Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown Review
Over the past week, I’ve soared above the clouds and touched the face of God; I’ve rained death down on enemies from above; I’ve flown the fast-lane on a highway to the danger zone. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit – I’ve actually been sitting on my couch wearing sweatpants with a controller in my hands. But playing Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, there were a few times I almost felt like a real, badass fighter pilot.
Spread over 20 missions, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown puts you in the cockpit of modern, realistic fighter jets as Trigger, the game’s unseen protagonist. I’ve never played the previous titles in the Ace Combat series (it’s been around for decades) but I was able to quickly pick up the Campaign’s cliched but passable narrative basis – a fictional Earth-like world faces all-out war between the Osean, Usean and Erusian forces, and as an ace pilot, you’re sent on various missions that mostly involve aerial dogfights and taking out land-based targets.
I Feel the Need for Speed
I was impressed with how the game’s developers, Bandai Namco, have hit the perfect balance of arcade fun and realistic simulation. You’re given briefings before setting out that are packed with cool military jargon and techno-babble, helping to create a sense that you are a true hot-shot fly boy (or girl). Once you scramble and begin your sortie, there’s a steady audio stream of ground-based and AWACS support to help you locate and eliminate targets, along with Top Gun-style macho commentary from your squad mates. But all of this realism never gets cumbersome; you’re spared all the tedious details of flying — like fueling, repairing, prepping, equipping or loading-out your planes – Ace Combat 7 knows you’re here to fly a fighter jet, and it wisely gives you what you want.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s mostly a blast. Planes handle well and the controls feel intuitive, and I was able to pick up the basics of flying pretty quickly without an overly-long tutorial. Your weapons are likewise a small and simple list of heat-seeking missiles (my go-to choice), a mounted machinegun and a special weapon. Your flashing targets are indicated on the well-designed HUD for you, so it’s a matter of tracking them down and eliminating them before you get destroyed yourself.
I say mostly a blast because of course, the gameplay does begin to feel repetitive after the first bunch of missions. Despite the best attempts of the forgettable narrative, you’re doing the same flying and shooting in every mission. To be fair, there’s only so much the game can do about this, being a title built on one type of gameplay. Ace Combat 7 does try its best to add new elements, like mountainous terrain, or weather challenges like thunderstorms, to mix things up. You can also earn MP points by completing missions, which opens up new planes and weapons to give you goals to keep playing for.
For me, the highlight of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is the included PSVR support (on the PS4 version of course). It’s an extra set of 5 standalone VR missions in which you play not as Trigger but another character named Mobius 1. Gameplay is the same but the added three-dimensional perspective and 360-degree field of vision are honestly a game-changer. My stomach did a back-flip (in a good way) when I first lifted off the runway in VR, and the feeling of tilting the aircraft and looking out the side of the cockpit at the ground below was exhilarating, and something you have to experience to fully appreciate.
You Can Be My Wingman Anytime
Put together, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s 20 regular and 5 VR missions make for a relatively short game to finish – maybe around 10 to 12 hours. It could be a bit longer and that might disappoint some aspiring Top Guns out there, but there is a robust Multiplayer mode that adds countless hours if one is so willing. It utilizes the same MP-based progression system as the Campaign and features some pretty fun modes including Battle Royal.
It might be a bit pricey for the amount of content you get, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a well-crafted fighter combat experience with lots of high-flying fun. It pulls you in right away with a nice balance between arcade action and detailed realism, and the core dogfighting experience is consistently enjoyable. Plus, if you’ve got a PSVR this is a must-play, with a level of immersion that you’d need a real airplane – or maybe one of those military training simulators – to match. Strap yourself in, rookie, because Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a wild ride.
** A PS4 game code was provided by the publisher **
- Fun aerial combat
- Nice balance between action and realism
- VR mode is thrilling
- A bit repetitive
- Campaign could be longer