Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy
Leave no rebel fighter alive in this machine gun firing, missile launching aerial combat game.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, released on Xbox 360 and PS3 this past October, disappointed hardcore fans of Namco Bandai's celebrated franchise because it felt too much like Call of Duty, with over the top cut scenes and questionable changes to the gameplay.
With this in mind, those same players will enjoy Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy for 3DS, a more toned down but still thoroughly entertaining aerial romp featuring attractive graphics, a smart use of 3D and no shortage of enemy fighters to destroy.
The story, what there is of it, casts gamers as a fighter pilot named Pheonix, under the command of one Ulrich Olsen. Throughout the campaign, they'll stick it to a rebel faction while piloting various instruments of war, starting with the well-balanced F-16C, equipped with a machine gun and LRAA missiles. Then, as they delve deeper into the game and earn more cash, players will unlock even cooler jets to mess around with.
Missions, meanwhile, don't rise above the sorts of goals we've seen in previous Ace Combat games, but the developers still did a great job, offering a mix of aerial and ground attacks. One stage will send gamers high above the Twinkle Islands to intercept bombers, while another has them targeting aircraft carriers docked near a metropolis. Namco Bandai even provides a touch of variety by opening two missions at once, allowing users to branch off on different paths.
Combat's a bit slower than we'd like (you rarely feel a sensation of speed), but it's quite brutal on the higher difficulties, as fighter jets swoop behind one's plane and unleash a barrage of missiles. From there, players can turn with the circle pad in the desperate hope of avoiding the attack, or perform an evasive maneuver that results in a short (and undeniably cool) cinematic of the plane barreling through the air.
While on offense, the auto lock makes targeting a breeze, while the designers also mapped manual targeting to the touch screen, letting gamers slide the reticule around the screen. It's a novel idea, one that works well enough, but we preferred the buttons while under heavy fire, since there's precious little time to switch to the touch screen without taking damage.
Through it all, the audio remains top notch, with dramatic music, in-game chatter from enemies and the roar of jet engines.
As for the graphics, not bad. The ground looks horrendous up close, but in the air, we loved seeing the sunlight reflect off the ocean and the detail on planes. This gets magnified with glasses free 3D turned on, particularly with the depth seen within mountain ranges; you really see the peaks and valleys in each area.
For whatever strange reason, the game lacks multiplayer, which could be a huge deal breaker. We can't figure out why Namco Bandai didn't provide offline dog fighting. At least on the positive side, Extra and Survival missions will keep players busy for a little while.
To say Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy surprised us would be a huge understatement. This game, originally feared to be a dud, is one of the more impressive 3DS games you'll see. That said, we hope the publisher releases more Ace Combats in the years ahead.
Review copy provided by Namco Bandai.
What's Hot: Intense dog fighting fun, satisfying number of missions, semi attractive graphics, intense music, good use of 3D.
What's Not: Bare bones story, no multiplayer, ground looks ugly up close.