REVIEW: ‘Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’ is a Perfect Return (PS4)

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Ace Combat 7

Top Gun changed the landscape of entertainment, becoming an inspiration for its focus on air-to-air military dogfighting, as well as its fun characters and roaring soundtrack. Movies such as Iron Eagle, Fire Birds, and Stealth have all drawn their inspiration from Top Gun, but even doubly so for the world of video games. Among them is one of the longest-running and revered arcade flight video games of all time: Ace Combat. Returning back to the frontlines after an 8-year hiatus, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, provides the definitive Top Gun experience and is one of the finest aerial combat games available today.

Ace Combat 7 takes place in the world of the StrangeReal, a fictional interpretation of Earth with countries and cultures that mirror our own. After years of peace, following several catastrophic wars, the nation of Osea, falls under attack from the Kingdom of Erusea. A stealth offensive, in which unmanned combat drones are launched from shipping containers, proves wildly successful and devastating to the Osean military forces. As the Osean military prepares a counterattack, a young civilian woman, who spent years to fulfill the dreams of her father and grandfather, finds herself in the middle of the war that has begun, lamenting the fact that her father died to prevent them from ever happening again.

What unfolds is a story of war from the perspectives of leaders, civilians, and scientists, bringing their multi-dimensional perspectives of how humans cope in the faces of war. Ace Combat 7 isn’t so much a tale of the warrior on the frontlines, but a tale of differences. From the people who are involved in the war to those responsible for using technology for both the greater good and for nefarious intents.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown plays as an arcade flight action game. Each plane has been meticulously created in the game, with photo-realistic imagery and detail. However, the gameplay very much bends the rules of real-life simulations. Each plane will carry a multitude of weapons. The F4 Phantom II, the plane that players start with, has over 60 missiles stored. Most targets take two missiles to successfully defeat, while some vessels, such as bombers and naval ships, need more to take down. Within the story, players take to the cockpit of one of a multitude of real-life licensed fighter planes.

From the infamous F-14 Tomcat, the very plane that made Top Gun famous, to the F/A 18 Super Hornet, the plane made famous by Independence Day, players will be able to execute a large and diverse array of sorties across 20 lengthy missions. From steal-attacks through a canyon to all-out assaults on oil fields, the mission variety is vast, giving players a plethora of opportunities as to how to tackle each aspect of the game, as well as variety as to what they will encounter.

Additionally, these planes have a large range of secondary weapons, from bombs to laser-cannons, to help even the odds on the battlefield. Using these weapons add quite a bit of enjoyment, even the use of the entirely fictional laser cannons. The energy-based weapons turn your fighter craft into what can be essentially described as a TIE fighter from the Star Wars universe.

Playing Ace Combat 7 is electrifying. From the moment players take off on their first mission to the close scene of the final mission. The Ace Combat franchise has prided itself on embracing the sensations of cinematic arial dogfights and Ace Combat 7 delivers it immensely with a rewarding and accessible gameplay experience. Players will feel the roar of jet engines, the sensation of speeding through the sky, and the thunderous boom of downing an opponent.

The thrill of descending from the heavens to feel the heat of battle below for a strafing run is exhilarating and facing down a legendary ace in a boss fight while in the middle of a thunderstorm is something I won’t soon forget. The experience is compounded by one of the best soundtracks of 2019, and a wide array of mechanics that challenge the player to maintain situational awareness. Missiles come from everywhere, and successfully defeating one that has locked onto your tail is always a hair-raising sensation.

On a clear day, handling them isn’t difficult, but in various missions, there will be clouds and storms that can work to your advantage and disadvantage. That being said, clouds throw off missile tracks but can ice you plane, reducing maneuverability. In one instance, I was struck by lightning, which did not shoot me down but greatly disrupted my targeting systems, which was a frightening sensation during combat. It’s clear that the gameplay experience is inspired by science-fiction and anime, which introduces outrageous and adrenaline-pumping moments. These additions create an unforgettable gameplay experience.

I would like to say that Ace Combat 7 is also accessible in terms of difficulty and gameplay. Novice controls settings and easier difficulty are there for those who want to enjoy the gameplay experience without much challenge. If a plane isn’t working out for a certain mission, swapping out that plane and weapons may work for the better. Even the sense of progression from unlocking planes is rewarding, as players can either take to the online multiplayer modes of Ace Combat 7 to credit points in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The points carry over to unlock progression in the single-player mode. So, if a player doesn’t have enough for that coveted stealth-fighter, a few rounds in multiplayer will help, even if the player comes in dead last. This makes Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown great for those unfamiliar to the franchise.

There isn’t anything that I would change, but instead added to the overall experience. Space missions, more fighter craft, new campaigns, remade missions of older games, and more multiplayer modes are all things I would love to see, but given that a season pass is in effect, I am certain will be seeing plenty of big additions for the future. What is present in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is second-to-none. A game that puts players into the terror and excitement of combat. An environment where players will be sailing on the wings of the sun, while fighting for survival in the chaos of war.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown goes to new heights not just for itself but for the action genre in games today.  Its sharp presentation and gameplay make for a breathtaking experience that sticks with players long after they land on the runway. We have always fantasized about flying, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t fly: It soars.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL; DR

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown goes to new heights not just for itself but for the action genre in games today.  Its sharp presentation and gameplay make for a breathtaking experience that sticks with players long after they land on the runway. We have always fantasized about flying, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t fly: It soars.