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Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-07 07:51:02

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation - Rank A

Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Date: 10/23/07

Fans of the franchise will find Ace Combat 6 to be utterly familiar, which is a very, very good thing. Many critics deride Ace Combat 6 for a lack of innovation, but you can safely ignore them. Namco nailed down the awesome air combat gameplay ages ago, combining the look and feel of a hardcore sim with easy to learn arcade style controls, and there's no reason to muck around with them. If you've never played an Ace Combat game, you're in for a treat. If you're a long time fan of the series, this is the best one yet.

Fires of Liberation marks the first Ace Combat to be released on a non-PlayStation console, and if Namco is to be believed, it's a permanent exclusive to the Xbox 360. Typically, the first appearance of any franchise on the 360 is the same game with a coat of next-gen paint slapped on, but Namco didn't just spruce up Ace Combat 6, they went all out. It's like when your girlfriend (who already looks good) decides to get all dolled up to titillate you. You can't help but be wowed, familiar though it is. The planes look amazing, with great hazy heat effects as afterburners kick in. The environments are finally visually convincing - simply flying through the tangibly fluffy clouds and admiring a beautiful sunset striking off the magnificent water effects of the ocean is deeply satisfying.

That's when your radar warning starts blaring, and you notice that the explosions are richer and more numerous, and you realize that the beautiful contrails...well, there's an absolute shitload of them. Not only is Ace Combat 6 gorgeous, but it has a bazillion more things flying and shooting and exploding than ever before (with a vitally solid framerate), and it totally serves to immerse you deeper in the glorious chaos of aerial combat. This is one of those special instances where sexier graphics do equate to better gameplay.

Those same critics also gripe about the online play, calling it "not robust" and "limited". They're crazy. To continue that same dubious analogy, Ace Combat 6's multiplayer is like when your girlfriend (who's already great in the sack) decides to lick you in tenderly special new places. All of a sudden, you love her...I mean Ace Combat 6, all that much more. It features 16 player team or free-for-all dogfighting, 4 on 4 objective based battles and 4 player co-op modes. Climbing, banking, evading and locking onto that many actual players is spectacular, especially compared to the limited two-player split screen action of previous installments.

The single player mission design is deeper as well. Most levels include numerous different operations, such as clearing enemy naval units for an amphibious landing, achieving superiority over a given air space, or supporting the capture of an airfield (which you can then use to refit your aircraft in the middle of the combat zone). None of this is new to Ace Combat, but in Fires of Liberation, all of these things happen at the same time. You need to pay attention to your radar and radio chatter to prioritize your targets as necessary. If a friendly unit is pleading for help, you'd better find the enemy artillery that's pounding them pronto. While you're providing support to one unit, the others continue to fight on without you, and the unfolding chaos of the battlefield is a wonderfully tense experience. In addition, you can call upon any friendly units that you've freed up for assistance. For example, you can request cover support from a wing of allies who will swoop in, missiles streaking, to enable you to conduct your bombing run unhindered by enemy fighters. It's like when your girlfriend stabs the guy who's about to scoop your eyeballs out with an eggbeater.

It also wouldn't be Ace Combat without some bullshit melodramatic story. The cutscenes are pretty, but terrible, and you'll immediately get sick of the phrase "dance with the angels". The in-game radio chatter does a much better job of pushing the story forward. Some gamers may also be turned off by the juxtaposition of realism and fantasy - you can take your authentically detailed A-10 Thunderbolt or F-22 Raptor and load it up with a couple hundred missiles to go take on a flying aircraft carrier?! I personally think it's all cool fun. You just need to step into the mindset of a kid wondering if a depleted uranium round from an M1 Abrams tank could punch a dent in Superman. Lastly, the sound is good, particularly if you have a 5.1 setup. The only better audio in Ace Combat 6 than the whoosh of hundred million dollar jets streaking by and behind you, is the excellent orchestral soundtrack, which pumps you up for the next sweet salvo of missiles. Or even better, rip the Top Gun theme to your 360 to use as a custom soundtrack.

Note: For an extra $90, you can also pick up an Ace Combat 6 flight stick. I personally can't justify spending that much for an optional peripheral, but if you have funds to squander, flight fans seem to love it, and it works with other games (including supported PC titles).

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-07-10 10:05:49

Ace Combat 6 Downloadable Content

The Japanese probably saved the videogame industry from extinction, but as the "next-gen" matures into the now, it's clear that they - Namco, in particular (see Beautiful Katamari) - have no clue how online play and marketplaces function.

Namco has steadily been releasing additional content for Ace Combat 6 on Xbox Live. As of this writing (7/10/08), forty-two additional aircraft have been made available for download. Nine of them are laudably free. Twenty-three of them cost 200 Microsoft Points ($2.50 real money) each. If you're an Ace Combat fanatic, that's a whopping total of $57.50 for glorified airplane skins.

Next, in a brilliantly executed WTF maneuver, there are ten Idolmaster themed jets at 400 Points ($5.00) a pop! That's another fiddy for the set.

There are six plane packs, ranging from 200 to 400 points ($3.75 to $5.00), each of which offers two to four aircraft. I had intended on breaking down how these relate to the a la carte purchases, but frankly, I can't be bothered to sift through this stupidity.

It gets better. Are you one of those hardcore Ace Combat veterans that considers the sadistic "Ace of Aces" difficulty the only way to play the game? You now have to purchase this difficulty setting ONE LEVEL AT A TIME! The first three levels of "Ace of Aces" mode are currently available for a total of 1000 Points ($12.50).

How about that online play I gushed about above? The two cooperative missions that shipped with the game are a blast, and you can purchase two more at only 300 Points each! Another siege battle is 300 Points, and an additional battle royale and team battle run 100 each!


Not only is this highway robbery, but it stratifies players into disparate pockets of DLC ownership. You'd need to coordinate specific purchases and play times with your Ace Combat buddies to enjoy this content. My friends were murmuring about doing this, but I've decided to boycott this bullshit.

I'd be willing to pay money for significant packs of DLC. I refuse to be gouged for a bazillion bits of piecemeal. 400 Points for a set of a dozen planes sounds about right to me. Forty-two individual scraps of data totaling over $100? No thanks.

Join me in my ban on "WTF is Namco thinking?" DLC.

[Edit: the multiplayer game modes, at least, are now free. This does mitigate much of my furor over Namco's DLC strategy.]

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