Ace is high

  Ace Combat 5 soars
By Bill Jensen  |  December 18, 2005
4.0 4.0 Stars

 Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War
Published and developed by Namco. For PlayStation 2. Rated T for Teen.

If you are the type of gamer who gets an occasional jonesin’ for some military bloodlust, then may I suggest you try Namco’s latest entry in its long-running flight combat series, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.

Just know that flight-combat games aren’t for everyone. Games like the previous four Ace Combats and Air Force Delta Strike have a very straightforward, arcade-like feel to them. By that I mean that they are very easy to pick up and start playing without really knowing what the hell you're doing. For someone like me, who’s got the attention span of a gnat, that's a good thing; if, however, you consider yourself a purist who enjoys flight simulators with 850-page manuals, then stay far, far away from Ace Combat 5.

For me, Ace Combat 5 is easily one of the top titles I’ve played in 2004. Honestly, not much has really changed from Ace Combat 4, and that’s a positive, as that game was already in my top five all-time for the PS2.

Ace Combat 5 easily has some of the tightest controls of any game out there. Everything just feels perfect; you won't find yourself fumbling around your Dual Shock controller trying to figure out which button shoots missiles and which fires the chaff. This kind of perfect control is essential, too, because Ace Combat 5 moves fast. Real fast. Dare I say, faster than Burnout 3 (and that’s about the fastest, most white-knuckled game I’ve played up until now). Hell, it even moves so fast that it makes me wonder if Namco borrowed Sega’s old "Blast Processing" to program into the game. (Yes, that was a joke for you old-school Sonic the Hedgehog fans, albeit a very bad one – sorry.)

All kidding aside, the production values in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War are as just as good as the controls. The graphics are really pushing the limits of the PS2 (so good that I wished I had component cables and a $5000 flat-screen TV to see how crisp it could really look). All of the aircraft – both those you control and the enemy bogeys – are incredibly detailed. You can tell that Namco really did its homework to get all of the specs down to a T. Also, the landscapes are much more detailed and crisp than AC4, which is also a welcome touch.

One of the best improvements of Ace Combat 5 over its predecessor is the mission design. If you played AC4, you’ll remember that for the most part the missions in that game were pretty straightforward. That’s still partially true in Ace Combat 5, as you’ll still be doing search-and-destroy missions, escort missions, recon, and so forth. However, it’s what can happen during those missions that really will throw you a curve!

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but here’s an example. In one mission, you are doing a basic search-and-destroy; then, all of a sudden, something big happens, and you're being chased right out of the sky. Words don’t do it justice, folks. It’s an incredible rush, and you’ll find yourself with sweaty palms trying to survive.

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