Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown review: How high does it fly?

Source: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Source: Bandai Namco Entertainment /

After being grounded for almost five years, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has earned its Pilot Wings, though not without some turbulence. 

Title: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Developer: Bandai Namco Studios

Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Reviewed)

Release Date: January 18, 2019 (PS4/Xbox One) / February 1, 2019 (PC)

The Ace Combat series has always been known as the fun alternative to the uber-serious flight simulator, with the ability to carry hundreds of missiles and take a gluttony of punishment without a scratch on your aircraft. The controls are easy to adjust to, the gameplay is fast and precise and the game runs smoothly, even with all of the destruction on-screen.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a very beautiful game, with the weather effects at the forefront. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a cloud in the distance, flying into it at over 1,500 miles per hour, seeing the cockpit hit with water droplets and emerging on the other side face-to-face with the shining sun.

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While the weather effects are aesthetically pleasing, there are instances where haphazardly flying in said clouds could prove to be detrimental to your survival. For instance, there is a mission in which you (as the best pilot in the squadron) are tasked with downing an opposing ace in the midst of a thunderstorm.

In previous games, thunderclouds would pose no threat. In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, however, these clouds pose a serious threat to your aircraft and if hit, causes your plane to drop more than 200 feet or worse, crashing to the ground. Not only that, but should you pull up in time, your heads-up display will show the effects of being hit by thunder as it will occasionally go out, leaving you to fly “blind” for about a minute.

(Side note: flying into a cloud will muffle the game’s soundtrack, which is nice attention to detail.)

Ace Combat 7
Source: Bandai Namco Entertainment /

Additionally, there are numerous callbacks to previous Ace Combat games that are sure to satiate the appetite of loyal fans. In particular, there is one crucial mission centered around a prominent character from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War that is sure to bring back all sorts of nostalgia for fans who have been waiting for the next Strangereal-based (Earth in the series) Ace Combat game.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s multiplayer is fun as well, with six maps spanning the terrain found in the single-player campaign. There is a normal team deathmatch, where both teams strive to reach a specific point total, as well as a Battle Royale mode.

Battle Royale mode differs from other Battle Royale-type games in that it is more akin to a regular deathmatch with respawns rather than a full-fledged “last man standing” wins mode. Overall, multiplayer provides a fun break in the action when the campaign mode gets a bit repetitive.

With regards to campaign mode, that is where Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown ultimately falls short. In a game where artificial intelligence (A.I.) drives the plot, that is perhaps one of the worst parts of the game.

Although each mission has you joining up with numerous allied aircraft in cutscenes, they feel almost non-existent in-game. To put it simply, the allied aircraft does almost zero work against enemy fighters and with a large number of enemies on the map at any given time, this is a problem.

There is one particular mission towards the end of the campaign in which the player is tasked with destroying an aircraft that has been decimating friendly forces. However, this particular aircraft is also capable of dispatching an unlimited amount of unmanned aerial vehicles for support.

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Couple that with the fact that this mission also has numerous enemy fighters that the player has to deal with and this leads to perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. The lack of support from allied fighters really detracts from the experience and if by some chance the friendly A.I. is able to hit their target, their missiles do almost no damage, leaving the player to expend more missiles in order to take out one extra target.

This is in stark contrast to Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, which gave the player the ability to call in for support from allied forces, be it in the form of a naval bombardment, fighter support or both. Not only is this missing from the game, but it’s not even possible to give your squad-mates commands, which leads to the previously mentioned problem of having too many enemies chasing you.

Ace Combat 7
Source: Bandai Namco Entertainment /

Furthermore, another aspect of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s campaign that lacks is the mission variety. For a game that is predicated on air-to-air combat, more than half of the missions in the campaign feature the player attacking ground targets as opposed to aerial targets.

This is particularly jarring because, although there are more than 20 planes in the game, fewer than six are specifically for attacking ground targets. The rest are either fighters or multirole planes, which are designed for both air-to-air and air-to-ground.

Also, multiplayer is lacking when it comes to playable modes. Outside of the aforementioned team deathmatch and Battle Royale modes, there are no other modes to choose from. Considering that there are only six playable maps, with each map having, at most, eight players, this could lead to quick boredom.

Nonetheless, the ability to dogfight other players through the clouds and skies is fun in its own right and should keep hardcore fans of the series enticed until the new content is released.

7. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a fun and beautiful game with promise but compared to other games in the series, it falls short of expectations.. Bandai Namco Studios. . Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.