Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
|Ace Combat: Assault Horizon|
North American cover art
|Publisher(s)||Namco Bandai Games|
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
|Genre(s)||Arcade, combat flight simulator|
|Distribution||Blu-ray Disc, DVD|
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?) is an installment of the Ace Combat arcade combat flight video game series developed by Project Aces and initially published by Namco Bandai for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October 2011. The game was added to the PlayStation Store on November 28, 2012, and will be added to Xbox 360 Games on Demand in January 2013. It was also released on Microsoft Windows on January 25, 2013.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon continues the trend of Ace Combat games set in the real Earth rather than on "Strangereal", the setting for most Ace Combat games. The game takes place over a number of locations, including: Miami, East Africa, Dubai and the Middle East, Russia (Derbent, the Black Sea, Caucasus, and Moscow specifically), and Washington, D.C. Fictional towns and cities were also used, including Mogadiyu, Carruth, and Belyi Base (believed to be based on Belaya). The developers used satellite imagery to accurately render the real-life locations, making it possible for players to pick out actual buildings and locations while playing the game.
In 2015, Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, the leader of United States Air Force Warwolf Squadron, is part of the 108th Task Force, a large multinational U.N. military force composed of NATO and Russian forces sent to stop the SRN Rebellion that threatens East Africa. Tensions flare between NATO General Pierre La Pointe and Russian General Ivan Stagleishov. Others, such as Russian Major Sergei Illich, are happy to serve with their American counterparts; Illich himself strikes up a fast friendship with Bishop and his wingman, José "Guts" Gutierrez. Bishop suffers a nightmare of an intense air battle over Miami in which he is killed by a mysterious "shark mouthed" aircraft. Meanwhile, helicopter squadrons Nomad and Shooter go to a nearby town occupied by anti-government insurgent troops. The helicopters manage to put down the rebels' resistance and clear most of them out of the town, but a large explosion takes down most of the helicopters, injuring the crews.
During their attacks against the rebels, the SRN uses the unknown explosive device once more against the helicopter squadrons while they were on a rescue mission to retrieve Major Illich, who had been shot down in a sortie. The 108th Task Force determines the SRN must be hiding the weapon inside the caves of Mogadiyu, a nearby archaeological-significant region, and decides to utilize ground troops, Warwolf, Nomad, Shooter, and Spooky (a single AC-130 unit) to destroy the storage facilities. General Stagleishov refuses to provide his Russian MiGs for the operation for fear of an international conflict, but NATO performs it regardless. When Warwolf Squadron returns to the allied base, they get a transmission that a nearby city is under attack by rebels. Warwolf attempts to assist their allies in Carruth, but are intercepted by Stagleishov's squadron mid-way, who show their true colors; members of Blatnoi, a Russian criminal organization that is funding the SRN. Assisting Stagleishov is Andrei Markov, a highly skilled Russian pilot who flies the same plane from Bishop's nightmare. Markov attempts to shoot down Guts, but Bishop intervenes; however, Markov performs a maneuver that Bishop can't follow, and Markov damages his plane. He and Stagleishov are running low on fuel and must retreat, but not before Markov mocks his American rival. When Bishop lands his damaged plane, the rebel forces detonate an even more powerful version of the weapon never seen before.
The weapon has been identified as "Trinity," a conventional bomb with the power of a tactical nuclear weapon. Trinity has been outfitted onto cruise missiles and can be used anywhere. Blatnoi threatens to use Trinity on Dubai, and Warwolf defends the city, while Shooter and Nomad intercept rebel cargo ships in hopes of finding Trinity weapons. However, it turns out the threat was merely a smoke screen so Blatnoi could stage a coup in Russia, led by Stagleishov with the support of a large part of the Russian military, calling itself the New Russian Federation (NRF). The NRF quickly takes control of Moscow and surrounding areas, and the 108th performs many counter-operations to liberate the Russian cities. Illich, who was not loyal to Stagleishov, has returned to assist the 108th with his own Red Moon Squadron as the leader of the Russian loyalist forces. Markov has also attempted to use Trinity at one point, but the missile was shot down by Bishop. The NRF manages to fire an ICBM at the United States, but it was also shot down before it could leave Russia; strangely enough, though, Illich disappeared in the middle of the operation.
Eventually, the 108th manages to arrive at Moscow; however, another Trinity missile successfully detonates, taking down many of the 108th helicopters in the area, though d-ray survives. Warwolf intercepts six bombers en route to Moscow escorted by Markov, who ejects after been shot down by Bishop. Stagleishov decides to contact the 108th to negotiate the NRF's surrender exchanging the final Trinity missile for political immunity, but he is assassinated by Markov. Unaware of the live video feed, Markov reveals his true intention was not to take control of Russia, but to use this opportunity take revenge on the United States for the death of his illegally-married wife, Krista Yoslav, who was accidentally killed in an off-course American air strike during the Bosnian War. Markov blamed the Americans for the death of his wife and in retribution planned his strike back at America by using the coup as a decoy to lure many American forces out of the homeland, leaving many of its defenses weakened as he steals the last remaining Trinity missile and escapes to South America with his loyalists likely refuelling clandestinely in Brazil, where he plans to attack the United States directly.
Illich is revealed to have been Markov's sleeper agent, and betrays the 108th by joining Markov's forces bound for the U.S. In order to counter Markov, Warwolf Squadron is immediately relocated to Miami to join other remaining American squadrons in the homeland to intercept Markov's forces if they attempt to attack. As expected, Markov and his pilots attack Miami in full force, but are eventually repelled by Warwolf Squadron and the U.S. Air Force. However, Markov manages to ambush Bishop in a scene eerily similar to Bishop's nightmare, but Guts blocks off the missile with his own plane. Bishop shoots Guts' canopy off to help him eject, and Bishop then fires at Markov's plane head-on, managing to damage the Trinity missile before being forced to break off and refuel. Bishop catches up to Markov and Illich as they refuel off the coast of Florida. Bishop pursues Illich into a nearby Category 5 hurricane and engages him in a duel, resulting in Illich's death. Bishop proceeds to Washington, D.C. and finds the city already under attack by Markov's forces. Largely outnumbered by massive waves of attackers, Bishop and other USAF pilots struggles to repel the assault due to large numbers, but the USAF pilots still hold off the attack. Markov's forces successfully neutralize all of the anti-air defenses, and Markov then reappears, intent on dropping Trinity on the White House, but most of his loyalist were shot down after the defenses were neutralized. Bishop keeps Markov locked in a duel, eventually ending up at the White House; Markov manages to fire the missile before being shot down and killed, but Bishop manages to intercept it and destroy it harmlessly onto the Tidal Basin. Upon landing his plane at Reagan National Airport, Bishop is given a hero's welcome.
After the post credits, Guts is revealed to be still alive and being rescued.
The major new gameplay feature is a system called "Close-Range Assault" (CRA), which aims to increase the intensity and bring the action closer to the player, without the feeling of "shooting at faraway dots" commonly seen in flight games. In the game, it is named "Dogfight Mode" (DFM) for air-to-air battles and "Air Strike Mode" (ASM) for air-to-ground targets. They are not optional, as certain planes and ground targets cannot be destroyed without CRA. To initiate DFM, the player taps LB+RB on the Xbox 360 and L2+R2 on the PS3 when they have gotten close enough to the plane they are targeting. ASM is initiated by pressing the same buttons at specific points around the map.
For the first time in Ace Combat, players take control of an attack helicopter, a Black Hawk door gun, a stealth bomber, and an AC-130, adding variety to the gameplay alongside the standard fighter jet missions.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon's multiplayer has been improved since Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. Co-operative missions and free-for-all Deathmatch have returned, but two new modes have been added as well: "Capital Conquest" and "Domination". In Capital Conquest, two teams of 4v4 or 8v8 each take control of their own headquarters, and must destroy the other team's headquarters. First, the transmission base in the center of the map must come under one team's control; once that's accomplished, the team's multiroles and attackers (and bombers, given the right conditions) can initiate Air Strike Mode to damage the other team's HQ. The first team to destroy the other's HQ wins; if the time limit is reached before an HQ could be destroyed, then the team with the most HQ health remaining wins. On the Ace Combat website, players can join an online faction (one for each capital city featured in Capital Conquest), and any points they receive individually while playing in a certain city will go towards that player's faction's control of that city. Every six weeks, the faction with the most global control wins.
In Domination, two teams of 4v4 or 8v8 battle it out to take control of three different bases in one single city. Taking control of a base is similar to the "King of the Hill" mode in other games; when a base is neutral, one team must stay inside it for a certain amount of time to take it over. The opposing team must destroy the ground targets that now pop up around that base, and then they must stay inside for a certain amount of time to take it over. Every 60 seconds, points are awarded to each team, 1 for each base they control at the time. The team with the most points wins.
There are two control schemes in the game: "Optimum" and "Original."
- The new "Optimum" control scheme prevents the player from doing full rolls, to gain the stability needed to get the best of the new Close Range Assault system. This is the default mode that has been used in most of the game's media, and hasn't been seen in the series.
- The "Original" control scheme is similar to the controls in the previous titles under "Expert." It gives the players full control of the aircraft, with the left stick making it roll instead of turn.
In addition to these settings, there are many options to tweak the controls and adapt to the player's style. It includes the choice of normal or reverse settings for the Pitch Control, Camera Control, Throttle, and Yaw. High-G turns return from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, as well as Auto Pilot if both shoulder buttons are held down.
Lastly, the Flight Assistance provides opportunities to players such as Auto-leveling, Automatic Collision Prevention, Automatic Stall Prevention, Sight Assist, and Automatic Forward Target Selection. Flight Assistance can be turned on or off.
On the Xbox 360, the game supports the Ace Edge Joysticks released with Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
The game was first hinted at by a trademark filing by Namco Bandai in April 2010. It was officially announced along with a gameplay trailer on August 9, 2010. Gameplay has been expanded to include the use of helicopters and gunships as well. The trailer showed the player using an AH-64D Apache Longbow gunship, and occupying the gunner's position on the UH-60 Black Hawk while attacking a desert village. In the trailer the US Air Force is engaged in dogfighting with Russian fighters over Miami. The player is in an F-22 engaging and destroying several enemies before being shot down himself. Pierre La Pointe, the commander of the 108th Task Force, briefs the Task Force on an Ace leading the attack on Miami named Col. Markov who has been nicknamed Akula (Russian for shark) because of the design on the nose of his plane. Russian involvement in the conflict has been described as "advisers and mercenaries" in the E3 Trailer. Another scene showed a US A-10 attacking a fleet of naval ships. The extended trailer had additional scenes of air battles with the player flying an F-35 and an F-16 over Dubai and an attack on a desert oil facility. It is also revealed that the time is sometime in 2015 and will also take place in East Africa.
A demo was released on September 13, 2011. All PlayStation 3 players could download it for free; however, Xbox 360 players needed to have Xbox LIVE Gold for the first week in order to download it; it then migrated to Xbox LIVE Silver as well. The demo included Mission 1 and Mission 3, with the iconic nightmare air battle over Miami from the trailers and the attack helicopter rescue operation in Africa, respectively. However, it has since been removed and no longer able for other players to download.
Macross creator Shouji Kawamori designed a fictional plane for the game, known as the "ASF-X Shinden II", which was released on October 25, 2011 and is currently being offered as downloadable content. It can be purchased in the PlayStation Store for $7.99 USD or in the Xbox Marketplace for 640 MS Points.
A patch was released on November 26, 2012, that fixed some of the jarring issues players had complained about with the multiplayer, specifically about players cheating with certain weapons or maneuvers. A day later, the PC version of the game was officially announced, as well as the availability of the game on the PlayStation Store and Xbox 360 Games on Demand. The PC version is available through retailers as well as Steam and Games for Windows Marketplace.
For European regions, Namco Bandai released a "Limited Edition" that also included the game's soundtrack, a redeemable code to download the F-4E Phantom II aircraft, and a notebook signed by the development team, all in a folded box. Gamers who pre-ordered this Limited Edition of the game received it for the same price as the standard edition. A separate "Helicopter Edition" was also released, containing a 25 cm remote-controlled Black Hawk helicopter (with the livery seen in the game), a remote control, a rechargeable battery for the helicopter, and a branded pen and keychain, along with all of the contents of the Limited Edition.
The Enhanced Edition was announced in November 2012. This edition is exclusive to PCs; it comes with optimized controls and graphics as well as several additional aircraft, aircraft skins, multiplayer maps, and multiplayer skills. It was released in the winter of 2012.
The Advanced Edition was also announced in November 2012. This edition is exclusive to the PlayStation Store. It comes with the Tokyo and Honolulu maps, as well as the ASF-X Shinden II, F-15S/MTD, Su-37 Terminator, AV-8B Harrier II plus, CFA-44 Nosferatu, and Ka-50 Hokum.
The game has garnered mostly positive reviews. Metacritic gives the game a 78 out of 100 (based on 71 reviews) for the Xbox 360 release and a 77 out of 100 (based on 28 reviews) for the PlayStation 3 release. Critics praised the real-world settings, graphics and the soundtrack, but criticized the game for being repetitive and overly scripted. Critics also praised the voice-acting of the characters. Reception from the audience has also been positive; users on Metacritic give a 6.8/10 for the Xbox 360 and a 7.2/10 for the PS3, with some gamers feeling that the new gameplay elements kept the series "fresh and exciting". IGN gave Assault Horizon a 7.5/10, praising the game for keeping the arcade-like controls to make it easy to jump into. The editor noted that this was more like a spin-off than an actual part of the series, especially since it didn't have a number; however, it was again criticized for its repetition in the new Close Range Assault systems. GameSpot gave the game a 5.5/10 and 1UP gave it a D+, finding some of these criticized features to be what ruined the game's potential, and comparing the game to the Call of Duty series.
In response to the initial mostly-positive response, Namco Bandai Games created a special "Accolades Trailer" one month after the game's release, in which many of the positive comments from well-known reviewers are featured alongside gameplay.
As of May 8, 2012, the game has sold 1.07 million copies worldwide.
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