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Written by  :  Nick Slavin (11)
Written on  :  Jul 29, 2009
Rating  :  4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars4.86 Stars
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Summary

Namco got a bullseye on this one.

The Good

Although dated, Ace Combat 04 can hold its own as (in my opinion) the best title in the best air combat series. It takes a some doing to merit this, but I don't exaggerate when I say that Shattered Skies has it all.

The greatest aspect of the Ace Combat series is its gameplay, which can range from easy enough for new players to quickly master, to challenging enough to keep veterans coming back. Although unrealistic in regards to the amount of weapons you can carry and the lack of visible effects from g-forces, you will still feel as if you are actually behind the stick and actually fighting the war. This is technically an arcade title, not a flight sim. The aircraft selection is not too big, but includes many of the time-honored favorites and a few prototypes and even 1 fictional airframe. The ability to select a "special weapon" before battle adds variety to the missions each time you fly them, as does the different difficulty settings and plane choices.

By today's graphical standards, AC4 is unimpressive. But consider that it was released in 2001-the dawn of the PS2. Compared to the graphics of the last decade, it is beautiful. Even in 2009 I can find games made more recently whose graphics cannot compare to this. My favorite feature is the fully rendered terrain; sometimes I'm distracted from the fight by the impressiveness of the land below me. The visuals are not without their faults though, which I will cover later on.

The game's plotline really is simple, yet engaging enough to keep you interested. The story is told through the eyes of a young war orphan who is affected by the battles you fight. Cutscenes are illustrated in a style reminiscent of comic panels or manga.

I cannot neglect to mention the almost cinematic musical score. Yep, cinematic. No other war game I have played splices an evocative rendition of "Agnus Dei" into a final sortie. This stellar combination makes for a truly epic finale that even tops certain films I have seen.

The Bad

The main problem I see is that for players with some skill, the 18 mission campaign is over way too fast. There is however, 2 player co-op mode and score attack challenges.

Also, the effects of damage are not well represented. The explosions look especially choppy. But for a game of this age, you can't really complain.

The Bottom Line

Ace Combat 04 is a true war game with all the action commonly seen and also the emotion rarely seen in these types of games. Project Aces once again takes the flight genre in a new direction that will hopefully continue on.