Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
|Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown|
|Developer(s)||Bandai Namco Studios|
|Publisher(s)||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
|Genre(s)||Air combat simulation|
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown[a] is an arcade-style combat flight simulation video game developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. An entry in the Ace Combat series, it was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in January 2019, and for Microsoft Windows the following month. The game features support for virtual reality, offering a set of missions developed for the PlayStation VR headset, as well as several downloadable content packs offering new missions.
Like the rest of the Ace Combat series, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown forgoes a realistic flight model in favor of faster, arcade-like gameplay to increase its accessibility to newer players. The player can also choose Novice or Expert control settings; the latter enables the player to execute realistic aircraft maneuvers such as rolls and high-g turns. The game features 28 different aircraft, with an additional nine as downloadable content and the F-4E Phantom II offered as a pre-order bonus. As with previous entries in the series, most of the aircraft are licensed from the real-world, although a set of fictional superplanes are also included. Several aircraft in the game make their series debut such as various members of the Su-30 family as well as upgraded versions of older aircraft like the Gripen E and A-10C Thunderbolt II.
Players earn an in-game currency, "Military Result Points," via gameplay to purchase additional aircraft and equipment through a tech tree. The player begins the game with the F-16C, and is able to unlock the MiG-21 and F-104C Starfighter after the fourth single-player mission without using MRP, with the F-22A Raptor, Su-57 and the fictional X-02S Strike Wyvern as top-tier aircraft in the tech tree. Each aircraft is equipped with standard missiles for both air-to-air and air-to-ground warfare, as well as another special weapon. Special weapons are used to boost an aircraft's ability to carry out air-to-air or air-to-ground attacks. Equipment purchased may also be used to boost the performance of the aircraft beyond its base performance, such as improved engine parts or airframe parts to enhance its speed and survivability respectively. Only eight upgrades may be applied at any time, weight limitations limit the number of a specific type of upgrade that can be applied (e.g. limit to number of simultaneous applicable airframe parts) and certain upgrades are only usable in multi-player modes.
For the first time in the series, clouds interfere with aircraft, hindering the player's vision and targeting systems when passing through them, also rendering laser weapons ineffective due to light refraction. In addition, aircraft briefly stall after staying in a cloud for too long and lightning strikes temporarily disrupt controls and sensors. Each aircraft also carries a limited supply of flares that can be deployed to evade missiles in critical situations.
During the single-player campaign, players complete a series of combat missions that tell the in-game story. Players are given an in-game briefing prior to a combat mission, where they are informed of success parameters, expected opposition, terrain features and weather conditions using a 3D map display. Players complete missions by destroying various air and surface targets, as well as accomplishing specific mission targets (e.g. destroying in-flight IRBMs). AI-controlled wingmen accompany the player through the mission, providing exposition and potentially shooting down enemy planes for the player. Over the course of the single-player campaign, the player may choose to engage in additional minigames, such as in-flight refueling or landing on an aircraft carrier. These minigames can be skipped, but confer additional points to players.
The player may choose to play in the multi-player mode regardless of any progress made in the single-player campaign. The multi-player mode comprises the Team Deathmatch and Battle Royale modes. Both modes are PvP, where players shoot down enemy aircraft to earn points against a timer. The two modes differ in that Team Deathmatch involves two teams of four players each whereas Battle Royale has no teams. Shooting down top-scoring players confers more points than shooting down worse-performing players. After a player's aircraft has been destroyed, he is respawned in the map after a few seconds. When the time limit is reached, the team or player with the greatest score is declared the winner.
Setting and characters
The game takes place in 2019 Strangereal, the same fictional setting shared by other games in the series. Following the events of Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat 5, the Osean Federation (Osea) brokered peace between the military power of the Kingdom of Erusea and the rest of the Usean continent. The IUN-PKF was formed to maintain peace across the Usean continent, while former Osean President Vincent Harling orders the construction of a space elevator off the Erusean coast in order to revitalize the continent's economy, known as the International Space Elevator (ISEV). Meant to be a symbol of peace between all nations, the ISEV is protected by two massive Osean airborne aircraft carrier drones known as Arsenal Birds. Named Liberty and Justice, the Arsenal Birds carrying a large number of combat drones and advanced weaponry. Despite Harling's intentions, the ISEV creates resentment among the Eruseans, who see it as Osean intrusion. This resentment eventually leads to the war depicted in-game, colloquially referred to as the "Lighthouse War" after the ISEV's nickname.
The players control the game's silent protagonist, an Osean fighter pilot with the callsign "Trigger". The game's frame story is told through pre-rendered cutscenes played between missions, primarily from the point of view of three characters; Avril Mead, an Osean civilian aircraft mechanic who broke wartime aviation laws and is forced to work in an Osean penal military unit, Princess Rosa Cosette D'Elise, a member of the Erusean royal family who believes the war will end Osean interference on the continent, and Doctor Schroeder, a Belkan scientist who developed combat drone technology for Erusea.
Rising tensions between Osea and Erusea culminate when Erusea launches a surprise attack on Osea with a massive number of combat drones. Erusea captures much of the Usean continent, including the ISEV and both Arsenal Birds, with former Osean President Vincent Harling still in the ISEV. Consequently, war breaks out between Erusea and Osea, the latter supported by the IUN-PKF. Avril Mead, who was flying a refurbished F-104C Starfighter when the war began, is shot down in the crossfire and arrested for breaching wartime aviation laws. Avril is transferred to the Osean 444th Air Base as a mechanic, where a penal fighter squadron known as the Spare Squadron is maintained.
The IUN-PKF attempts a mission to extract Harling from the ISEV. During the mission, a missile strikes Harling's escaping aircraft, killing him. Osean pilot Trigger is accused of firing the missile, found guilty by court-martial, and transferred to Spare Squadron. Considered expendable, Spare Squadron is sent on highly dangerous missions. During one such sortie, Trigger crosses paths with Erusean ace Mihaly A. Shilage, who provides flight data to the Erusean drone program headed by the Belkan scientist Dr. Schroeder. Trigger's dogfighting talents impress Mihaly, but their duel is interrupted by inclement weather, and they are forced to retreat.
For their commendable performance, all members of Spare Squadron are pardoned and transferred to a base on Tyler Island off the coast of Usea. Trigger and his wingman Count are recruited by the elite Long Range Strategic Strike Group (LRSSG). Assisted by the LRSSG, Osea mounts a series of devastating counter-offensives, including the destruction of one of the Arsenal Birds with a refurbished Stonehenge[b], culminating in large-scale operation to capture the Erusean capital, Farbanti.
Trigger encounters Mihaly again, but their duel is interrupted when Osea and Erusea destroy each other's satellite network, causing a collisional cascade that breaks down satellite communication networks worldwide. Mihaly escapes Farbanti in the confusion; Erusea loses control over its AI-controlled drone fleet and collapses into a civil war between conservative and radical factions looking to end and prolong the war respectively, and multiple Erusean states declare independence. With the network down, Dr. Schroeder personally travels to the ISEV to transmit the latest flight data gathered from Mihaly into a new generation of Erusean combat drones, manufactured in automated drone factories across the continent.
Operating independently, the LRSSG attempts to extract the leader of the Erusean conservative faction and Osean informant in an effort to end the war decisively. The informant reveals that Harling was killed by an Erusean drone that spoofed Osean IFF signals, but he is killed by other Osean forces after his extraction due to false information. In the same battle, Dr. Schroeder and Mihaly's granddaughters are attacked by other Erusean forces and are saved by the LRSSG.
Meanwhile, Avril and the 444th, isolated, try to survive on a chaotic Tyler Island. They find Erusean Princess Rosa Cosette D'Elise, whose liaison plane was shot down by Erusean rebels. Avril and Rosa aid the LRSSG in evacuating both friendly military units and refugees from the island, and head to the ISEV to seek aid. The LRSSG arrives at the seceded state of Shilage in search of supplies, where Trigger duels and defeats Mihaly; after the battle, Mihaly asks Trigger to end the drone threat.
Schroeder and Avril's group both arrive at the ISEV. When Schroeder prepares to upload Mihaly's flight data, Ionela destroys the data upon learning of his intentions. It is revealed that Schroeder was a Belkan, once part of a powerful country whose leaders destroyed their own infrastructure with nuclear weapons rather than admit defeat. Schroeder was part of a long standing legacy of Belkans who wanted revenge for the loss of their country and did this by forcing the nations that defeated them into needless conflicts, using his own drone program and Mihaly's combat data to create a force capable of crushing Osea.[c] Disillusioned by the destruction his program had caused, Schroeder agrees to help Avril in taking down the factories but reveals that the data had already been uploaded to two advanced drones, Hugin and Munin.
An Osean-Erusean coalition assaults the ISEV with the intention of seizing it from Erusean radicals. With the help of Rosa and Avril working within ISEV, Trigger is able to shoot down the remaining Arsenal Bird, but Hugin and Munin suddenly arrive and repel the coalition, intending to complete the data transmission and prolong the war. The next morning, Trigger leads a counterattack on the ISEV and shoots down one of the drones, but the other escapes into an undersea tunnel. Trigger and Count follow the drone into the tunnel, and Trigger manages to destroy it and the signal repeaters to prevent the broadcast and end the war. A later cutscene reveals that peace has returned to Usea, with Cosette leading the post-war peace movement.
In the DLC missions, set before the battle of Farbanti, the LRSSG is assigned to capture the Alicorn, a massive Erusean submarine with aircraft carrier and battleship capabilities and its commander, Captain Matias Torres. After failing to apprehend the submarine in two occasions, the LRSSG discovers that the Alicorn defected from the Erusean military and is attempting to launch an attack with a nuclear shell on the Osean capital to end the war. In response, Trigger leads a successful operation to track down and stop the Alicorn. Torres pretends to surrender while preparing to launch the shells and seeing through his deceit, Trigger prevents the attack and destroys the submarine, killing Torres and his crew.
In the VR mode of the game, Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies's protagonist, Mobius 1, engages in combat against the Free Erusea terrorist group in 2014, five years prior to the events of the main game. This storyline occurs separately from the main plot.
Development and release
Despite lackluster reviews, Ace Combat Infinity for the PlayStation 3 was a surprise hit for the veteran fans, commercial interest in the series by Namco Bandai was renewed and prompted internal development team Project Aces to develop a true sequel for the first time since Ace Combat 6 for the Xbox 360. Originally set to be released in 2017, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, 2019, and was released for Microsoft Windows on February 1. The game also features special missions in virtual reality, which is exclusive to PlayStation VR. Two-player local multiplayer was rumored to have been included, but was not present in the final game. The game is the first of the series to use Unreal Engine 4. Pre-orders for the game came with digital copies of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War for the PlayStation 4, and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation on the Xbox One. The game also features post-release downloadable content that adds new aircraft and missions.
|Metacritic||(PC) 78/100 |
In Japan, the game sold 202,379 copies for the PlayStation 4 during its first week, and has sold 286,570 units as of March 2019. In Southeast Asia, the game sold over 500,000 units within a month. In the United Kingdom, it had the highest debut sales in the series, entering the charts second overall. By July 2020, Ace Combat 7 had sold over two million units, marking a major commercial milestone for the franchise since Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies in 2002. As of January 2021[update], the game had sold over 2.5 million units worldwide, surpassing Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies to become the franchise's best-selling title. As of August 2021, the game has sold over 3 million units in total.
|2019 Golden Joystick Awards||Best VR/AR Game||Nominated|||
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Skies Unknown managed to top the previous best-selling title, Ace Combat : Shattered Skies, to be crowned the series' biggest-selling title.
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