E3 2011 — Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Hands-on

The less said about this wretched title, the better. Flight Sim-loving gamers are no doubt having a hard time of it these days, but I still can’t imagine them getting excited about Assault Horizon, which takes a stab at both helicopter combat and jetfighter dogfighting and fails miserably at both. Project Aces clearly has an extensive pedigree in the genre, so maybe I just don’t get it. If what I saw on the show floor was “it,” though, I don’t want to.

I started on my own, taking the game‘s helicopter tutorial for a spin. After learning how to control the attack chopper, we bore down on a grainy, non-descript Middle Eastern village, which was suddenly teeming with anti-aircraft batteries, highlighted an ugly red. I alternated between pummelling the red HUD icons with missile barrages and holding both shoulder buttons to trigger a ridiculous, unrealistic evasive manuever. I’m willing to believe that you can do a barrel roll in an Apache, but once I have to do it five times in two minutes, I’m ready to put the controller down.

The rest of the demo played out like one of the AC-130 levels in Call of Duty. Some stentorian military guy barked orders at you, and you deployed crushing ordinance to targets on the ground that were often barely visible except for their immersion-ruining red highlighting. There was no context and no story. Just whack-a-mole with Hellfire missiles.

Later on, as my Namco Bandai tour put me in the cockpit of a fighter, I could tell I was going to be disappointed. The rep explaining the game seemed to know little about it, and care less. As far as I could tell, the plane half of the game plays like this: Enemy fighters appear out of nowhere. You chase them. When you get close enough, you enter “dogfight mode,” which requires you to keep them within a broad circle at the center of your screen — the only reason this is challenging is that the game decides that dogfighting is a good time to deinvert the Y-axis. Follow a bogey for long enough, and you’ll achieve missile lock. Fire missiles. Rinse, repeat. There was a vague mention of bombing missions. The game took place in the skies over Miami. Eject! Eject before it’s too late!

Be Game Front’s wingman with our jet-fueled walkthrough for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

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