Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First Impressions: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition (PC)

I've played three games in the Ace Combat series, all on hand held devices: Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy and Ace Combat: Joint Assault.  I however have  not played any of the games that have come out for consoles.  So I come from a background that likes this series from Namco and Project Aces.  I watched the trailers a couple of times and liked what I saw.  So, last summer when this game went on sale for 75% off, I jumped at it like a school boy who jumps at something he really wants.

I initially thought about playing this game with the keyboard and mouse, then decided that I liked the controller layout of the hand held games, so why mess with a good thing when I kind of knew what I was doing.  So I plugged in my 360 controller and was prepared to show the AI my impressive dog fighting skillz. (It also turned out that you cannot use the keyboard and mouse as control schemes, so I lucked out on this one).

Well, that didn't happen as quickly as I would have thought.  Apparently, AC:AHEE is one of those games that the gaming world feared when the Xbox One was announced, in that it requires that you be logged into Windows Live in order to play the game.  And before I could play the game, I had to create a Windows Live account.  It was at this time that I feared I would have to have the equivalent of an Xbox Live membership in order to play.  That would have been a quick end to a $7.50 game purchase.  I had and have no interest in paying a monthly subscription fee to play a game I already purchased "the rights" to play.

My fear however was not the case.  I created my account/profile, then made my Windows Mii equivalent Avatar, all in a separate window and exited out, finally returning to AC:AHEE after having spent roughly 40 minutes creating the account, confirming the account through my email, creating the Miiesque figure and updating the account and updating the game to the latest version.  

Finally, I am at the login screen when this happens:
At this point, I was again, very close to saying a quick "fuck it all to hell and back" and never reaping what my $7.50 was able to purchase.  My eyes saw "delete" and my brain interpreted that as either deleting the 40 minute profile and/or deleting the AC:AHEE.  Naturally, I tried not to panic, so I just powered the game down and restarted it, thinking that maybe I needed to give Windows Live and the game a few minutes to communicate.  Or something.

Five minutes later when I booted up the game, I was able to actually play the game.  Whew!

As with other games in the Aces series, I began my first run through of the game on Easy, just to get a feel for the game and the control setup as well as the new flying abilities such as the Close Range Assault's Dog Fight and Air Strike modes.  Plus I want to enjoy the game before I try to Ace-it-up the enemy's ass. . . as bad as that sounds.  So call me what you will for playing the game on Easy.

Some basics about the game first.  Like Ace Combat: Joint Assault, AC:AHEE takes place in the real world, albeit two years in the future, but the countries, locations, factions are more-or-less real.  At the moment all the planes are either real or based on actual planes.  I've yet to run into a Falken, which will not be very fun at all.  Missions are interspersed with full motion video cut scenes that occasionally let you split mission paths, as in other Ace Combat games. 

The first thing I noticed was that the missions in AC:AHEE are long.  In the previous Ace Combat games I've played, a "long" mission/level meant you had up to 15 minutes of fuel before you no longer could complete the mission.  In this game, long is upwards of 40 minutes in a multi stage/checkpoint mission.  For me, that's a bit too long.  10, 15 minutes?  That seems to me at least, the ideal length for a mission, but again, that's just someone from the ADHD generation talking, so what do I know.  And I'm not even talking about missions where I frequently died or failed and was no longer mission capable.
I easily heard this guy scream these lines at me at least 15 times.
It's true that in AC:AHEE, you not only control fighter planes, but also act as the gunner in helicopters and bombers and I thought I would love it.  As it turns out, piloting a helicopter is a pain in the ass.  I kept having to invert the Y-axis then switch it back depending on my camera angle.  If I wanted 1st person view, I had to have the Y-axis inverted; for 3rd person view, non-inverted.  One might ask why I switched between camera angles then.  I honestly don't remember exactly, but it had something to do with having a wider field of vision and I hunted enemy combatants versus firing upon moving trucks as they approached the above compound that I was supposed to be guarding.  Pain. In. The. Ass.

I should probably also talk about the cut scenes.  They are all full CG acted, moving parts and all, as opposed to the narrated stills from the hand held games.  Yes they're pretty, but I don't feel any closer to the characters and the story than I did with the other iteration of story telling and if anything, it's sometimes distracting.  Just give me the mission parameters and let me blow up some bogies.

Presently, I have six hours spent playing the game and I am only on the 5th mission where some serious shit goes down and you have to fight an ass-ton of enemies.  In this mission, in particular, the AI seems to be abnormally high.  I've even noticed this in other missions, that the enemy AI is agressively high for playing on Easy difficulty.  It is becoming somewhat frustrating trying to get past the same three minutes of a dogfight and only making it so far each time before giving up and saying "I'll get back to in later today or tomorrow."  I mean why do I even have regular missiles if the enemy dodges them 90% of the time if I'm not in one of the special Close Range Attack modes or if I successfully perform a counter maneuver which can only happen after an enemy locks onto me!?  If I wanted the level of challenge that I seem to be getting from the AI, I probably would have started out on Hard.  I'm almost afraid to see what Normal difficulty is like.

I know I'll get back to playing Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition, I just don't know when that day will be.  The safety of the world will just have to wait a little longer.


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