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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Dogfighting man.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

The Project Aces producer showing us around his new game has a novel method of demonstrating the finer detailing of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. Coming in low over the silvery thicket of super-scrapers that make up the sprawling Dubai level (coming in low is, after all, part of every textbook landing) he hunts around for the hotel complex we're staying at for the presentation, picks it out, and then proceeds to strafe us mercilessly. Point taken: these maps are pretty accurate, then.

So Assault Horizon is the first Ace Combat title to opt for a real world setting. Along with Dubai, you can expect to shoot up the skies over Miami, and sing through the clouds in Africa, Russia and perhaps some other as yet undisclosed locations. The story will take in around 17 or 18 different hot spots in total, and it's all part of an attempt to make Assault Horizon's narrative a little more involving for American audiences. They can't handle any kind of fiction, apparently, unless they're Donald Trump, in which case they absolutely demand it. Regardless of the justification, it's fascinating to swoop and barrel roll over the Burj Khalifa, or to come in hot past the pastelly art deco seafront of Miami, before finding you've got a bogey all over your tail. Not again, bogey.

Famous locations aren't the only difference for Assault Horizon, though, and the other tweaks tend to play out in the sky as much as on the ground. This time, to complement the all-action storyline - it has a team of heroic fly-boys taking on Markov, a Russian villain known as The Shark - the developer is trying to shove you face first into the very centre of the mayhem. It all comes down to the new close-range assaults, which see you engaging in natty one-on-one dogfights or zipping down towards the streets for speedy air strike bombing runs.

Firing machineguns in a dogfight results in a Gears-style over-the-shoulder view.

When it comes to the dogfighting, the effect is absolutely transformative. Whether you're protecting Dubai from enemy bombers and their smaller, more nimble side-kicks, or gadding around over Will Smith's favourite summer getaway and letting loose with your machine guns, the new approach to combat brings a great deal of immediacy to a game that could previously seem hectic yet remote. If you prefer to keep things as they were, don't worry: close-range assaults are optional, but they're also a long way from representing a kind of bolted-on easy mode. In fact, you have to be fairly competent at targeting just to initiate them in the first place.

You can get into a dogfight by holding an enemy within your sights and then pressing both bumpers when your HUD turns red. The camera pulls in close and you become locked to your foe's tail: the bullets and bombs get louder, while the chugging rock soundtrack becomes – is this possible? – even more insistent.