Simulation games have long held a fascination for me, and have long been featured here at Reticule Towers. Go back ten years, and I first dropped mention of classics like Silent Hunter and the original Euro Truck Simulator. I’ve covered flight sims, even doing a series of videos on Dovetail Games’ Flight School. But, amidst all those wonders, I’ve not had the pleasure of writing about a combat flight simulator.
That, my friends, is a great personal shame. I have fond memories of playing the Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator games with my neighbour many moons ago, while I also relished in piloting the Ju-88 around the Battle of Britain map in Battlefield 1942.
In singleplayer mode I might add.
I even took to the skies in Battlefield 2, and while I was a liability in the jet (some of the pilots in -=256=- were quite something), I certainly enjoyed tootling around in the attack helicopters.
Fast-forward many a year since those glorious college days, and by chance I stumbled across the stand for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown at EGX last autumn. I jumped on, crashed a plane…and the game, then skulked away with my tail between my legs.
But that brief moment with Ace Combat 7 reignited a passion that had been long dimmed. I might not necessarily be the best fly-boy in the world, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try my hand at a spot of flying and have a bloody good time while doing it.
Of course, while I am a fan of simulator games, I’m by no means an expert at any of them, especially not flight sims. What that does mean, is that when a game like Ace Combat 7 comes along and offers an easy and joyous flight handling model (when turned down to easy – Ed), I’m going to get stuck in.
It helps that Ace Combat 7 has missions to rival those of the high-points of the Medal of Honour and Call of Duty games. Perhaps Titanfall 2 is more suitable comparison. As with Respawn’s brilliant robot romp, Ace Combat 7 manages to make each level feel special and unique, while remaining part of a cohesive whole.
The levels are tied together by a story of warring empires, one that is sure to hold interest to long-standing fans of the series. Personally, I’ve found it a neat way to bounce between different set piece missions, with enough story to keep me invested beyond just the action.
Scrambling to defend an airbase that is under attack might be a straightforward experience, but another mission where you are tasked with navigating through gaps in the enemy radar coverage ranks up there with the best stealth levels you’ll encounter in a first-person shooter.
There is also a majestic mission taking place during a storm, over a landscape that is as stunning to gaze upon as it is heart-racing when your jet is struck by lightning, leaving you grasping at the controls to keep from smashing into a sheer cliff face.
I’d probably have been happy with a tiny choice of planes to tootle around in, but among the beasts on offer are some well known names from the USAF (the F-15 series is well represented) to classic MiGs, while my current favourite is the Mirage 2000-5. If you are a plane junkie, I think you will be very pleased with the eclectic mix on offer.
If you’ve been turned off from flight games in recent years thanks to their focus on real-world simulations, then Ace Combat 7 might just be what you are looking for. It’s a fine return for a series that has been missing in action since 2007. Go get them Maverick.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Platform Reviewed – PC
For more on our scoring policy, please read this post. Review based on Steam media account code.