The sixth game I have beaten this year and I can sum up Ace Combat 7 as a love hate relationship. I love the story, cutscenes and gameplay but hate the mission objectives. My only experience of the Ace Combat series is Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies where the most memorable part of the game was the story and narrative being told from the perspective of a child who admire the pilots of Yellow Squadron, the enemy ace ops that you are fighting against in the war. Very few games involving the subject of war will tell a story from the perspective of the outsider and that is something that I have found compelling and enjoyable.
Ace Combat 7 takes a similar route as Ace Combat 4 but is more ambitious as the story takes perspectives from both sides of the war. One side from the perspective of a woman pilot and mechanic who became a prisoner for flying a jet in unauthorized air space. The other side is from the perspective of a scientist programming drones by recording the piloting skills of an ace veteran. While both characters are indirectly involved with the war, I enjoyed the performance from the actors as the characters shared their thoughts and opinions of the characters they interact with.
Like Ace Combat 4, I also liked the banter between the pilots through each mission. The banter from the characters does an excellent job setting the mood for each mission and establishes each character’s quirks. I enjoy this dual story telling because you can enjoy the outside perspective but also your own story as you are in the thick as each mission plays out.
The new feature in Ace Combat 7 is the aircraft tree. The aircraft tree allows you to unlock more powerful jets, weapons, and mods to customize your jet. Unlike in Ace Combat 4, it is important to upgrade and buy the jet furthest down the tree as they are equipped with more missiles and special missiles and has better mobility and defense. The aircraft tree is straightforward offering three different types of jets depending on your playstyle but thankfully you do not need to unlock everything to beat the story.
If you have played an Ace Combat game expect a solid action flight sim experience. Controls are responsive and the dev team went the extra mile making a novice control scheme that turns turning left and right on the analog stick from a roll to yaw. However, there are some issues with the controls.
The first being the targeting system (seriously every game I have played this year has a problem with the targeting system). In Ace Combat 7 there is only one button to select your target, unfortunately it is not objective based or nearest target. This obscure priority targeting system results in enemies from across the map being the target which you need to lock on and fire your missiles which is how you are going to take out 90% of the enemies in this game.
The second issue has to do with the game controlling your default speed. The moment you let go of the acceleration or deceleration, the game will automatically speed you up or slow you down to a set speed which is usually 600. This is a problem as there are multiple stealth missions in which you need to be moving slowly in small and narrow gaps. The moment you let go to adjust your direction you are speeding up which will result in you crashing or being spotted. I do not understand why this exists, but the game controlling your speed causes problems during each mission.
Outside of those gripes the gameplay is enjoyable, at least that what I would say if most missions made sure the last thing you would do was be in a dog fight against other jets. The game starts off meeting the expectations of an ace combat game. Semi realistic action flight sim as you get in dog fights and destroying enemy jets using your missiles. After the fifth mission the game suddenly decides to have every mission focused on destroying ground targets as the objective. What makes it worse is that a good deal of these missions is poorly designed where you are either on a time limit, or reach a specific score, or find the enemies blindly as they are invisible on radar. Any time wasted on engaging a dog fight will result in failing the mission. What also makes completing these ground missions difficult is that you are often flying at ground level and because your speed is constantly being controlled you will often crash and burn having to start the mission over if you did not bring the right set of special missiles.
The few moments you do get into dog fights however often result in being so outnumbered by enemies that you will spend most of your time trying to dodge missiles. Unless I got the preemptive strike, I would be under fire by four or more missiles that I would not who was firing them and where they were coming from.
Ace Combat 7 is a game that I want to love for the characters and the story. However, I would hate having to replay the story mode on a higher difficulty as the game controls my speed, constantly evading missiles and flying so low to the ground that I question why I do not do these missions in a helicopter instead.
You can watch the streams at the links below.