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Matt Keller
18 Dec, 2007

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation Review

360 Review | No Top Gun jokes. Honest.
Once one of Sony’s stalwart franchises, Ace Combat now makes its debut on the Xbox 360 with the series’ sixth main entry (though the eighth if you count Belkan War and Skies of Deception). Making the leap to more powerful hardware has not caused major changes to Ace Combat’s core game, but Fires of Liberation introduces a number of new things that breathe life back into the series. It’s a particularly nice feeling to play a version of Ace Combat that feels fresh, especially after the last two instalments; while solid, polished titles, they made us feel like Namco was really coasting off the success of the fourth game, which is now some six years old.

Fires of Liberation succeeds on three fronts: plot, presentation and scale. Sure, it has that lovely flight engine that has been with the series for so long, and continues to be oh-so-polished, but it really feels like Namco has made a commitment to take the series just that little bit further with the latest game. The plot isn’t the typical cliché rubbish seen with most military centric games – it focuses on a number of different people and their experiences within times of war, as well as the progress of the war itself. Land stretches out for many miles, covering different terrains; city, ocean, desert, forest and mountains, while the sky is filled with the most beautiful clouds we’ve ever seen in a game. The game’s environments seem quite tranquil until one sees the massive battles taking place – encompassing far larger armies than in previous Ace Combat games, with multiple operations on the field at any one time.

These are dangerous skies

These are dangerous skies
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Emmeria and Estovakia are neighbouring countries. One is rich and democratic while the other is poverty-stricken and militaristic, having lost its prosperity in an unfortunate meteor shower. In the opening mission, a massive Estovakian force invades Gracemeria, the Emmerian capital, with a massive cruise missile barrage forcing the players’ army to retreat. Rather than focus on the typical “we are the bringers of freedom” approach of many recent military applications, the sixth Ace Combat title focuses heavy on the concept of liberating one’s country from outside forces. That’s not the only application of narrative in the game, as cutscenes will provide insight into the thoughts and feelings of those caught up in the war, be they civilians or military personnel. From a conceptual level, this is a really good way of giving a game like Ace Combat an extra dose of story, yet despite a solid premise, the script manages to hurt the execution with some painful lines that are delivered ad nauseum.

On the battlefield, Fires of Liberation stays true to the roots of the Ace Combat series, yet adds a thick layer of polish on top of the game to not only preserve the quality of the series, but to also enhance it. The game boasts marvelous visuals, to which the pictures accompanying this review do not do justice. Sprawling landscapes with a lengthy draw distance, trails of volumetric smoke from missiles and recently destroyed planes littered throughout the sky and, as previously mentioned, amazing clouds. The blistering pace of previous Ace Combat games has been toned down a little, with the frame rate dropping from 60 to 30 frames per second, but this shortcoming quickly fades into the background.

War would be a whole lot easier without all of these enemies

War would be a whole lot easier without all of these enemies
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The basic gameplay has not changed in Fires of Liberation; the game is still very much about dogfighting and essentially doing whatever A.W.A.C.S. says. Gameplay structure has moved back to the linear series of missions after drifting off into branching territory with Skies of Deception, though the game is not any worse off. In true Ace Combat style, the game starts out rather serious and realistic, but opts towards the more fantastic in the later missions which will have players raiding massive fortresses, taking out huge flying battle stations and flying down a number of tight mine shafts. Fires of Liberation has changed the wingman assistance system, with only one pilot under direct command of the player. However, players can now call for general assistance from all allies, which really helps to take the heat off.

Fires of Liberation’s missions offer a lot more flexibility in the form of operational decisions. In most missions, the briefing will describe any number of situations that will be taking place on the battlefield, and the player, as leader of Garuda team, must decide which operation they will partake in. It’s not an exhaustive choice either – on the mission briefing, one might choose to start out pursuing operation A, but instead trigger operation B during the mission and complete it instead. The best thing about the operation system is that it gives insight to just how much larger the scale of the battles in Fires of Liberation are. Each operation involves a battle of some kind, and completing it will make the mission go smoother - do you liberate the battlefield airport for fast refueling and rearming, or do you knock out the long range defense system to allow the ground troops to move forward more freely – it’s all up to the player.

Brendan said he'd break my fingers if I dissed Kenny Loggins.

Brendan said he'd break my fingers if I dissed Kenny Loggins.
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After one has exhausted the single player side of the game, which should only take about six hours for those not farming achievements, they also have the option of hitting Xbox Live for a little multiplayer action. Up to 16 flyboys can participate in a variety of different multiplayer matches – all out deathmatch, team battles, sieges and two co-operative missions are on offer. The online competition may be a little stiff at times (outside of a few wimps that quit when they’re losing), but we had no issues with latency, nor any trouble finding opponents with whom to play. It can be a little grueling essentially flying around in circles for hours with friends, but there is fun to be had.

And that’s really the thing that sells us on Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation – it’s not just a slick looking game with a nice plot, but it’s also a whole lot of fun to play. It manages to take the existing Ace Combat style of gameplay, and just add extra layers of polish on top. The game looks amazing, the plot is rather thought provoking, and the operation management system is really quite cool, and will guarantee that players will revisit missions to see how they play out when they take different courses of action. Sure, it may be a little bit more of an evolution than a revolution, but Namco has taken action in the places where the game really needed it, and those looking for a solid aerial combat game should look no further.
The Score
Luscious visuals and a solid plot may really add to the experience, but it's Namco's extra layer of polish on Ace Combat 6 which makes it all the more fun to play. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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10 Comments
6 years ago
Quote
though the eighth if you count Belkan War and Skies of Deception
It's actually the ninth Ace Combat game, there was Ace Combat Advance on the GBA as well.

Personally I really enjoyed this. It's short, but there's enough to unlock that you're probably going to replay it more than once and the multiplayer aspect is great to finally have. The scope of the levels themselves is huge, with far more stuff happening at once than has been done before. I was a little upset that they cut the aircraft list down so much, but in the end it doesn't really matter that much. I also really appreciated that they put in a proper checkpointing system. The last game in the series I played was AC5, and that was beyond irritating, especially the last level where you would screw up, plow into the wall of the tunnel, and have to do the whole thing over again including the unskippable cutscenes at the start.

The story, though, I thought was pretty poor. The in-game story and the cutscene story seem extremely disconnected until right at the end when they're forcibly combined. I really liked the in-game plot, but I didn't give two shits about the cutscene plot at all. The characters were boring and uninteresting, the voice over utterly dire, and the model they built for that kid made her look like some kind of evil mutant space alien that wanted to push you down and chew your eyeballs.
6 years ago
Many Aussies playing the multiplayer? I want to get this game, but if I am going to have to wait ages for a multiplayer session, I might wait until it's cheaper and just play the SP campaign.
6 years ago
im def considering this i havent played a flyer in a long time. Now with HD graphics it has become more appealing, im not sure i want to pay the full price tag though.... icon_cool.gif
6 years ago
Man I remember Ace Combat back on the PS used to be one of my favorite games. I'm actually considering buying this title, the graphics look superb and the game itself sounds like alot of fun.
6 years ago
This is my first Ace Combat game, I've really enjoyed it thus far, though I'm disappointed at the short length of the campaign. I don't care about multiplayer so once the story is over I doubt I'll keep playing...

There are a few things I don't like about it; the Operations seem too close together, so you end up activating several at a time, which can be a real pain, having to accomplish several goals at once. The downloadable planes are so expensive- at the moment there is about $30 worth of them! The only one I'll get is the Idolmaster SU-33 for the sake of having it. Oh, and the fact it's region locked- aussie retail prices are HORRIBLE!
6 years ago
Quote
It's actually the ninth Ace Combat game, there was Ace Combat Advance on the GBA as well.
Yeah, but that was a vertical shooter - the eight games referred to all play rather similarly.
6 years ago
i'm gonna get this for christmas, i've heard nothing but good things about the game so i'm looking forward to it
6 years ago
Can you play multiplayer offline?
5 years ago
Sorry to revive a 'dead' thread, but when, if ever, is this scheduled to return to its traditional home on the Playstation?
5 years ago
lordofthesheep wrote
Sorry to revive a 'dead' thread, but when, if ever, is this scheduled to return to its traditional home on the Playstation?
Yeah, a PS3 version is coming out sometime this year apparently. Getting the Bioshock treatment.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  13/08/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Arcade
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1

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