It's been well over a decade since Project Aces' flight combat series saw a console release but it's back full throttle. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a consistently adrenaline-fueled ride so get ready to take to the skies!
If you're like me, you love soaring through virtual skies. There's something about controlling an aircraft that feels radically different to any other kind of game. So, when I booted up Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, watched the somewhat lengthy opening cutscene, then finally accelerated down the runway only to become airborne once again, I couldn't help but smile and think, "This is going to be awesome." Thankfully, it is.
For starters, there are different control methods depending on your skill level. Choosing Standard would be a good idea for rookie pilots while Expert is a solid choice for veterans. Meanwhile, hardcore flight enthusiasts could always use a flight stick which I'm now considering purchasing. No matter how you decide to play, the controls are spot-on and match the intense gameplay wonderfully.
The sights and sounds of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown are simply incredible. Merely flying in clear skies while observing the islands and sea below is gorgeous but when you begin to fly within bad weather, mountainous terrain, and icy climates; it can be downright jaw-dropping. Entering cloud cover when a missile is heading your way only to emerge and surprise an enemy jet feels as amazing as it looks. Plus, the resulting explosion is oh so satisfying. Meanwhile, the dramatic orchestral score, urgent radio voiceovers, and subtle sounds of engines whirring make for one immersive soundscape and it all comes together to craft one engaging experience.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown's main mode is a story Campaign where you progress through a succession of stages and watch cutscenes in between. Honestly, I stopped following the story a handful of missions in because I found myself being more excited about what missions I'll get to tackle next. That being said, I can safely say that the plot is full of interesting characters, dramatic moments, and a few twists. Anyway, the missions start out being quite simple but you'll find yourself accomplishing incredible feats as the campaign progresses such as taking down tough bosses, having to search for enemy trucks within a sandstorm, and protecting various assets. The environments and mission objectives are diverse which is great because the campaign never feels stagnant or repetitive.
As you play Ace Combat 7, you'll amass a wealth of MRP which can be spent on the Aircraft Tree in order to unlock more fighter jets, special weapons, and upgrade parts. Doing so is rather rewarding, especially when you find a combination that works for your play style. That being said, I can't help but wish there were more modes to enjoy this content within. I'll get to the online multiplayer and PlayStation VR component in a bit but besides those extra modes and the story campaign, there really isn't anything else to sink your teeth into. I would have loved to see a survival mode, a list of challenges with leaderboards, and local multiplayer to help extend its replay value but this is far from a deal-breaker considering how much the few existing modes offer. Speaking of which...
Beside the single player story campaign, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown features a rather comprehensive online multiplayer component with 2 main modes: Battle Royal and Team Death Match. I found playing online to be very fun although it's a lot more chaotic than the expertly crafted single player missions as everyone basically just flies around and shoots at each other in a large-scale frantic mess.
The only aspect about playing online that I didn't enjoy is how unbalanced it felt. Most online games try to level the playfield but I found that some players would use tricky tactics such as missiles that ceaselessly follow you around even after you dodge them. You can set a Total Cost Limit within rooms but I didn't find that to help much. I wish you could set a rule that basically forces everyone to use the exact same loadout. Don't get me wrong, it's a blast to play but I still regularly got the impression that it's unbalanced.
I had no idea what to expect when I put on my VR headset and entered Ace Combat 7's separate PlayStation VR mode but after playing it, I can easily say that it's the greatest VR implementation that I've ever experienced. It basically consists of a handful of missions as well as a mode where you can freely fly around. Being in your craft's cockpit while looking all around and watching the world turn upside-down as you get into a dogfight with an encroaching foe is nothing short of mind-blowing. It's such an exhilarating way to play the game that I wish you could play the campaign and online multiplayer in VR, too. Just thinking about it makes me want to keep playing.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a top-notch flight combat game with one of the best VR implementations that you'll ever have the joy to experience. Simply put, the variety of challenging and memorable missions, breathtaking sights and sounds, fun online multiplayer, and super-tight gameplay make it a must-have game for anyone with a fondness for the genre.
- + Incredible flight combat gameplay with an impressive amount of variety
- + Stunning visuals and sound
- + VR mode is mind-blowing / fun online
- - Could use more modes to add replay value
- - Online multiplayer feels unbalanced