Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Lets just start by saying that Assault Horizon wasn’t what I expected when I popped the disk into my Xbox. I had been expecting a lot of flying in empty skies, looking for little pixels on the horizon that would lead to a frantic but all too short dog fight, then flying back home. What I got was a hell of a lot closer to a COD game, but (obviously) with jet fighters.
Essentially a series of aerial missions connected by cut-scenes driving a story along, Assault Horizon drops you straight into the action with an intense dogfight over Miami. This training level turns out to be a dream (nightmare) but serves as a great intro and a taste of what’s to come.
The main things that move Assault Horizon from the territory of a hard core sim to that of an adrenaline pumping almost first person shooter experience are the sheer amount of enemy fighters (or as Maverick would say; “A target rich environment”) to blast out of the sky and a nifty little feature called the dog fight mode. Dog Fight is activated when you get close-enough to an enemy fighter and press both the left and right buttons simultaneously. This zooms you close in on the tail of the fighter and aids you in sticking to his tail – though if you don’t keep up, you’ll loose Dog Fight mode until you can re-aquair your target. You’ll still need the skills to pop him with a missile or two or cut him in half with your machine guns, but it’s this mode that gives Assault Horizon it’s first person shooter feel.
Dog Fight Mode also gives you some brilliant eye candy with exploding planes, falling wreckage and even gunk splattering your cockpit. The destruction isn’t limited to the skies either, with building damage on the ground adding to the realism of this aerial shooter.
But just as with any real life dog fight, Assault Horizon forces you to be aware of what’s going on behind you, as enemy fighters can also engage you in Dogfight Mode, and you’ll have to break off from whatever you were doing and get out of their icy grip.
Once you’ve survived the Miami experience it’s on with the story-line and quickly back into the action.
As intense as the action is, and even though it never gets old seeing the plane you’ve been chasing down explode in a fiery death, some of the missions are a little long in the tooth and the save points can be a little annoying.
One of the selling points of Assault Horizon is that it’s not limited to jet fighters, you’ll also have the obligatory on-rails missions where you’ll play the door gunner on a chopper, and some missions where you pilot a helicopter.
Whilst having to pilot a helicopter is kind of cool in some aspects, after the intense action of fighter jets it’s a bit like if Forza 4 forced you to race a kids tricycle after you’ve just completed a mammoth session in a Bugatti Veyron.
Sure it adds to the experience, but it doesn’t half slow things down.
All up, Assault Horizon is a nice middle ground between boring simulator and over the top arcade fighter. With stunning visuals, controls that are easy to grasp, but still a challenge to master, Assault Horizon is well worth checking out.