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Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PlayStation 2) artwork

Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PlayStation 2) review


"Fifteen years ago, there was a war. Left with no other alternative, the Belkans detonated seven nuclear weapons on their own soil to halt the advances of the enemy. A world horrified by this turn of events sheathed its weapons, and uneasy peace settled over the land. However, as of late the neighboring country of Yuktobania has been taking an unusually hostile interest in your country of Osea, and the fires of war are beginning to flame up once again. "



Fifteen years ago, there was a war. Left with no other alternative, the Belkans detonated seven nuclear weapons on their own soil to halt the advances of the enemy. A world horrified by this turn of events sheathed its weapons, and uneasy peace settled over the land. However, as of late the neighboring country of Yuktobania has been taking an unusually hostile interest in your country of Osea, and the fires of war are beginning to flame up once again.

Next thing you know, you're strapped into the seat of a high-performance combat aircraft, chasing down some damaged spy plane. Right around the time you get done wondering precisely how you flag down a retreating aircraft, escort fighters scream in from nowhere and try to break up your party. Adamant that only those on the guest list be allowed in, you inform them that they must have the wrong address -- with missiles. They go down one by one to the music of your superior officers reminding you that you're not supposed to be doing that. Ah, rebellion.

The second mission sees your captain being shot down to save a careless wing man. With one whole mission under your belt, who better to fill the vacant leadership role than you? Your new pawns can be made to focus their fire on your 12 o'clock, cover your 6, or disperse to some random number and kill whatever is there. Unlike many other games, your wing men aren't just for show; they're competent pilots, scoring kills and saving your bacon if you use them properly.

So begin your real adventures. Through the next 30 missions you'll be doing crazy things that would get you permanently grounded in any real military, but where else can you have a duel with descending spacecraft, fly through narrow tunnels in an unarmed training plane to escape enemies hot in pursuit, or perform sensitive stealth missions in a high speed jet? And better yet, people notice. Over the course of the game, your name becomes the stuff of legends, even if no one knows what it actually is. Instead, in a bizarre twist, your squadron assumes the name of a fairytale demon.

Every day can't be spent pushing the envelope, however. Some of the missions are much more standard fare. You'll run the gamut of dogfights, air-to-ground, escort missions, bombing runs, and even a ceremonial show flight. Your squadron needs a group photo for the poster, after all. The objectives are varied and interesting, and you never fall into that repetitive rut that mission-based games often do.

Though AC5 is slightly arcadey in terms of its ammo supplies and physics, allowing for a plane holding 80 missiles to switch directions at much higher G-levels than any normal person could take, it should be more than adequate for anyone not fretting over ultra-realistic physics. The combat scenarios themselves posses an air of intensity that doesn't fade as the game goes on; planes fall from the sky in fiery swarms, and ships sink faster than the quality of reality television. Even though each plane is loaded with the same machinegun and missiles, as well as a relatively limited special weapon, the game maintains fast-paced and relentless action that is always simple but engaging. The almost unending radio chatter adds an urgent ambience to the situation and is always either helpful, amusing, or realistic.

Ambience is important to AC5. Boasting a four-disc OST without a single song repeated between missions, the production value is phenomenal. Painstaking care was taken to ensure that each jet is modeled and animated in as realistic a manner as possible; ailerons and rudders twitch and move with each tiny adjustment of your flight path. Craft with vector-thrusting capability actually bend their thrust, and trap doors full of missiles open and close at the moment of launch. Environments are expansive, providing plenty of room for whatever crazy maneuver you are inclined to engage in.

AC5 is admittedly a touch on the short side, as the main campaign can be finished in about six hours on your first run-through, but numerous extras keep you involved. The sheer number of craft you can unlock is impressive, reaching 53 in total; each has slightly different flight characteristics, such as speed or turning ability, and a special weapon. You unlock them in various ways, whether by buying them in the shop, leveling them up in combat and then buying their upgrades in the shop, finding all their parts and then buying them in the shop, or unlocking them by beating harder difficulties and then buying them in the shop. (Yeah, the game likes the shop.) There's also the obligatory excruciatingly difficult gameplay setting for those that like pain.

Ace Combat 5 gives much more than was asked of it. It's an air combat game, filled with the loops and rolls and high-speed action that you'd expect, but it also has a soul. It has characters to love and a plot that is marveously compelling. While the lack of multiplayer pulls the game down a little bit, a single-player experience that positively shines with polish is on deck to pick up the slack. The sky is waiting.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (September 09, 2005)

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