I love it when a game surprises me. That’s exactly what has happened with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, a title that wasn’t exactly on my fall gaming radar, but when it arrived for review it suddenly became my responsibility to check out the game. Perhaps the lack of hype and a co-op mode that was only announced a week before release gave it the clean slate it needed.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon takes place in the not to distant future of 2015, a Russian terrorist group has plans for world domination through the use of a new weapon called “Trinity.” You’ll be in control of several allied characters in an effort to unravel the plot and stop the destruction. It’s all very Tom Clancy, and rightfully so, the game out does what a lot of recent Tom Clancy games have been able to achieve in terms of story, pacing, action, and music.
So what exactly is Ace Combat: Assault Horizon? It’s still a flight game, though not necessarily a flight simulator. It’s still a game with jet fighters and planes in it, though it’s not just a game about planes. Instead what you have is a tightly crafted campaign that immediately drops you into the cockpit and gets you familiar with the new and exciting gameplay elements Assault Horizon has to offer.
The first of these elements is called DFM, or Dog Fighting Mode. Having played flight and space sim games since the days of Wing Commander on the PC, I can tell you they’ve all had one problem in common - the endless dance of you and an enemy circling around each other as one of you tries to get the other in their sights to shoot them down. What DFM does is turn this into an action sequence; get close enough to a target for a few seconds and a HUD queue will tell you to push the bumper buttons, bringing you behind your target in a semi-on rails fast action sequence. You’ll need to keep a targeting reticule on the enemy or use your machine guns to bring him down. These sequences sometimes take place in the open sky, sometimes they bring the planes low to the ground, other times you’ll find yourself flying through a city. Every time though it’s an adrenaline rush when you finally pull off that killing blow.
This gameplay mechanic gets extended to other areas of the game as well, including special moves to break out of missile lock in a true “hit the breaks and watch them fly by” moment. Similar to this is also a mode called ASM (Air Strike Mode) which is used to attack ground targets along a set path.