Jeremy Jastrzab
26 Nov, 2006

Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception Review

PSP Review | It's Ace.
The Ace Combat series has been wildly successful on the Sony consoles since it was first released back on the Playstation all those years ago. Since then, there has been a further five titles on Sony systems and one for the Game Boy Advance. The success of the game can be attributed to the fact that it’s easily the best flight sim to be found outside of the PC gaming world. While the latest title didn’t really do anything that hasn’t already been done, it at least kept the series standard of quality. Now, the series hits the PSP in the form of Ace Combat X: Skies of Decepetion.

The Ace Combat series has been known for its deep and engrossing stories, albeit fictitious. On that front, the PSP version is a little bit disappointing. Ace Combat X puts you into the cockpit of a fighter who is part of the Aurelia resistance. They are trying to fight off the invading Leasath by pushing them back, one territory at a time. While between missions, you’re being treated to some beautifully drawn stills that drive the story, there is nothing here that makes it endearing or different. It’s essentially outlining the occurrences in the conflict.

So the story of the game isn’t as good as the other games in the series, though at least the other aspects have come through quite nicely. As in previous titles, you have a huge variety of real-life combat fighters that will become available to you throughout the course of the game. They are hugely varied and there are also a huge amount of unlockable parts and weapons. For those who adore these kinds of things, you’re spoilt for choice. For those unfamiliar with the bars and stats, it can become quite overwhelming. Still, you can either spend hours in customizing or none. You can still find enjoyment in the game either way.

There can be a lot happening at one time

There can be a lot happening at one time
The mission structure tries to accommodate for the PSP by making missions that are a bit shorter than usual and by giving players more of a choice on which paths to take by providing a branching mission structure. After the first couple of missions, you come to a fork in the road, as you are given the choice of three different mission paths. Depending on the path that you take, you’ll be able to progress or simply complete the missions for the credits. It gives you a few different options, as you’ll find that your mission locations are progressing around a map of the region you’re attempting to fight for.

Ace Combat has been the premium flight sim on the consoles. Ace Combat X has a lot of work ahead of it if it’s to reach the same level. We’re glad to report, that for the most part, it succeeds. The choice of modes is a bit of a downer though. You’ve got the Campaign/Story, Free Mission and Multiplayer. These are offset slightly by the wide variety of customization and stats. Free Mission allows you play through any completed campaign mission. The multiplayer supports four player dogfights over ad-hoc but not over infrastructure. It’s handled reasonably well but you really need each of those four players to really fill up the game.

For a series that has prided itself on being a pick-up-and-play titles as well as one that caters for the hardcore, it was disappointing that there was no tutorial mode included. For anyone that is picking up the game for the first time, they’re likely to be very confused. There isn’t really anywhere in the game that will outline a lot of the games intricate functions and mechanics. However, most players who are interested in the game are likely to have played flight-sim type games before.

Dog fighting has never been so intense on a handheld

Dog fighting has never been so intense on a handheld
The actual flying is where the game shines. At the beginning of each mission, you are briefed on your objectives, given a chance to tweak your plane, starting location and you’re off. The game gives you a choice of novice and normal controls. The novice controls are very easy to learn because they play the game like an arcade title. The normal controls will “pitch”ing and “yaw”ing using the both the analog nub and the d-pad. Again, the normal controls are for those that know what’s going and you’ll be glad to know that they come off well and make for the more realistic sim-like experience. At least the novice controls allow the masses to play.

While actually playing can be complex, you’re general objectives are not. Missions are generally shoehorned into air-to-air or air-to-ground, with a few variations such as escorts and defending. It was a little bit disappointing that there were a lot of missions that were air-to-ground, rather than more of the good ole’ dog fighting but the general balance sufficed. Most missions had to be completed within the time limit (up to 20 minutes) and in that time, you either had to destroy all the hostiles, destroy all the structures or defend for a certain amount of time. There was enough in most of the missions to keep them exciting and endearing.

From time-to-time, the game took twists from the “realistic” moniker and placed you up against a few fictitious and exaggerated enemies. This at least helps the variety, so that you’re not just fighting the same foes all the time. Unfortunately, you don’t have any special weapons or maneuvers to match. However, the game does add elements of intensity, such as when you fire off a missile, you can hold down the button and watch to see if it hits the target. It’s quite gratifying to watch it hit and leaves you wanting more when you just miss. It’s elements like these that make the game intense and exciting.

A variety of ground targets await

A variety of ground targets await
Apart form the lack of modes, the one other issue that we had with the game was that the PSP controls made it harder for us to be accurate. The analog nub was probably not as well utilized as we could have hoped. It comes off as a bit too sensitive, and doesn’t quite cater for the manual targeting. Still, it gets better once you start unlocking the better fighters, which in turn have better weaponry. Otherwise, Ace Combat X is a very good reflection on the quality of its console counterparts. We guess that it helps the game that it has virtually no competition.

Technically, the game doesn’t really compare to the superb details of the PS2 versions. However, what the game does for a PSP title is very good. In game, the HUD is dense, yet not too cluttered at the same time. It’s thick but functional. The aircraft are all distinctive and comparable to their real-life inspirations. From afar, the landscapes (particularly cities) look great but rather dull up close. Furthermore, there is some superb technology at work with full replays of your mission at different angles and graphical representations afterwards. This and much more with reasonable load times. Sound-wise, the game is filled with an excellent set of sound effects, that accurately characterize the aircraft and the action that is going on. The music is generally excellent and fits in very nicely with the game. The voicing can sometimes come off as a bit stale and corny but it gets the job done.

Overall, Ace Combat X: Skies of Decepetion has made a very successful conversion from the consoles to the PSP. Despite being a bit lacking in the modes and the PSP controls aren’t as accurate as you’d like, it’s easily one of the best flight sims that you’re likely to find on a handheld. If you’ve been wanting to have a flight sim that’s portable and has just as many bells and whistles as the console counterparts, this is the game for you.
The Score
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is one of the finest games to come from a console to a handheld and is easily the best flight sim on a handheld.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception Content

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1 Comment
7 years ago

But this is rather unfortunate, what with Viva Pinata, Gears of War, and Wii in a few days. I hate it when games are this poorly timed, from genres I don't frequent but am intrigued by. Hopefully I'll still be interested come the next gaming drought.
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