Ace Combat 4
Review of Ace Combat 4
The Ace Combat series was definitely the best from a rather weak bunch of combat flight sims on Playstation 1. Unfortunately the third edition had not only been cut to ribbons from its original format, but was subject to further trimming when the far superior Japanese game (2 discs) was hacked in half to squeeze onto a single CD for the English speaking version. Hopefully a PS2 DVD should provide ample space to allow Ace Combat 4 to fully stretch its wings.
Distant Thunder is a flight game that removes most of the technicalities from the aircraft control system, allowing for a perfect balance of gameplay that involves pure arcade dog-fights, tactical land assaults and varied sea scenarios.
Although the game boasts 21 flyable aircraft from the real world the theme concentrates on the fictitious continent of Eugea in the not so distant future. The story is narrated from a young boy’s perspective of living in an occupied town as he watches these amazing aerial battles. Rather than waste precious time and money on lavish cut scenes the developers have opted for a simple storyboard featuring many striking hand drawn animation stills and this style actually compliments the mood of the tale of this awful war. While much is made of the youngsters point of view very little is known about the nameless and faceless character that you, the player, controls, except that your code-name is Mobius One.
The in-game graphics are simply awesome and take a giant leap forward onto the PS2. Many varied examples come to mind across the 18 mission based levels such as taking out moving tanks and artillery bunkers as your own troops attempt a beach landing at first light. How about low flying through photo-realistic winding canyons avoiding incoming flak and Sam missiles that are as easy to shake off as an angry wasp. Then there’s the time when the moonshine spreads a welcome light across the sea, as a series of oil platforms are set ablaze with precision guided bombs. In fact this title leaves so many visual memories that I cannot wait to begin playing it all over again to catch the many spectacles I surely missed due to total concentration on the task in hand.
The sound effects are as realistic as I would imagine (having never waged war from a cockpit), but if the Hollywood movies have captured the mood with any accuracy then this is about as good as it gets. It is hard not to panic when so much is going on at the same time and you only have two ears. For example, a dozen enemy ‘yellows’ are buzzing across the skies… you’re wingman is having fits as he screams that someone to the rear has ‘locked on’ just at the moment you’ve finally got an enemy in range whom you’ve been chasing for an age… leftover flak and rogue rockets are zipping passed the window in all directions… meanwhile the entire squadron can be heard mixing excited tales of success with squeals of anguish as they have taken a hit and are ‘going down’… and all the while the mission clock ticks down. With all of this constant mayhem going on it’s a wonder that I recall any of the game music, but somehow I do and it ranges from gentle guitar plucking to romping orchestrations suiting each mood of the game superbly.
The gameplay is purely mission based and following a brief description of the upcoming scenario it is time to wheel and deal for aircraft and weapons. Credits are awarded dependant on the success of a mission, upgraded ‘C to B to A’ and a special ‘S’ for an achievement beyond the call of duty (this usually involves taking out the 2 secret orange airplanes or clearing the entire screen of enemies).
It all begins with a ‘bog standard’ plane but by the time the final mission is upon you there are 20 varied, affordable aircraft from the slow, virtually indestructible A-10A bomber to the zippy stealth F-15 ACTIVE. To make the mission much easier to complete a plane should always be bought that suits the scenario, because a craft that excels in air-to-ground assaults is highly unlikely to last the pace of a frantic mid-air dogfight. To make life even simpler the developers have very kindly created a shopping system where the same amount of credits are returned for the sale of an airplane that were accepted when it was originally purchased (hope they didn’t notice all the bullets holes in mine when it was taken back).
Control has been kept very simplistic so that the player can concentrate on fast furious play rather than taking a hit simply because the wrong button was pressed. The analog acceleration and brake buttons provide touch sensitive control over how fast you need to react to a given situation and a very hard press really does achieve the reaction requested.
Should all the missions be completed successfully extra modes are unveiled including a challenging time trial where scores are awarded for number of targets shot down in an allotted time. As a two-player game Ace Combat 4 works well with an interesting selection of tasks offered including cooperative missions, air battles and one-on-one dogfights. However 8 maps is a bit measly when most of the single player locations could surely have been used.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Ace Combat 4' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Martin © Absolute PlayStation
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