Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (エースコンバット アサルト・ホライゾン Ēsu Konbatto Asaruto Horaizon) was a spin-off instalment of the Ace Combat franchise, and the 14th game released in the series. It took place in the real world, albeit in a different timeline from that of Ace Combat: Joint Assault.
Players took control of various members of Task Force 108, most notably USAF Colonel William Bishop, as they shut down the threat posed by rebel forces from Russia known as the New Russian Federation (NRF).
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was the first Ace Combat to be released on personal computers and the PlayStation 3, while not an outright terrible game (Angry Joe even listed it as one of his top games of 2011). Assault Horizon was still one of the least popular games in the Ace Combat franchise, and widely hated on by veteran players of Ace Combat, for valid reasons. GameSpot called this game "that made Ace Combat series lose its identity".
- One of the game's major features is Dogfighting Mode (DFM). Basically when you get close enough to an enemy plane, you lock on to the target and enter an automatic chase mode, all you'll need to do at this point is to adjust your plane's heading and speed and make sure the enemy stays well within your targeting circle, either using your cannon to shred the enemy plane, or wait until the targeting circle's inner portion fills up and unleash missiles to blow the enemy out of the sky. Sometimes the enemies will pull a DFM on you, but all you'll have to do is to maneuver your aircraft and find a good time to perform a QTE, which allows your plane to perform an impossible maneuver to get behind the enemy once again. This makes dogfighting, the key gameplay element of Ace Combat, extremely artificial. Taking out all elements of strategy and skill and making it more like a glorified on-rail shooter than an actual air combat sim-cade.
- Making matters worse is how the game constantly forces you to rely on DFM. Outside of it, the tracking ability of your missiles are utterly atrocious and the enemies will have an easy time to dodge them, especially at a range. Even worse are the enemies labelled "TGT LEAD", which are next to impossible to take down quickly unless you use DFM. Markov is also an offender, and in your final fight with him, he can outright defy the laws of physics to shake you off.
- There's even an Air Strike Mode (ASM), which reduces ground attacking to an on-rails experience. All you need to do is fly to a waypoint, and your plane will automatically enter a pre-planned route, leaving you in charge of simply releasing your ordinances at the right time.
- DFM is also available in multiplayer, which is almost allowing players to cheat.
- Due to this, the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound is not playable.
- Fake Difficulty: On higher difficulty settings, enemies will constantly spam counter maneuvers to break your DFM , causing you to waste time and ammunition trying to shake off the sudden advantage they have over you. Also, if an enemy breaks out of DFM, it will usually regain some health.
- Some of the enemies, such as Markov's T-50 PAK FA, are scripted to be invincible until a certain point in the mission has been reached.
- Heck, even the FIRST ENEMIES you face in the TUTORIAL are SCRIPTED. They're scripted to die automatically as soon as they reach a certain point even if you don't shoot that them.
- The Ace Difficulty makes the game an extremely frustrating experience. Because it disables health regeneration. This is a very pressing issue, as if an enemy engages you in DFM, they'll auto lock-on to you and you'll take unavoidable damage. Worst of all, the checkpoints save your HP status, and will not refill it if you restart at the checkpoint!
- The game overall just lacks the atmosphere of Ace Combat. Ace Combat should generally feel like Metal Gear with jets, Assault Horizon on the other hand feels like Call of Duty: Jet Warfare. Even the main antagonist is named Markov, starts with "Ma" and ends with "ov".
- Further enhancing the CoD feel of the game is its extremely clichéd plot of "America vs Russia". And by 2011 most players were already getting sick of it after every game, their mothers and their dogs have done something like this.
- There are 2 levels where you play as a door gunner of a MH-60 Black Hawk, and one where you play as the Set Operator of an AC-130U Spooky. That's right, this is a game about fighter jets where there are 3 LEVELS that are essentially on-rail turret shooters that don't look out of place in a CoD or Battlefield game.
- The AC-130 level is often considered impossible to complete on Ace difficulty, as it takes just 2 SAMs to bring it down. On Ace difficulty, multiple enemies fire SAMs simultaneously, your plane is too slow to evade them and it's very difficult to shoot them all down quick enough.
- Your plane no longer has a health bar, instead it's a recoverable damage threshold much like many FPS games.
- The final super weapon of Assault Horizon is not a devastating weapons facility like Stonehenge or Megalith, not some super fighter like the ADFX-02 Morgan or the CFA-44 Nosferatu, or even a aerial warship like the the P-1112 Aigaion or the XB-0 Hresvelgr. None of these, NO! The final boss... is a CRUISE MISSILE. That's right, a normal-ass filler enemy in other Ace Combat games is the final boss of Assault Horizon, the only things special about this missile is that it makes a big BOOM and can somehow maneuver like a plane.
- There are no briefing sections in Assault Horizon where you're given the overview of the battlefield, what kind of enemies will appear and what enemies you'll be facing in total. Instead, the cutscenes serve as the briefing sections.
- The hitbox of this game is an utter mess, against ground enemies, you can sometimes destroy them even when you're firing but not aiming at them.
- All missions are on very tight time limits, so you cannot even just horse around avoid using DFM or ASM.
- Selection freedom is also far more limited compared to other Ace Combat games. For each mission, you're presented with just a limited roaster of planes, and are basically told what you should do. Unlike in Ace Combat games where you can pick whatever plane you'd like (you can even take the slow and cumbersome A-10 to take down the final boss), and can sometimes choose your mission objectives (which cluster of enemies you'll target first, which group of allies will you support, etc).
- The 3rd person camera angles in this game is also pretty bad, in an aircraft, it's zoomed too close to your plane causing it to take up most of your screen. And in a helicopter, it's very awkwardly placed over-the-shoulder with the tail rotor almost sticking out of the screen, and there's no way to rotate the camera other than rotating the entire chopper, compromising your situational awareness.
- The attack helicopter levels are not well received. Partially due to the aforementioned clunky camera angles, and partially due to the limited amount of special weapon ammo you can bring with your helicopter. This mean that you'll run out of missiles/rockets too quickly and be forced to depend on your chin-mounted autocannon which means that the battle can drag on forever.
- The PC version omits the Panavia Tornado GR.4 due to licensing reasons.
- Colonel William Bishop is also a fairly bland and generic character, and many players of AC prefer the traditional featureless, silent protagonists like Mobius One, Cipher or Blaze which can help with immersion, as you can imagine him of being whatever you want.
- Even more insulting for Ace Combat fans is that originally, the game will be centered around a JASDF pilot and the fictional ASF-X Shinden II specifically designed for the game. Your wingman will also be the recurring character of Kei Nagase. However the plot thread was quickly swept away in favor of Bishop and his equally forgettable unit members. The ASF-X Shinden II was also dummied out as a DLC plane, and not featured in the campaign whatsoever.
- This is because the story was written by John DeFelice.
- The graphics are excellent and detailed, especially compared to Ace Combat 6 where minor enemies only have LOD models.
- When you unlock a plane, you get to use it straight away, and you don't need to grind other missions for currencies to buy it.
- Despite its flaws, DFM does make dogfighting very cinematic, and it's always satisfying to see enemy planes ripped to pieces by your guns and missiles.
- The first Ace Combat game that allowed you to fly helicopters and bombers.
- Some decent attention to details, for instance, the voices of aircraft warning systems are all in the languages of their countries of origin.
- The soundtrack, while not as good as most other classic Ace Combat games, is still relatively decent.
- The voice acting was also done pretty decently.
- It is the first Ace Combat game to be ever released on the PlayStation 3.
- A good selection of aircrafts, featuring new entires to the Ace Combat series such as the Su-35S Flanker-E, the T-50 PAK FA/Su-57 Felon, and the debut of the ASF-X Shinden.
- It is also featured aircraft that don't have enough presence in the franchise like the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot (after their sole appearance in Ace Combat 2)
- The Saab JAS-39 Gripen, the Mikoyan MiG-21bis Fishbed and MiG-29A Fulcrum, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback made a return here after their absence from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
- The DLC and the PC version adds a playable McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II+, which was non-playable since.
- While those who have played other Ace Combat will call it a disgrace, Assault Horizon is not an outright terrible game and can be quite enjoyable for those who just want a decent action game, new players of the franchise and for those they want a Ace Combat game on the PS3 since Ace Combat 6 is an Xbox 360 exclusive.
- The PC port of the hame adds a bonus content pack including extra planes (with the exception of the Panavia Tornado), maps, skins (including classics such as the Yellow 13 skin for the Su-37, which is featured in almost every AC game after 4), skills upgrades and support for screen resolutions up to 1900x1200.
- Without this game, there will probably never be the masterpiece that is Project Wingman. Since the team behind it were motivated into making their own Ace Combat-esque game after seeing the disappointment that is Assault Horizon.