Namco Bandai Games America Inc.’s Ace Combat: Assault Horizon for Sony Corp.’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 is a stellar flight combat simulation that integrates new close-range assault dogfights and adds new helicopter, bombing and gunner options for full-scale warfare.

In Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, players lead a squadron to stop a Russian mercenary from employing use of a new super weapon called Trinity. The battle is seen through various personnel in the military in aircraft, helicopter, gunship, and door gunner levels.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

In the aircraft, the title employs a new Dogfight mode (DFM). When users tail an enemy aircraft in close proximity, the press of both triggers will initiate DFM to auto-tail the enemy. In DFM, users can focus on aim and deploying machine gun or missile fire to the enemy. The new mode works well and adds a new combat dimension compared to standard lock-on missile engagements.

In addition, users can enter DFM by performing a counter-measure. When users have a missile locked-on by an enemy, they can decelerate until two guide markers align to trigger DFM and loop behind the enemy.

The new Air Strike Mode (ASM) allows users to enter a point of insertion to have the aircraft auto-guide above ground targets while the user focuses on fire. ASM can be employed multiple times in the same area until the threat is clear.

Each mission offers a range of aircraft to choose. Planes include F-16s, MiG021bs Fishbed, Mirage 2000-5, F-15E Strike Eagle, and the F/A-18F Super Hornet. Planes are categorized under Dogfight Mode or Airstrike Mode, with select planes, like the F-16, classified under both options.

In addition, users can select a sub-weapon, like Air-to-Air Missiles, Guided Penetration Bomb, Electronic Jammer, and Air-to-Ground Missiles.

New helicopter missions add another dimension of flight combat to the franchise. Users can zoom and deploy machine gun fire to pick off rooftop and ground targets. Controls are solid enough to allow players to zoom-in to gently take out individual enemy ground troops to secure an ally package.

Finally, new on-rails gunship and door gunner missions allow users to bomb targets from above or fire away from the side of a helicopter to act as a welcome breakup between standard flight missions.

With all new combat options, the campaign mode offers a varied and well-rounded experience. Many missions include the integration of ground troops that must be escorted or defended.

In addition, enemy AI is quick and tough enough to present a challenge to veteran players. The title employs an auto-save feature between major attack points in the level to allow users to hop back into the cockpit if the mission is failed.

Missing from the title is the ability to issue commands to the squadron. All main objectives the mission must be carried out by the player, which can be derailed by pesky enemy aircraft that attempt to nab a missile lock-on. Options to keep enemy aircraft off your tail or to attack a prior target would help add defensive options.

Multiplayer options include Capital Conquest to split into teams and destroy the enemy HQ, Domination for team capture the base, Deathmatch and Mission Co-op, which allows up to three to engage in select unlocked missions from the Campaign. Online play is lag free and includes clear microphone feedback among up to 16 players. In addition, users can unlock new call signs with points earned from each match.

The graphics engine is top-grade at 30 frames-per-second. Developer Project Aces have built the most realistic version of the Ace Combat franchise to date, with well-constructions locations, including Miami, Dubai, East Africa, and Russia. Planes rip to shreds, smoke billows from fiery explosions, and details down to the miniature polygonal ground troops take the franchise to the next level.

The sound engine is solid with a range of cockpit warning effects, realistic weapon samples, and music tracks that reflect the current battle area.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is a direct hit that fires new gameplay to a total range of flight combat options. The latest entry in the franchise deftly secures the flight action combat genre to leave rivals no option but to eject.

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