely content with my AC 6 and series' previous installments =)

thewhiskeykid
thewhiskeykid

@pip3dream nick's writing style is condescending,  which is not suitable for ANY type of game.  he writes as if he enjoys the smell of his own farts

alien-hell
alien-hell

@pip3dream for the first time, I read his review for "NaissanceE" and liked that.it was suitable for that kind of game. but for AAA games and big games in general Nick, you should reconsider your type of writing and just assess up and downs of the game and cut it.

Lhomity
Lhomity

@alien-hell  It's the writer's fault that English is not your first language?

noah364
noah364

@alien-hell @pip3dream Per your recommendation, I just went and read the review as well. Though I'm not a huge fan of this one either (although I don't think it's as bad as everyone is saying it is), his NaissanceE review is one of the best game reviews I've ever read. It not only describes the game in detail, but really gives you the feel of what it's like to play it.

10Sly10
10Sly10

@Threesixtyci @10Sly10 @Franzkill Free-to-play games rarely have Platinums. But all games on the PlayStation Network released after 2008 must have trophies.

alien-hell
alien-hell

@Lhomity @alien-hell no...of course not, but I don't want to read a literary New York Times article for a review. just a simple one.

Ace Combat Infinity More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    Ace Combat Infinity is the first free-to-play game in the hit franchise from Namco Bandai Games.
    7.5
    Average User RatingOut of 13 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Ace Combat Infinity
    Developed by:
    Project Aces
    Published by:
    Bandai Namco Games, Namco Bandai Games, Namco Bandai Games America
    Genres:
    Arcade, Flight, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Violence