Namco Ace Combat 6: Fires Of Liberation
- Great online play; fantastic controls with Ace Edge flight stick and throttle; gorgeous presentation
- Need to shell out $109.95 for the optimal experience; gameplay can be intimidating
Ace Combat 6 lays out an impressive hand with its undeniable quality. The only shortcoming is the intimidating visage, particularly if you're using the Ace Edge flight stick.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
Like a deck of cards, Namco Bandai has been shuffling its games among next-generation consoles in hopes of a winning hand. One of its most popular franchises -- the Ace Combat flight-action series -- deals a surprising new hand with an exclusive engagement on Xbox 360.
While it doesn't manage a royal flush, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation holds its own with a full house of new features and action-packed gameplay.
Ace Combat 6 packs an 11-mission campaign chronicling the Garuda Squadron's assault against occupying Estovakian forces. The story -- which is of little concern or consequence -- follows a pilot who must flee his country and leave his family behind and becomes committed to reclaiming his homeland and reuniting with his loved ones. Considering that you're here for the aerial action and not to witness the makings of another Oprah lost loved-ones special, the gentle tugs Ace Combat 6 makes on your heartstrings seem entirely out of place.
Thankfully, there's more than enough action to make up for the cheesy story. Blasting bogeys out of the sky and knocking out ground forces sits at the head of your to-do list. A simple targeting system makes it easy for you to shoot enemies, although you need to employ a range of weapons in order to do so. Complementing the roster of authentic aircraft are collections of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, with more to unlock and purchase. Naturally, much of your success depends on pre-mission planning and determining the best equipment to get the job done.
Every mission throws you against an enemy force that outnumbers you, which naturally yields some intense action. Fortunately, you don't have to go it alone. Wingmen now lend support during missions, following orders issued via the directional pad. They're surprisingly capable -- and sometimes necessary -- but even better than AI support is calling upon your online buddies when the going gets tough. Online multiplayer draws Ace Combat 6 into the 21st century, leveraging Xbox Live for the series' online debut. A maximum of 16 players can meet up for three competitive modes (team battle, battle royale, and team-based siege) and two cooperative stages. It's a long overdue addition to the series; the only real issue with multiplayer is the lack of content; more maps would be nice, although these are likely to arrive later as Xbox Live Marketplace downloads.
Depending on whether you shell out big bucks for the limited edition or stick to the standard version, the controls can either be a pleasure or pain. Namco Bandai once again has contracted peripheral manufacturer Hori to craft an Xbox 360-specific flight stick and throttle that's packaged with the limited edition of the game. The steep price for the set is forgiven in light of how vastly superior it is for navigation compared to the arcade feel of the controller. Using the stick and throttle can be intimidating at first, but the precision afforded by its slick design makes playing Ace Combat 6 much easier.
Ace Combat 6 is a believable game in large part because of its graphics. You feel as though you're miles above the planet's surface, piloting a sophisticated flying machine because it looks exactly how you'd imagine. Its unbelievably accurate aircraft models and stunning vistas easily top any other flight-combat game. The experience of playing Ace Combat 6 is steeped in visual realism; so much so that previous instalments seem like an affront to the term photo-realism. Equally as impressive is the audio design, which has been painstakingly simulated to mimic actual aircraft. All in all, it's a wonderfully rich presentation.
About the only shortcoming Ace Combat 6 possesses is an intimidating visage, especially if you're using the Ace Edge flight stick. This is definitely a hardcore game, not one intended for casual play given its attention to detail, simulation-style controls, and general difficulty. In this way, its qualities are simultaneously strengths as well as weaknesses. Nevertheless, Ace Combat 6 lays out an impressive hand with its undeniable quality.
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