On May 27th, Project Aces released their latest Ace Combat game to the franchise exclusively to PlayStation 3. Unlike its predecessors, Infinity in an online centered free to play game that has taken the series to a whole other direction, this is both a positive and negative thing. Its move to free to play is somewhat difficult but also smooth. Since the games haven't really made the spotlight in some time, Project Aces hopes to acquire new fans to the franchise since free to play lets anybody give this game a try.
The story around Ace Combat: Infinity differs greatly from its predecessors on PS1 and PS2. Without spoiling too much, the world goes to hell in the year 2019. What world? Why, Earth. The story is completely different from anything in the franchise. Since you're battling on Earth you're flying over places such as Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, and many other key locations you can see in present day. The story has been made as more of a tutorial apparently but it feels far from a tutorial (there's already a tutorial in the game too) as you have to play online and recieive credits to unlock missions three through eight. Yes, there are only eight missions in this game which is a pretty big disappointment but it's excusable as this game is mostly centered around online play to begin with. For the most part I'm just gonna talk about the online play of the game.
The online play doesn't consist of your every day deathmatch modes where you attack other players themselves. In AC:I, you play in matches consisting of eight players in two squads. The goals of each mission are to work as a team as a whole to ensure your victory over the small amount of time you get per match and to work with your squad to ensure your victory over the other squad. The better you do the more credits you will obtain. When a person drops out of the match for whatever reason they are replaced with a bot that frankly doesn't do very much in terms of assistance. Some people have complained about getting a dropped match every now and then due to PSN dropping out or some other reason and when this happens you still lose whatever fuel you were going to use or were using in that match, but it's still far better than the issues Battlefield 4 still suffers from today. I've been playing since the Japanese beta and I haven't had any issues since that beta, maybe one or two connection issues in the American beta release. There are also times where quick match will attempt to put you into a full room but this doesn't happen very often. The matches are put together by normal everyday players, they set up the rooms and you join them which means you can also set up your own room, change the rules, change the maps, there aren't a ton of options available but there are some. Overall, the online experience is pretty good but there are some little kinks that need to be worked out.
Ace Combat's, ehem, combat, is quite similar to its predecessors on the PlayStation 2, that is to say, has gone back to its roots. Many people complained about the very arcade feeling controls and overall combat of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Project Aces listened. There are in fact some differences to how the planes control. Planes now turn much more sharply when you slam on the brakes and the brakes are in general much more effective, and you take heavy damage when you smash into things instead of just blowing up. Veterans to the franchise may find this to be a bit annoying since it's very easy to overshot your target unintentionally so be sure to use your radar and right stick camera controls before making your move. The AI in the online matches plays at a difficulty between normal and hard mode when comparing to the PS2 Ace Combat games. Depending on the map and the amount of enemies, the AI is very balanced in terms of difficulty, though that doesn't mean some maps aren't more challenging than others. Beyond the AI and location differences, Ace Combat: Infinity offers different control options. There's a casual control option which makes it easier for newcomers by disabling the option to roll. If you're a veteran to the franchise, you're better off selecting the expert settings which give you almost the same exact control layout of the PS2 games. During the Japanese and North American betas, you couldn't switch out two little things: weapon select and radar. By default, radar has been changed to select and radar, select. You can reverse these in the options. The only down side to this is the fact that you have to actually press square to alter your radar's size instead of relying on the pressure sensitivity of the dualshock/sixaxis controllers. But the radar automatically changes very nicely in game so that's not really an issue.
Unlocking things in this games goes through a grid, in this grid you research new items. In order to research new items you need to play through the game online. After an item is researched you have the option of purchasing that item. There are a slew of unlockables in this game and its plane customization goes beyond any aircraft game (to my knowledge) on consoles to date. Things such as tactical data links, weapons, planes, skins, and upgrades in general that alter the performance of your jets are offered. Though there are a lot of things you can unlock, unlocking these things can be a hassle as they take an extremely long time to acquire. By default, you are given four classes to customize freely, you can purchase more slots if you'd like but four is more than enough considering how you're not switching classes mid game. Each class is where you add a specific plane and specific upgrades, weapons, skins, and emblems so you don't need to go through a list of menus every time you wanna use something different. After almost every match you are rewarded with a little something. Sometimes it's stocked fuel but for the most part you get things such as emblems. If you already have something that was randomly given to you you are given credits in its place, usually a repeated emblem will give you about 500 credits which really isn't much considering how level three in story costs over 200,000 credits and you get about 7,000 credits per match but hey, it's something.
There are other ways of unlocking items in Ace Combat: Infinity. You can unlock items by accepting and completing challenges which will be updated as time goes on. These challenges include doing things such as destroying a certain amount of high profile targets, being a decoy and playing a certain amount of matches, though since challenges are updated regularly it's hard to tell what will be added next. Some challenges reward you as little as 1,000 credits and some unlock things such as high profile limited edition jets. This goes without saying but the harder the challenge, the bigger the reward.
Let's focus a bit on the audio and visual aspects of the game for a bit. Normally I don't care about these things as gameplay is the most important part of a game to me but it's worth mentioning. The graphics in this game are very smooth and fairly decent for the most part. Everything kinda feels like Battlefield 3 and a bit low res when you get close to the ground. From up high everything looks beautiful from a distance, especially Dubai at night. The cockpit view also looks nice. Everything in general isn't bad, it's just not mindblowing. What is
Unlike most free to play games, Ace Combat: Infinity is far from a pay to win game. Instead of having users solely rely on upgrades to compete fairly in the game, paid upgrades mind you, Infinity uses a fuel system in which players pay a certain amount and receive a certain amount. Each match (online and offline, excluding the practice mode) requires you to use one fuel. This goes without saying but the more fuel you buy per pack, the less you're spending on fuel. If you purchase at least ten fuel at one time, you get one extra. The more you buy, the more you get given to you. Purchasing fuel isn't a requirement to play this game though. When you first join (as of now at least), you will be given ten fuel for free by simply claiming it in your notifications bar. You also receive one free fuel (up to three). There are two types of fuel; the supplied fuel which you get one of every four hours and the stocked fuel, the fuel that you either purchase or acquire through matches, promotions, or by completing challenges. Though the fuel system is very simple to get the hang of, it has its down sides. There is no option for a one time payment for unlimited fuel and you lose one fuel if you entered into a match and you get disconnected from the server for some odd reason. It's also fairly expensive, ranging from a dollar per fuel to about 80 cents minimum which feels a bit expensive for such a short match. There are other little things you can buy such as extra challenges and mercenary contracts. You can even purchase unlimited access to the eight level story mode for $20, doing this will not require you to pay credits to play a mission nor will it consume any of your in game fuel during offline matches.
Overall, Ace Combat: Infinity is a fun and intense game worthy of the Ace Combat name. This intuitive game offers one of the greatest free to play models in gaming history that many free to play games can take a lesson from. Though it doesn't go without its flaws, it's still a game very worthy of your download. The only major drawback with the game that I felt is the lack of an option for unlimited fuel. As a huge Ace Combat fan, I would be more than happy to spend $60 for a one time payment of fuel and many fans on their official Facebook page agree. Maybe Project Aces will release that in an update. Hey, maybe they'll release a level where everyone gets to take off from aircraft carriers, please make it happen Namco Bandai.
Originally posted on IGN