Just like the route taken by many other franchises in the past decade, Ace Combat Assault Horizon is, sadly, what happens when a Publisher/Developer decides to rise the finger towards their loyal fanbase, and tries their hardest to appeal to a different, more modern mainstream crowd.
In the end and as a consequence, not only failing hard to get a piece of that pie, but losing the respect and support of those who were with them right from the beginning.The Good
On the brightest side of things, there are twenty five different airplanes, three helicopters, and two bombers to chose from, each intricately modeled and textured, complete with beautiful, detailed cockpit views.
While the graphics menus are an absolute joke (more on that later), I haven't ran into any problems what so ever, everything works as it should, the framerate is stable, the controls are responsive and there are no visible glitches or problematic bugs typical of bad ports...The Bad
In an effort to not only simplify the game but make it more "edgy n'cool", the developers introduced a new mechanic that goes by the name of Dog Fighting Mode (DFM for short), a mode that gets you close to the action, glues you to your enemy and takes literally up to about 90% of the control off of your hands, just so you may shoot him down with your suddenly increased aimbot like super accuracy.
As a result, DFM is nothing but an on-rails, scripted, nauseating (boy, that zoom in/out camera/field of view) joke that takes you on a quest you cannot possibly fail; It requires absolutely no skill whatsoever, providing no fun a result.
Such ain't "optional" either, since certain enemies can ONLY be taken down using said mode, and others can also glue themselves to you, forcing such mode on yourself.
...as if that wasn't bad enough, certain enemies will take you on a rather long scripted adventure (you'll notice those right away, they're bullet sponges) and can only be disposed of, once their fancy "scripted" event has come to an end.
For the first time ever in the franchise, we're given the opportunity to take control of an Helicopter (in fact, tree of them); This is indeed a breath of fresh air in the game, but unfortunately its implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
To start off, the shaky, in your face, zoomed in Third-Person camera, has got to be one of the worst I've experienced in a game, the levitating brick occupies almost three quarters of the screen and flies all over the place, making its best efforts to obstruct your view all the time;
Thankfully, there is a cockpit view, and even that has the bad habit of shaking in an exaggerated manner and zooming in every time you lock your weapons on a target.
...now, as far as Helicopter gameplay goes, it could be described almost as a modern generic Third/First-Person Shooter (only clunkyer) and in the air, which consist off gunning down waves upon waves of ground forces who oppose no threat whatsoever (as in challenge), occasionally dodging a missile or two (it's laughable), and maybe, face off another chopper one on one; Oh, and you cannot crash it.
Nothing too complicated... in fact, if you're expecting anything that requires even the slightest amount of thought, strategy and/or skill, you might want to look somewhere else...
Be aware though!
The game has the bad habit of taking the control off of your hands, constantly zooming into whatever goes boom;
Trying a little bit to hard to make people go nuts over rad explosions, I guess...
New to the series are too the Turret Sections, which consist of nothing but press right click for "awesome".
Unfortunately, there are no unique and/or interesting mechanics to the big guns themselves, they don't overheat nor do they run out of ammo, rate of fire doesn't vary from turret to turret neither does the ammunition they consume...
...and as an effect, these sections come off as simplistic, stale, repetitive, and nothing more.
It could be said they exist for the sole reason of instant gratification, and it wouldn't be too far of the truth, as challenge is kept to a bare minimum and all it resorts to, is: Everything you look at explodes and anything that hadn't exploded yet is inoffensive to your mighty immortality.
Which brings me to...
...the Health Bar of old, which is nowhere to be seen, and there is a reason for such;
Our friends at Namco, decided it'd be a good idea to borrow, amongst other things, one of the worst fads in gaming; The absolute ATROCITY that is regenerative health.
Yes, that's right, Planes/Helicopters fix them selves (you'll notice a red screen displaying Critical, Heavy and Light Damage at times);
But wait, this ain't over yet!
If that wasn't ridiculous enough, our beautiful flying machines now bounce of the ground as if they're made of rubber.
Together with "Invincibility Mode", such can be abused to no end...
...but boy, oh boy, there's more;
Amongst other fads brought to the table, is the poor implementation of either intrusive Quick Time Events (QTEs for short), that serve no purpose other than breaking the flow of the game, or QTEs that don't even have an impact on anything (yes some can be ignored completely)!
Some cutscenes are unskippable (thankfully those are very, very few and far in between), forcing you to "take control" of the camera, as in, moving the main character's head to look around, because apparently someone somewhere thought that'd be fun.
To add insult to the injury, not only is our main villain the typical evil Russian guy (because 'Murica, I guess) he's also called Markov; Doesn't this ring a bell?
Even the name is similar to an evil guy from a certain overly successful, yearly franchise that's been copied to the point of exhaustion for the past decade!
...it might seem like I'm nitpicking by now, but it's blatantly obvious who or what this game has drawn inspiration (or should I say lack thereof) from, there's even a boring, uninspired AC130 mission thrown into the mix, and a long boring one at that (actually, most missions overstay their welcome)! Who finds this fun and why?The Ugly
While this game is properly optimized from my experience, the Graphic Settings menu is a joke, there are only four available options to "tweak", Antialiasing (can only be turned On or Off), Fullscreen, Vsync and Resolution.
On a side note, while the PC version contains all the DLC included, don't even get me started on how ridiculous and overpriced they were on the console version, which used to charge from $4, up to $6 for individual Painting schemes and Aircraft (Not sure if it still does)!
Boy have standards fallen low, uh?Final Verdict:
Ace Combat Assault Horizon is a game that tries to hard to be the next big thing; Not only does it feel desperate, like a little kid yelling and screaming for attention, it also feels like a compilation of everything that is wrong with games, the industry nowadays and the mentality of those who Publish/Develop the games we used to know and love.
Therefore, earning an abysmal rEvo's rating of 2.5/10
I can't remember a single moment where I was enjoying myself; I felt suffocated in the middle of all of its "edgy" in your face exaggeration, mixed with boring, generic simplified gameplay mechanics...
It felt cheap, it felt empty and it felt outdated...
Outdated in the sense that the kind of game Assault Horizon is trying to be, has been copied and beaten to death multiple times in the past decade.
It's just not its unique thing anymore, and as a result you'll find "Assault Horizon's" core, in any other brown, cinematic (edgy), military (or not), linear, scripted, simplified, over budgeted, mediocre AAA (triple A) game out there...
At the very least, the game's well programmed and functional, doesn't crash nor does it stutter around...