Ever since the mid-90’s and the original PlayStation, console owners wanting a fix of aerial combat have turned to the Ace Combat series, simply because theres been nothing good enough to knock it off its throne. It’s helped, of course, that with each installment, the series has gone from strength to strength. Sure it’s not a flight simulation, as PC gamers will always point out, but its never meant to be seen that way.
So, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War then, is the sixth game in the series, but contrary to its name, its not where it all began, instead its a prequel to the story told in Ace Combat 5. Visually, theres barely any difference, those that aren’t die-hard fans of the series certainly wont be able to tell the difference. The similarities aren’t just in the visuals though, this is good and bad, fans will be pleased as it means their much loved series hasn’t been messed with, but some people may just be waiting for that one big advancement to the series that will give them the kick they need to get airborne for the first time.
There are very slight modifications to the engine, but it still plays the same as Ace Combat always has, no bad thing thats for sure. Advanced moves like rolls, banking, reverse loops and such are easy to pull off, even for a complete novice, but the game still remains a challenge. With the weather affecting your vision meaning you can be pushed right to your dog fighting abilities limits in order to complete just one more mission.
Missions can vary greatly, at times you can be taking on numerous other aircraft in dogfights that look impressive on the games replay function, other times you’ll have to systematically take out ground units, meaning the skies are always full of something that could potentially harm you, although some weapons feel a bit too out of place, such as laser towers, considering the games 1995 setting.
The Ace Combat series has always had a pretty impressive story and narrative, and The Belkan War is no different. Missions never feel pointless and you really want to achieve the goals your set in order to gain your side another footing in the war.
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan war is a fine addition to the series, but rather than following the established template, Namco have moulded a new one. Almost like car designers enhancing their original design year after year. In addition to the normal missions you undertake, you occasionally come across groups of pilots known as Aces, there are several different groups, who are all mercernaries in the same manner you are, but happened to have chosen the opposing side. These aerial battles can take upto half an hour just to even land 1 missile on target, never mind if your trying to take them down with your guns instead! This increases the difficulty of Ace Combat Zero by quite a bit, but not in the frustrating way it sounds as these particular dogfights never get boring.
So, for fans of the series, Ace Combat Zero is everything you’ve followed the series for all these years, possibly more. For those who are waiting, why? This is by far the best installment yet, I’d go as far as to say its easily the best aerial combat game available, better than anything the over-serious PC market has to offer.