Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown – Review

Honestly Bandai Namco, I hate you for letting us wait so long but I ADORE you for finally releasing a new Ace Combat. The battle against Osea and Erusea continues on Xbox One, in a glorious way! I’m literally writing this thinking how badly I want to continue playing Ace Combat 7! I’m the first one to understand that this isn’t the game experience for everyone but I hope my review will convince you to at least try it out, it is a rough start for newcomers but totally worth it. Let us take a look at the good, the mixed and the bad and let me know if you eventually played it!

The good

  • Incredible gratifying online: That feeling, arriving home after a long day at work, smelling your favorite lasagne dish. Might be a weird thing to compare, I know… but you get the same positive and satisfying feeling each and every time you manage to get an online kill in Ace Combat. The dogfights are intense and each mistake is instantly punished, I love it. The developer played it really safe with just two game modes team deathmatch and free for all (named Battle Royal, trying to slipstream behind the success of it, but it honestly is a plain and simple free-for-all) but becoming the Ace in a match or even getting just one confirmed kill feels fantastic.
  • Skies: As if flying around wasn’t hard enough you have to pay attention to the sky too. First of all, and I will be mentioning it again later, it looks fantastic. For the first time in the Ace Combat series
     volumetric clouds (fancy word for realistic clouds) have an impact on gameplay, in a very good way! Bringing many new tactical elements in dogfights. Enemies have a harder time locking on to you, so it is a smart thing to use the clouds to your advantage. You’ll have to be careful though because your favorite Mirage or F-16 can become struck by lighting, making you an easy peasy lemon squeezy target because all defence and attack mechanics don’t work for a few moments. Another cool thing is that icing starts to appear on your wings resulting in worse maneuvering, so staying too long in the clouds won’t do you any favors.
  • Great visuals: I told you about the realistic looking clouds but oh boy, Ace Combat 7 is quite the visual experience, all with what seems to be a constant 60FPS (on Xbox One X). Weather effects, shiny and extremely detailed airplanes, impressive depth-of-view. Sure when you are flying low you’ll start to notice that the ground textures aren’t detailed like other Xbox games but you have the same thing when you stop driving in a racing game. The action happens in the air and that looks stellar. I honestly had some “this is next gen” impressions with explosions and landmarks. One thing I miss however is an ability to look at your collected fighter jets from up close, the developer spend so much love and time in recreating everything but doesn’t allow us to enjoy it from up close… kinda like Forzavista for example.
  • Niche but epic gameplay: Lots of emotional adrenaline moments, I’m not the guy that talks to myself while playing a single player game but Ace Combat really delivers me to the spot that I start cursing or cheering when I finally manage to win a dogfight. The typical air ballet between the fighter jets has you on high alert, at regular moments you are racing against the clock destroying bombers or dodging missiles from enemies, gosh.. that missile incoming alarm really brings some pressure! The freedom that you get for completing objectives in the massive levels has big variation too, you have the obvious Ace dogfights (boss battles) , stealth sections that force you in the clouds, massive dogfights with over 30 fighters on screen, supported by SAM turrets on the ground, air to ground sections destroying enemy bases or trucks or landing and taking off. While you are basically doing the same thing over and over again (you know, flying your plane) the variation keeps it fresh and ridiculously fun.
  • Aircraft tree: Everything you do earns you points that you can use in the aircraft tree, here you can unlock new shiny fighter jets or material upgrades. As if the fun gameplay didn’t give you enough motivation, this rewards system will definitely do the trick. You also have specific upgrades to improve your online stats, these upgrades cost you an arm and a leg though. Luckily the airplanes are pretty doable so unlocking your favorite fighter jet won’t take you too long.
  • Industry leading sound & music: Wow, just wow. Battling it out in dogfights is really intense because of the awesome sound effects, when an enemy passes you by, explosions, going in and out of clouds… I honestly never experienced better sound. Each mission has a music track too, no lame electronic music but full beautiful orchestral pieces. Ace Combat in general is known for great music but the soundtrack for Skies Unknown is an astounding accomplishment.

Mixed Feelings

  • More online content: You have a story in your game that focuses on drones so it is a missed opportunity that you don’t have drones in online games. Escort missions or something like capture the zone would be really fun too. While I have a positive opinion about the online options a few more unique things to do wouldn’t have been a bad thing.
  • Story: Strangereal or Erusea, ring any bells? It won’t if you never played Ace Combat before. While I personally really like the way of storytelling, bringing the main plot together with quite a few sub-plots it is a little weird that there isn’t a synopsis about the past and current happenings. Someone who hasn’t played the series before won’t understand a single thing about what is happening, even not all Ace Combat veterans will likely remember everything, after all it has been five years since a new one came out. Anyway, you have two personal stories in the game with young female Avril, someone that is collecting parts and building airplanes with it and pilot Trigger, who unfortunately killed the wrong person (well, YOU did actually) and the main story plot: war between Osea and Erusea, told in beautiful cutscenes and lots of chitchat (can be
    distracting while trying to dodge a million missiles…) during the 20 mission strong campaign.

The bad

Hard for newcomers: If you are not familiar with “sortie” it means that a military aircraft takes off. In Ace Combat’s case I’m afraid that many newcomers in the genre will have a tremendous time learning to navigate and use every weapon. The game has a very limited tutorial and hardly explains any advanced move. So the only “sortie” that they will do is playing another game because they can’t progress. I have been playing Ace Combat for years now and even for me it took a few missions to really get the hang of it, trust me though: it is totally worth your dedication and time.

Ace Combat 7 | Score: 91/100

I have a thing with niche games and Ace Combat is a fine example for that, previous entries kinda went a little down spiral but Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown brings the franchise back where it belongs, high in the air leaving competition far behind. I couldn’t have been more happy how this game turned out. So “sortie” to your nearest game shop or the Xbox Store and buy this fantastic game!

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