STAFF REVIEW of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (Xbox 360)

Monday, October 24, 2011.
by Brent Roberts

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Box art Attention all pilots, attention all pilots! Scramble all aircraft immediately! Bogeys have been spotted on an attack course to the city! All pilots to their planes! Your mission is to intercept and engage the enemy outside of the city and provide protection to the citizens. Ground forces are starting to advance on the city's perimeter and it looks like a major attack is just moments away! We have radioed in our situation; however any further air support will not be ready for at least 30 minutes. You will be briefed in the air by our records at XboxAddict on what to expect out there. Failure is not an option here people, this time we fight back. Protect the people of this city and eliminate the enemy threat at all costs! Pilots to the skies!

As we scramble to takeoff lets start with your intel so you will be familiar with what you will see when you take flight. Ace Combat has consistently held its crown as arguably the premier flight game and in the next installment from Project Aces, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (AH) sets a target lock on eliminating the competition and proving once and for all that they have earned their wings. In the past Ace Combat games have taken place in fictional settings, but now in AH, the areas are real life places such as the city of Miami and more. You will be in command of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop as you co-lead your 108th Task Force with your wingman Captain Jose "Guts" Gutierrez. Your squadron designation is Warwolf and after a NATO witnesses the deployment of a new weapon of mass destruction, the orders come down from above to protect life by destroying the evil that takes it.

This new Ace Combat game offers a wealth of options and innovations that will make even the most experienced Ace feel like a rookie. For starters there is a heavy emphasis on the new innovations in air to air combat. In the past pilots would hear a lock on tone, see their screen go red and then bank and twist their way free, but what would be difficult was the ability to reacquire your target or even to pursue your attacker. These frustrations however, are now removed as you gain the ability to loop backward and position yourself behind your target. Now when your enemy is in pursuit you will have to triangles that signify your enemy's position to yours. By breaking or accelerating your job is to get the triangles to match, by doing this you lock your plane into a position to perform an aerial loop that will end with your plane now behind your enemy with your sights locked in on him instead. Remember though, that these new aerial control maneuvers can also be done by the enemy so now, more than ever you must be aware of every aspect of your combat.

Not only is your defensive capabilities improved upon, but your offensive capabilities have also been enhanced. In this latest installment of Ace Combat, when you have a target locked on and you are in close range you will have a circle appear over your locked target, this is your sign to go in for the kill. With the push of two buttons (LB+RB) you will engage your opponent in a new Dog Fight Mode where the name of the game is to keep your target locked to the best of your ability; and in doing so, ensure that not only your missiles lock onto the target, but your gun barrels as well. While the innovation in the gameplay takes center stage, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon delivers a wealth of new aircraft to dominate the skies. Now we get to experience the amazing quality of Ace Combat in other vehicles such as AC-130 gunships, Apache Longbow helicopters, and more! Each vehicle has tailored controls and equally matching firepower which means that Ace Combat: Assault Horizon delivers one amazing mission after another.

While you hone your flight skills in your singleplayer campaign we can't forget the multiplayer side of Ace Combat. Ace Combat: AH goes full throttle and brings a megaton bomb of multiplayer ranging from Co-Op mode where up to three players can tackle a total of eight Co-Op missions that range from dogfighting, bombing runs and more. Another multiplayer innovation is the inclusion of Domination mode where two teams fight over capturing objective points to secure what is being called Occupation Points, first team to reach the point limit wins. Finally there is Capital Conquest where two teams have to go in and destroy the opponents bases in cities such as Washington D.C., Paris, Dubai, and more. There are some tough choices you will have to make when considering your multiplayer plane of choice.

Choppers can literally fly under the radar and have full 360 degree movement; the downside to this is that they have literally next to nothing when it comes to any type of armor. Fighters are great against other aircraft and they can enter Dog Fight Mode, but are weak against ground targets. Attack aircraft will allow you to find a balance of strength on both ground and air attacks and can enter Air Strike Mode where your plane will travel along a projected path while you lay waste with your air to ground weaponry, the bad side to this is if you're up against fighters be ready to fly for your life because while you may be good at air targets in an Attack Aircraft, Fighters are better. What would multiplayer in Ace Combat be without bombers? These massive sky fortresses are incredibly slow and not that agile, they can take some damage but need to be protected otherwise they are just big sitting targets. The plus side of a bomber however, is the ability to wipe out an enemy's base in a blink of an eye. So while we may want to be our own rogue pilot out there, working as a team will def. have its advantages.

Ace Combat has always been known for the wonderful graphics that we get to see as we look out of our visor, however when it comes to beauty Ace Combat: AH steals the show. As you scream through the skies in an attempt to knock out the opposition, get ready to hold your breath as now some of the terrain is destructible. Cities such as Paris, Miami, Dubai and more are beautifully laid out in full detail and when in dog fight mode you can be led through chases that will require you to think fast as you dodge between buildings and under bridges as you watch the beauty unfold around you at 800mph and your radar lock going crazy.

All of this intense beauty and combat would be for naught if the music didn't back up every moment of your aerial combat. Moments of the classic Ace Combat theme comes blasting into your ears as you're fighting hard to keep your enemy check in your sights and your radar locked onto target, however, throughout the various missions we get treated to new symphonic sounds that range from the heart pumping intense, to the brief moments of melodic relaxation, to the climatic fanfare of triumph.

As we approach the engagement zone, we are treated to one undeniable truth and that is Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the premier flight game for the Xbox 360. There are a ton of new innovations packed in every area and aspect of this game and with the included support of the Ace Edge flight stick, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the king of the skies. Now marshal your talent and focus pilots for it's time to fly.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.3 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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