Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown marks the first main entry in the long-standing franchise in over a decade. Before we start our Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown review, let’s make one thing clear first and foremost. While the game does not reinvent the proverbial wheel, it does bring the series back to its roots, and for most fans, that is the best thing that it could have done.
The main story retains its anime roots and is choke full of references to older games, which admittedly will be missed by first time players. That is not to say that you have to be a veteran in order to enjoy the plot, as much of it is self-contained. Fanservice is what makes Ace Combat, so having them fly over your head so to speak, would decrease the enjoyment factor somewhat.
As is usual Ace Combat tradition, you take on the role of a rookie fight pilot going by the callsign ‘Trigger” who is part of the International United Nations Peacekeeping Force (IUN-PKF), charged will overseeing your affiliated country of Usea as it rebuilds. Events unfold and you find yourself being arrested for a crime which sees you flying with ragtag squad of prisoners. To go on further would be spoiling the game, so it is best you savour it for yourself.
The 28 available aircraft (and one more if you got the deluxe edition) are all lovingly-rendered. Built from the ground up with the Unreal Engine 4, the graphical fidelity shines through if you have the hardware to power it. Save for Xbox owners, this is true if you have a PlayStation 4 Pro and a decent desktop computer.
The sky has never looked more amazing, and the introduction of clouds not only heighten the immersion and realism, it has gameplay element as well. Flying through them wobbles your plane, and your radio muffles along the way. It is also a convenient way to evade missile lock-ons, but the enemy can do the same to you as well. Unfortunately as this is the PC version being reviewed, we did not manage to try out the much-touted VR mode, which we heard is a blast.
Gameplay is solid as ever, but there are some downsides. The campaign is completely linear, and there are no longer any branching mission paths from Ace Combat 5 or the Dynamic Mission System seen in Ace Combat 6. Absent also is the Ace Style system implemented in Ace Combat Zero where the game reacts to your playstyle. What this does is lower the replayability factor apart from unlocking emblems, skins and medals from downing named aces in-game.
Ace Combat 7 boasts a full-featured multiplayer mode which is great news for fans of the now defunct Ace Combat Infinity. This mode carries over from the campaign’s Aircraft Tree, so all the unlocks you made in single player is open here as well. The usual Battle Royale and Team Deathmatch modes are present, although it would be nice if there was some form of co-operative play as well.
To prevent the use over overpowered planes, a budget system is incorporated in which you can only deploy jets that have a certain cost. Special weapons too have a cost, so you have to really consider what you want to bring to multiplayer as you have a limited budget to work with most of the time.
There is also a dedicated tree for multiplayer only, so if you find yourselves having too much credits to spare, you can spend it here. Multiplayer is also where you will be unlocking most of your medals, so if you are a completionist, this is where you will be spending most of your time.
All in all, Ace Combat 7 is a great return to what the series is known for. The campaign lacks replayability but makes up for it by being well written, retaining its the cheesiness and poignancy. Everything looks beautiful, and if you are a fan of planes, you would be hard pressed to find games where they are rendered so well.
The real drawback of this entry is that the developer as played it very safe. There is little new introduced here and some of the more experimental features have been done away for something more streamlined. The multiplayer is decent but could be improved upon, especially given that they have experience in this. Hopefully the good reception the game has been getting would prompt Team Aces to plan another release down the line with all the necessary improvements.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown Review
A return to form for great and long-standing series of arcade flight games.
- Beautiful, life-like graphics
- Enjoyable story
- Linear campaign
We Give Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown 9 out of 10