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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-11-02 04:49:38
Sorry folks, the site relaunch is delayed yet again. I hope to have it live by the end of the month. The new site will feature game reviews. Here's my take on Ace Combat 6. I'm looking for a few more buddies to run 4 vs. 4 siege battles with.
Developer.....Namco Bandai Games
Publisher......Namco Bandai Games
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 bajillion 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.
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 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 eyes 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, that pumps you up for the next sweet salvo of missiles.
Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation - Rank A
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