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Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (Xbox 360) artwork

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (Xbox 360) review

"When a game that is a part of a series as long running as Ace Combat, there's always that nagging concern that the formula will become stale, or the ball will be otherwise dropped with new changes. A very fine line must be walked between adding to the game, and wrecking it. Ace Combat 6 walks that line very well."

With a game that is part of a series as long running as Ace Combat, there's always that nagging concern that the formula will become stale, or the ball will be otherwise dropped with new changes. A very fine line must be walked between adding to the game, and wrecking it. Ace Combat 6 walks that line very well.

Traditionally, Ace Combat has been all about putting you against an army. It's kind of like God of War but with a jet. This isn't always for lack of effort on the game's part, though. Most of the recent installments have some sort of wingman command function, but they tend to display the same sort of laughable ineptitude that allied NPCs always seem to in video games. To an extent, it's still you against the world. Now, however, allied support is not only effective, it's often vital to your success. Calling in allied support fire leads to a torrent of explosive ammunition falling on a number of targets designated by you.

Such firepower can often turn the tide of battle, and that's why it's not simply handed to you. You'll be earning your right to call for help first. The missions themselves have also considerably grown in scope. AC6 puts a number of sub missions in front of you that lend themselves to a greater goal, with a different friendly battalion involved in each of the sub missions. As you complete each objective, the allied battalion you assist will then lend you its firepower, until by the end you have a literal army following you around. Before, it wasn't uncommon to go through an entire game and never spend more than ten minutes on a single mission.

Many things have been added to the formula, but they aren't all as game changing as the above. There are simpler touches too. Many of the missions now have airbases that can be liberated from enemy hands. Once that's done, you can land at them any time during the mission for supplies and repairs. The return line from previous installments is still present as well; however, the new airfields allow you to control the entire approach yourself. And for the more hardcore of the flight nuts, it's a nice touch.

Still, Ace Combat has always been about lots of exploding things before being a true flight sim. If you're looking for a game that concerns itself with things like fuel and realistic ammunition limits, you might want to look elsewhere. Most of AC6's 20 odd planes carry in excess of 150 missiles. You can turn corners so tight that most actual pilots would pass out due to the G-forces. And honestly, at the end of the day, any game that would have you fly a combat jet into the barrel of a gigantic railgun to take it out from inside before it cools down is not a game you look to for realism.

For all this change, though, some things always seem to stay the same. In this case, it's the plot. The first mission ends with your home nation of Emmeria being forced to give up their capital city when an enemy uses their new superweapon on you. Forced to retreat to a tiny island, your army must rebuild itself completely, because for some reason, taking your capital means that the Estovakians have also captured every other city and base you have except for the one you conveniently retreated to. From here begins the war of attrition as you scratch and claw your way back inland to reclaim your lost home.

This is pretty much word for word the exact intro to both Ace Combat X and Ace Combat Zero, the last two installments in the series. And the games don't do much to separate themselves from each other as they progress, either. It would be nice to see something new one of these days.

Really, though, it's a fairly small point when you consider all that has been added. Especially when you add the first appearance of true multiplayer options. The Xbox Live connectivity is something that had a lot of people following the game, and it doesn't disappoint. From co-op to team deathmatch, the game runs silky-smooth on Live, and the illusion that other people are actually there with you, flying around you at speeds in excess of 700mph is never broken by lag.

Admittedly, the multiplayer options themselves are a touch limited in AC6, as the game basically has you choose between deathmatch, team deathmatch, and siege. Siege has one group of players protecting a city while the other attacks it. After the attack ends, the two switch sides, and the one that had the more successful attack wins. Those are the options, but it's forgivable because things like capture the flag would be a little difficult to implement in a game like this.

If a sequel should be judged by what it adds to the series, then Ace Combat 6 should be judged as brilliant. There's little for established fans of the series to complain about, and much to embrace. The addition of solid multiplayer adds a whole new life to the series, but the single player hasn't been neglected for its sake.

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Freelance review by Josh Higley (November 08, 2007)

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