For the first time in the series, missions take place in the real world.
After playing a few of the single-player missions, I hopped online to find a co-op squad. This is where this game really shines. Once I found some waiting players and chose my fighter jet and its loadout, I was allowed to choose which objective I would pursue. Since the game decides how the four-person squad splits up (usually two-and-two), choosing an objective is a first-come, first-serve situation. Once everyone is satisfied with their plane and vector, the host can start the mission, which loads up fairly quickly - usually within 15 seconds from the disc (or 10 from the optional memory card install).
My first mission consisted of simple dogfighting; the whole squad - although split - was on screen the whole time. However, later missions are split into two separate areas of a large map, and in some cases in another mission altogether. What makes the separated missions worth playing is that certain actions in one will affect how the other plays out. In all honesty, the effects are kind of underwhelming (think StarFox 64’s multiple paths), but even those small differences make the missions seem more organic and provide a lot of replayability. My only real complaint is that if any player uses their one co-op respawn and gets killed again, the entire mission is scrapped for everyone; there is no “sitting out” while the rest of the team plays on.
If you’re hankering for a fight you can take your unlocked jets to the versus mode, where plenty of players are waiting to shoot you down with exploits, dirty tactics, and just plain hours more of experience than you. It’s not nearly as fun as it sounds...but it’s there and it works, if that’s what you fancy.
Saveable mission replays return, but don't provide full camera control. Flipping through the camera angles is fun for a little while...but ultimately becomes a glorified screen saver during between-mission snack runs.
The four-player co-op has some really great moments, like this one.
Once you make some campaign progress, you’ll have enough points to buy some new aircraft, aircraft upgrades, or weapon upgrades. The weapon upgrades are craft-specific, but the rest (such as stability upgrades for your wings, extra armor, etc.) is compatible with multiple jets. You can sell any aircraft or upgrade for the same price that you bought it for, so trying different combinations won’t set you back - you always keep the points that you earn. Also, you can earn these points both in single player or co-op persistently.
Ace Combat: Joint Assault doesn’t change the formula at all, really, with the one big exception of its unique take on co-op. It’s a very, very fun game, and it’s now a permanent part of my PSP library...but if you’re not an Ace Combat fan there’s not a whole lot for you here. From me it gets a solid score for overall enjoyment and airtight gameplay - it probably wouldn’t fare quite as well among the rest of the co-op crowd, who might expect more than just a neat co-op campaign from such an accomplished series.
The Co-Op Experience: Four players can link up via ad hoc LAN or online via infrastructure or Ad Hoc Party.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.