It takes a special kind of mentality to want to travel at mach speed, risking death at every turn like a new-age, technological form of dueling. It also takes a special kind of creative team to put the intensity and adrenaline of being a fighter pilot into a game for the home console. Bandai Namco have been doing just that since the PlayStation One era, but will a switch to a free-to-play model ruin all they’ve achieved with the Ace Combat series?
Last September during the Tokyo Game Show I had the opportunity to play the demo of Ace Combat: Infinity for the PlayStation 3 at Sony’s booth, as they were showcasing lots of non-Sony made games. Immediately playing it I could feel it was an Ace Combat game, with controls, manoeuvring, music, and even the story. I gave it our TGS award for best action game but my main concern was will it hold up on release? Will it live up to the hype of TGS? The answer to that question is mostly yes, but not perfectly.
Due to it going free-to-play there had to be some basic design differences needed for the game. Out goes the infinite amount of replaying stages to your heart’s content, and in comes buying fuel at no maximum limit or waiting four hours per fuel tank, up to a max of three. What this does is give a more realistic feel as in the real world it takes time to fuel up a jet, but in the realm of fantasy it becomes a bit of a killjoy when on a good run of form, or when you just want to spend the afternoon being a top gun.
Although the fuel buying is an annoyance, there are opportunities to win free fuel, as well as mercenary contracts, research perks, decals and cash from either completing challenges or through random drops at the end of a mission. All the gear and planes in the game need to be unlocked through research, with a few special ones for time-specific challenges. Essentially, paying for stuff in the game is more for speeding up progress rather than locking a person out of a super sweet plane or gear. The elite mercenary contracts, for example, simply double your cash at the end of a mission. You can buy them, win them, or not use them, and it doesn’t affect anything other than speeding up your cash flow.
Combat is the jewel of the game. I’ve never been a big online FPS kind of guy cause I’ve always sucked at aiming, and well, when you suck at aiming then they are no fun. Add to it when you always see your name at the bottom of the rankings it is disheartening. Infinity is built differently than typical online games. As of this review, the only online mode is two-team co-op. Two teams of four work together to complete the mission by getting as many points as possible from kills. The team who scores the most is the winning team, and both scores are combined to give you a mission ranking. This idea of cooperative competition allows those gamers who feel like they are of a lower quality on a competitive level to still have fun and contribute to the success of the mission, even when other players are getting higher scores all the time.