Ace Combat: Assault Horizon • Page 2

Dogfighting man.

Although you're tethered to your enemy, you still have to take aim as they swoop around in order for your machine guns to have any effect, and to fire rockets, you need to line baddies up dead centre for the lock-on to work. Weapons do a lot more damage like this, and the explosions are a lot more dramatic, but it's worth remembering that everything in life comes at a price and your enemies can get the close-range drop on you too, at which point you'll have to pull off some fancy manoeuvring of your own in order to break free.

Air strikes bring the same explosive intimacy – not as weird as it sounds – to the maps themselves, with your HUD highlighting a route across the ground for you to follow, while it also picks out targets for you to hit. Tracer fire comes at you in bursts from below, and although there's a gentle flight assist to stop you from splatting yourself against some idiot on a jet ski, you still need to know what you're doing to stay in one piece. (I can't promise there will be jet skis in the African and Russian levels, incidentally.)

On top of all that close-range stuff, Project Aces has only gone and flung in some chopper action, too. With simple up-down-around controls and an option to go for an in-cockpit view that I really wouldn't recommend if you want to survive, helicopters change the pace of the game every bit as much as the dogfights and air strikes, allowing you to hover right over the streets of a map, picking off individual targets, clearing out buildings, and generally sitting back as the world steadily erupts around you. Enemy reinforcements tend to spawn where you least expect it – which suggests they're doing their jobs, I guess – and if you get too low or try to camp, radio chatter will suggest you get yourself to a safe range again before you've become just another statistic. It's a massive departure for Ace Combat, but the developers have somehow managed to make it feel like a natural extension of the action.

With its desaturated landscapes and shaky-cam set-pieces, Assault Horizon is shaping up to be frantic and intense. This is the most cinematic Ace Combat game yet, and also the most approachable. If you're a fan of the series, there's more than enough of the old design intact to keep you happy, by the looks of it. If you're a newcomer who's after a way in, you may be surprised how engrossing all this jet fighter stuff can be.

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