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Game review: Ace Combat — Assault Horizon

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Henry McKinney

Staff writer

October has seen the release of several big ticket games from ‘Batman: Arkham City’ to ‘Battlefield 3′, but the one that I was most excited about was much lower profile; ‘Ace Combat: Assault Horizon’.  This installment in the long running series of arcade flight shooters sees the introduction of many new mechanics to an already well established formula and the transition from a fictional setting to our modern world.

‘Assault Horizon’ focuses on Colonel William Bishop, an American fighter pilot serving with a United Nations force in Africa.  Events around him spiral out of control and what appeared to be a local uprising is revealed to be a cover for a group with plans for a coup in Russia.  By the end of the thrilling campaign Bishop has confronted his fears in the form of the immensely skilled but deranged pilot ‘Akula’ and prevented the destruction of two major world powers.

This franchise is all about high-intensity aerial dogfights and to that end the controls are simple and quickly become intuitive. Further aiding this goal is the fact that the first level of the campaign serves as an in depth tutorial for new players.

New to this installment is ‘Dogfight Mode’ or ‘DFM’; a quick tap of the controls locks your aircraft onto an opponent who then does everything they can to escape your pursuit as missiles and machine gun fire shred parts from their aircraft.  Just as you can become the angel of destruction through Dogfight Mode, so too can your enemies, but deft hands and a cool head can help you turn the tables on your enemy in spectacularly aerobatic style.  These new mechanics are the heart of the game and show an astounding level of polish and attention to detail.

Returning in this installment is online multiplayer, which offers matches ranging from campaign co-op to a variation on king of the hill, all from the cockpit of a multi-million dollar fighter jet.  Even better, Dogfight Mode is present in multiplayer as well, putting one’s skills to the ultimate test.

‘Ace Combat: Assault Horizon’ isn’t perfect, but what flaws it does have, such as some heavily scripted sections of the campaign are more than compensated for by the unique experience of soaring through the clouds or weaving through cities while dueling other jets for survival.  For those who want to earn their wings, check it out.