Flying games are few and far between on major consoles today, with only IL2: Sturmovik, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. and Ace Combat flying the flag for this genre of game. And it's not hard to see why, as aviation and gaming don't often mix well, it's ended up being a very small niche market. Assault Horizon is the 12th game in the Ace Combat franchise brought to you by Namco.
The story line for the campaign mode is written by New York Times best-selling author Jim DeFelice, taking place in the year 2015. Playing as Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, leader of Warwolf squadron, part of the NATO Task Force, who are set on stopping an anti-government insurgency from destroying the African continent. They're also fighting alongside U.N. troops and Russian support forces. The squad soon finds out that their opposition is in possession of a new weapon of mass destruction, named 'Trinity', and that their enemies have feared Russian Fighter Pilot Colonel Andrei "Akula" Markov in their ranks. Throughout the campaign, you can expect the usual happenings of any war based tale, with people switching sides and comrades taking bullets for each other.
Assault Horizon's graphics are, in parts, quite impressive, with great detail on each plane, and the scenery below looking pretty realistic from a distance. This is helped by the fact that the producers have used satellite imagery to create the maps of such destinations as Paris, Dubai, Moscow and Washington, so you can see various landmarks and even specific houses from the skies above the in-game cities.
And if you're a gamer who likes explosions, then this is the game for you, whether it be the explosion from the WMD 'Trinity', or just the blast of a destroyed jet, there is crashes, bangs and wallops every 10 seconds. This makes for a great experience taking you back to the days of the old shoot 'em ups.
Namco have done a good job keeping the game interesting, too. For example, most of the time in a flying game you'll be flying a fighter jet, shooting anything that moves, meaning there is often very little variation and the game ends up being repetitive. Despite that, Namco don't half give variation a go. They offer five different forms of attack, the customary fighter jet, bombers, AC-130s, helicopters and even being the gunner on board a helicopter. This makes a nice change from just piloting a fighter jet for mission after mission.
However, the campaign mode isn't very long, and will be over within a week if you play for an hour or two each night. There is the option of a co-op campaign, though, which adds a bit of extra play time to the game. There is also the online features including a new 8 versus 8 mode, where teams take it in turns attacking or defending the cities included in the game.
The main advance in game play is the introduction of the new "Close Range Assault" (CRA), which in turn includes "Dogfight Mode" (DFM) and "Airstrike Mode" (ASM). These factors add to the intensity of the game, giving the player the feeling that they're at the centre of the action, as opposed to "shooting at far away dots" as seen in other flight games, as someone put it.
A real fun game to play, and for the producers to create such a fun game from a genre that is often so monotonous, Namco have done a real good job with this release. So, if you're looking for a no holds barred, explosion crazy flight game, then Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the one for you.
7 out of 10