‘Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’ Review: A Top Gun on PlayStation 4

Ace Combat 4

When Ace Combat: Assault Horizon came out back in 2011, it created an interesting dividing line. On the one hand, it was and remains fun to play, but on the other, loyalists were wondering whether the series would return to the tradition that games like Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation covered before it. Wonder no longer, flyboys, as Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown brings back that feeling of getting down to aerial business, just the way you remember it.

It’s taken some time for the sequel to arrive, but the new game feels like a return to form with some fine-tuned visuals and extra modes thrown in. And the game’s main story mode is sure to be a hit with fans.

Once again, you’re a pilot that finds themselves in the midst of the Second Usean Continental War, fighting against a tyrannical country that’s invested quite a bit in both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. You’ll need whatever piloting skills you can muster to get through in one piece with your squadron.

It’s not the best style of storytelling out there; some events are a bit absurd, though the idea of playing as a high-flying criminal has its moments. But it does frame together great flying stages, whether you’re blasting drones out of the sky or going up against hotshot renegades that know a thing or two about how to dodge an incoming missile. The game consistently ramps up exciting scenarios, and like Maverick in Top Gun, it’s time to get dangerous if you're looking to make it through.

Ace Combat

Solid Controls and Various Modes Make for a Good Flight

The opening tutorial will help you get adjusted to the game’s controls quite handily. There’s a general option if you feel like simply jumping in and having a good time, but there are also advanced techniques that will truly make you feel like a master of the air. Either way, Ace Combat 7’s controls are tight and responsive. And with so many other fighters to unlock and choose from, there's a lot to experiment with.

The game’s single player prepares folks for multiplayer, with four-on-four battles that add a good chunk of value provided you know what you’re in for. This isn’t Call of Duty-style tactical play where you get a kill every minute; this is a battle for sheer air superiority across deathmatch and battle royale (not quite like Fortnite, as you can respawn) modes, where you’ll be dodging incoming fire as much as plotting your next move.

Though the servers don’t go live till the game’s launch, the matches we took part in for the review worked well, and as paced out as the action is, it’s never tiring. As previously mentioned, however, we recommend giving the game a go in single player prior to taking on others.

Then there’s PlayStation VR. This is seemingly marketed as a huge selling point for the game, but the truth is it’s a small component with a handful of missions and a shrunken-down story. The interface is very cool, as it provides an in-your-face look at the action, and it includes a clever approach to gameplay. If you have a headset, it’s worth a look, but don’t make this the main reason for a purchase.

Ace Combat 2

The Presentation Is (Mostly) Aces

Along with controls that really feel natural for a series such as this, the visual design of Ace Combat 7 is also a blessing. This is easily the sharpest-looking game in the series to date, with life-like jet models, terrific day and night scenarios, a fundamental replay option, and different views of your craft depending on what perspective you’re after as cockpit and viewing from behind both have pluses to them. On top of that, the weather effects and clouds add a lot more than you might expect; the game's a nice showcase piece. Kudos, Project Aces.

The music may not be as impressive, but its themes fit right in with Ace Combat’s tonal setting. But the sound effects are where it's at, particularly the jet engines for each model. The radio chatter is good too, though there are times your squadron isn’t quite as convincing as they could be. For example, giving you crap about being a newbie even though you just saved their butts from rogue pilots.

While more could have been done with the story and some of the tunes, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is an absolute return to sunny skies. It follows suit with the previous games with its dynamic gameplay and options for players of all skill levels while also presenting a visual presentation that’s a franchise best.


Rating: 4 out of 5

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown releases on January 18th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in both physical and digital form. A copy of the game was provided by Bandai Namco for review.