We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Playstation games software Reviews
15,669 Reviews PC Advisor Recommended

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon review


Manufacturer: Namco

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Does a brand new look help this reboot of the classic fighter jet franchise soar, or does it crash and burn?

As cool as fighters jets might be, they've always presented a unique challenge for game developers in one key regard: repetition. Simply put, you can only swoop around and shoot down so many bandits before it starts to get tiring. Seemingly aware of this conundrum, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon does more to mix things up than any game in the series.

The first thing you'll notice is that the atmosphere is much more in line with modern military shooters like Call of Duty. The fictional nations are gone, and so are elements like satellite lasers (charming as they were). It goes further than that though, with even the story being lifted almost directly from the original Modern Warfare.

Yes, you will begin by fighting bizarrely well-equipped Middle Eastern rebels who end up coming into possession of a nuclear-like device -- specifically the fictional Trinity device. Russian renegades are involved too, and at one point an ICBM gets launched at the United States. Needless to say, I got a serious case of déjà vu playing this game.

But for all its unavoidable similarities to Modern Warfare, it still does a lot of things right. Chief among them is the jet combat, which looks as good as ever, but has been greatly enhanced by the new dogfight mode. Now, rather than engaging in endless turning wars, the computer will automatically lock you onto their tail, where you're free to pelt them with missiles so long as you can keep them in your sights.

Dogfight mode accomplishes a couple things. First, it's an easy and intuitive way to lock onto an enemy ace and put a missile up his tail pipe without being a guaranteed kill. It's possible for the enemy to escape with an Immelmann turn, and you never know when their buddy will sneak up behind you and start firing.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Dogfight mode is also a sneaky way by which the developers have slipped in scripted events. Go into dogfight mode over Dubai, for instance, and you may find yourself narrowly avoiding escaping commercial airliners. In Miami, dogfight mode will have you dodging between exploding buildings. Basically, it's a seamless way to inject a little drama into the chases without interrupting the flow of the action.

But while these tricks do their part to mix up the action, it's the new vehicles that will get the most attention. Unfortunately, the first appearance of the Longbow helicopter -- a new addition to the Ace Combat series -- makes for one of the weakest missions in the game. Apart from overstaying its welcome in terms of pacing, it features a dogfight with a pair of Hinds that really illustrates the limitations of Ace Combat's helicopters.

Lacking air-to-air missiles, I was forced to sort of clumsily bump against them while firing my Vulcan cannon. And then, with another Hind on my tail, I had to fly in and kill individual soldiers without hitting a VIP in the middle of a formation. This sequence was like trying to pick up grains of sand while wearing winter gloves, all while being menaced by an enemy helicopter. It really wasn't a fun mission.

Thankfully, the mission design seems to find its feet around the game's midpoint, and from there it's just a blast to play. My favourite mission involved bombing enemy ships in tandem with a squadron of allied fighters, culminating in a fight with a massive battleship. It made me think of one of my favourite parts of Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, where a squadron of Russian Backfires manage to cripple an American carrier with a concentrated volley of missiles in an exciting battle. That's exactly the sort of feeling I like to have in a game like Ace Combat.

Assault Horizon has other strong moments as well. There's an exciting sequence in which you have to attempt an emergency landing with a pair of MiGs on your tail; an ICBM chase (seriously); and an attack run in a stealth bomber. Through all of this though, the air combat that makes up the core of the franchise continues to be solid as ever, and is even a bit more fun thanks to the dogfight mode.

The single-player campaign takes about 8-10 hours to complete, and is augmented by a solid multiplayer mode that includes both online co-op and dogfight modes. One mode of note combines the helicopters, bombers and jet fighters into one large battle in which two teams try to take out the other's base. Interesting concept, but without some concentrated teamwork, it's way too easy to get in and bomb the enemy's HQ. I much preferred the standard furballs, which are all the more entertaining and intense with the addition of the dogfight mode.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Expert Verdict »

Available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Age rating: 16
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is a good all-around package, but I expect that it will sneak under the radar now that the Autumn release season is in full swing. It's a shame, because the single-player is every bit the addictive sugar rush that Modern Warfare is, and it's handsomely produced to boot. It's the perfect palate cleanser for a game like Dark Souls, which is the diametric opposite in terms of mood and gameplay. After being lost in a dungeon for hours on end, sometimes you just want to jump into a jet fighter and blow stuff up for a while. And in that regard, Ace Combat fits the bill perfectly.

  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy review

    Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy

    Despite a couple of noticeable absences, Legacy is a well-constructed, old-school entry in the Ace Combat series.

  • Wings of Prey review

    Wings of Prey

    Wings of Prey is a frighteningly realistic air combat flight simulator game that lets you take part in aerial battles of World War Two.

  • Dogfighter review


    Dogfighter is multiplayer-minded aerial combat title from indie developer Dark Water Studios that resurrects a largely forgotten sub-genre with supreme skill.

  • Heroes Over Europe review

    Heroes Over Europe

    In the vein of Blazing Angels and Battlestations, Heroes Over Europe takes to the skies as an incredibly fun, arcade-style (dog) flight simulation.

  • Sid Meiers Ace Patrol review: strategic dogfighting app for iOS

    Sid Meiers Ace Patrol: strategic dogfighting app for iOS

    Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is a clever and fun strategy game for iOS. Read our Sid Meier's Ace Patrol iOS app review to find out more.

IDG UK Sites

Best camera phone of 2015: iPhone 6 Plus vs LG G4 vs Galaxy S6 vs One M9 vs Nexus 6

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

Retina 3.3GHz iMac 27in preview: Apple cuts £400 of price of Retina iMac with new model