I have always wanted to play a game in the long running Ace Combat series, but somehow I have not managed to cross paths with Namco Bandai’s classic. I had an Xbox360 geared up for Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, but sadly the Microsoft hardware gave up on me and I gave up on Microsoft for good. Ace Combat is known for frantic flight action with a strong story element governing the action. Now finally I get to actually try an Ace Combat game with Ace Combat Xi Skies of Incursion for the iPhone.
Ace Combat Xi is basically a full-fledged Ace Combat game crammed into a 127 MB download. Starting the game you have to choose your control method as either easy for the casual gamer or normal for the uh normal gamer. I tried both methods, and I managed to control my aircraft quite well with both methods. The easy method lowers game difficulty, and you can’t crash into the ground no matter how hard you try.
The controls combine touch for missiles, machine gun, target selection, throttle and general hud commands with tilt for movement. The touch buttons are quite small but really responsive making them easy to hit anyway. The accelerometer has to be manually calibrated in the options menu, as it doesn’t seem to auto calibrate properly. Once calibrated the tilt controls are quite good, although a bit loose and unresponsive for quick movements. There is a definite slowness to the aircraft movement due to inertia, but somehow I guess it is more realistic than most other flight games.
The missions are introduced by a short white text against a light blue background. You choose your plane, and initially you only get three to choose from. Two more are unlockable in the game, and five are available as In App purchases. Once you have selected your plane you get thrown into the action. Chatter over the radio tells the story, and a timer in the top right corner counts down to zero. You have to complete the mission within the time, and you also have to make sure to keep your allies both in the air and on the ground safe. You get constant feedback through the radio, and this makes the game really intense and exciting. Once you have managed to kill the baddies the mission is over, and you get your rating. I don’t understand how I can score A:s and S:s since I fly like a banana, zigzagging all over the sky.
The enemies are quite easy with little incentive to really try to kill me. Simply making sure you get a lock-on with a missile from a distance can kill most of them. Those that get close takes some time to kill due to the controls not really up to dog fighting. I have played and reviewed F.A.S.T. that showed how tight dog fighting controls can and need to be. Even with the loose controls I have no trouble killing the enemies without dying myself, the only thing bringing the game over screen is me running out of mission time.
The graphics in Ace Combat Xi is great, and on the 3GS it all moves along really smoothly. The planes are detailed and individual flaps move as you roll and dodge. Weapon effects with missiles trailing the enemies are also top of the line. Ground and water looks as good as the iPhone can manage. The presentation when it comes to the menus is really boring with really poor combination of colors, and a general stale feel to it. Also having the story told as text against the boring blue backdrop feels lazy, it could have at least taken the hangar as background. And why not use voiceovers for the story when there are voiceovers in the actual game?
The sound is brilliant with weapon fire, warning bleeps, engine noise and radio chatter. The voices on the radio sound great, and keep me focused on the situation they describe. The music is more of a backdrop with fast Japanese game techno music more there to make your palms sweaty than for you to actually listen to.
So far Ace Combat Xi sounds like a great game up there in the high fours in the ratings. And it is really good but it barely starts before it is over. I completed the game with both control methods in less than 40 minutes. There are only five missions in the story mode, and those aren’t much of a challenge other than running out of time. There is no precision bombing, pinpoint shooting or anything really demanding you to test your piloting skills. Simply pointing your plane towards the closest enemy and wait until within missile range and fire two missiles can complete all the missions. Sure you get ground and naval units to kill but the same method applies.
There is also a free play mode that lets you fly around taking a look around. That is fun for like five minutes when you have passed under a bridge there aren’t many fun ways to challenge yourself. No online functionality, no achievements, and only grades for the five missions to improve upon. This is a game with the bare minimum of content, and I found it a real shame having looked forward to finally playing an Ace Combat game just to finish everything there is to do in under an hour. And no I didn’t buy any extra planes, as there is no need to considering how easy the game is to complete with the stock planes.
Ace Combat Xi Skies of Incursion is a great looking action flight game with a nice story written specially for the iPhone game. Good albeit loose controls combined with great sound effects and voiceovers make for an intense experience. Poor AI, too easy gameplay and a really unacceptable game length draw the final score down significantly. As it stands now the game is more of a short tech demo showing that Ace Combat is possible for the iPhone instead of a full-fledged game. If and when Namco Bandai updates the game with enough content to warrant a purchase I will update this review. As it stands now I can’t recommend Ace Combat Xi Skies of Incursion to anyone, nor fans neither newcomers to the Ace Combat series. You will only get disappointed when the game is over within half an hour.
Ace Combat Xi Skies of Incursion $4.99
Seller: Namco Networks America