After almost 12 years since its last release, the Ace Combat series returns to the spotlight on its seventh numbered title. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has finally been released and offers a great aerial combat simulation experience, with fun multiplayer mode, exciting and quality soundtrack, interesting narrative and full of twists and high difficulty level, plus one of the best experiences in virtual reality already seen.
In a nutshell, all those ingredients that make Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown make it, believe it or not, a great entry-level game for anyone who has never had contact with the franchise before. All elements are there, but enhanced for the current generation of consoles. For those of you who have been a longtime fan and missed a game of the series (or genre), you will be more than satisfied on this journey.
Camera, control, action!
Let’s start the gameplay analysis. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown requires a little patience. As it is an aerial combat simulator, the commands are not complicated like those of a real aircraft, but they require understanding and the ability to dominate them, especially when it comes to the camera.
In PlayStation 4 the player accelerates holding R2 and slows down holding L2. The aircraft is guided by the left analogue while the right moves the camera only. The joystick touchpad offers three map modes at each touch, and to change the target, simply press triangle. The square changes the type of missile and the circle shoots them.
Speaking of missile, there are several types, with the most varied effects. Each mission completed (with rank, including to test until you get the maximum score on each task) you earn points that can be exchanged to get new pieces for your hunt, including new types of bombshells.
Weapons range from air, air-to-air, or air-to-ground; there are also the missiles. Some have long range or short range scans, others explode in the area the enemy is at, causing mass damage – great for drones, that’s the trick. In a matter of arsenal, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown leaves nothing to be desired and the gold recommendation is: read the description of each object and pay attention to the previous animation.
The parts and aircraft tree is vast and requires the player to play hard to win more and more points – or to be the best pilot in the skies at all in order to achieve maximum score and maximum score possible. All the commands and how to improve the airplane and buy parts are explained in the briefings.
Instructions appear on the screen at all times, even during missions, and missions tasks are explained before each mission begins, so attention is needed. Incidentally, this attention extends to almost every aspect of the game, including the narrative.
The story of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown may seem confusing at first, but as we progress through the mode quests, all the pieces are coming together and everything starts to make sense. However, again: pay attention to on-screen instructions and conversations between your colleagues over the radio. Valuable tips are given by them at all times and, if ignored, the mission is likely to fail.
The war never changes
Despite being in its seventh numbered title, it is not necessary to have played any other Ace Combat to understand what happens in this new title. The campaign begins with Avril Mead, the granddaughter of a war hero and the daughter of a pilot killed in combat. She is the narrator of the story, since the player controls Trigger.
Typically silent, Trigger represents the person who controls him and is simply thrown into a political plot full of corruption. The rookie of the Mage 2 squad, as well as the players, witness the eruption of a war between the Kingdom of Erusea and the Federation of Osea.
When the declaration of war is made between the two nations, shortly after the kidnapping of a former Ossetian president, who was visiting a space elevator built as a symbol of world peace; the Eruseans respond with shot, strike and bomb, literally. Then, after a few recon missions (which sort of serve as an introduction to gameplay), then the player is put on a decisive rescue mission.
It turns out that the former president is actually hiding in the space elevator. The place is quite important, built to seal an agreement between the kingdom and the federation, and what happens during the rescue mission is quite symbolic when one stops to think about the meaning of the locality.
In any case, Trigger is sent to the 444th airbase of his country and starts to form a kind of kamikaze squadron. On the spot, he knows Avril and, together with his expendable companions, they will try to put an end to this absurd war. But as the game approaches a lot of war and thematic intertwined with it – loss, legacy, honor, homeland – the player also sees a bit from the other side of the story.
Then, after seeing a bit of the Ossetian side, we are also introduced to what happens to the Eruseans through the eyes of Mihaly A. Shilage, heir to a county and having ties to the kingdom. This whole story may seem complex at first, but it’s actually quite simple and full of interesting themes, plus it’s loaded with symbolism, criticism and various characters that you care about – including a certain captain who returns for the seventh title.
In addition, an interesting approach, even more so considering the generation we live in, is the issue of cutting-edge technology, more specifically artificial intelligence and the use of drones in warfare.
Between the lines at different times (and sometimes with all the letters too), the characters question whether the automata will outperform humans, addressing philosophical issues that are much questioned by real-world experts as well. It is difficult to take your eyes off the screen or stop playing as the story unfolds more and more. All packed into an impeccable soundtrack, with songs that perfectly match every mission.
Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that the game offers dubbing in Japanese and English and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles that have a great location work, so it is possible to understand absolutely everything that is written in the descriptions or what is said in the cutscenes.
Virtual reality and multiplayer
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is also compatible with PlayStation VR (PSVR), offering some missions in virtual reality. We had already tested this feature during the Brazilian Game Show 2018 and the experience is absurdly incredible, although it requires strong stomach and good resistance to technology, as the immersion level is incredible and you really are transported to the skies, inside a booth of a game.
The game also offers a multiplayer experience similar to a battle royale mode, but without “kills”. In fact, the player only needs to make as many points as he can and, in the end, the one with the most wins the match. Aside from being an adversary all over the world, there are also non-playable characters (NPCs) who will compete for the title of winner, just to disrupt the lives of gamers a little more.
It is also worth mentioning that the online experience presented great stability, offering fun and challenging multiplayer matches. By the way, the difficulty of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a point that needs to be highlighted part, as it as a whole is a difficult game. From learning commands, through story mode missions, to winning everyone in multiplayer mode: the whole game is challenging and the difficulty is ever-increasing. For players who like titles like this, this is definitely a great request.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. On Canaltech, the game was tested on PlayStation 4 with copy courtesy of Bandai Namco.