I will admit, as a Navy man I am biased towards fighter jets. I have seen them in action, and I know just how astounding these jets actually are. I absolutely love them and have yet to find a flight simulator that matches the true capabilities of these amazing works of human engineering and ingenuity. Up until this point, I have blamed that solely on the classified nature of the capabilities of some of these planes. I say up until this point, because Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, finally delivered.
It’s important to mention that have never played an Ace Combat before, and that this is my first foray into the series. I’ll even go so far as to say that I preordered the game based solely on the desire to fly an F-22. I also went as far to get the Thrustmaster Flight Stick. I wanted to have as authentic an experience with the game as possible. Boy oh boy, was that one of the best decisions I have made in my gaming career.
Let’s start off with the controls. The flight stick itself had a steep learning curve that had me downing plane after plane. But, once I let my intuition take over and changed my perspective to driving except with a z axis, it changed everything. It became almost a natural extension of my body. It was exhilarating. I have played flight sims before where the flight stick pulled me from immersion due to clunky controls and slow response time, but this is not the case with the Thrustmaster.
Now, I’m sure by now you’re wondering how the game is and why I say it delivered. Well, it comes down to three aspects of the game: visuals, story, and flight simulation accuracy. As far as visuals are concerned, they are, for the most part, stunning. There are some latency issues that have been noted as far as the backgrounds in the very far distance. However, those are a mild when compared to the stellar dogfighting graphics and 4K quality graphics that are present in the game overall. You truly feel as though you’re in the cockpit of your choice of fighter jet from around the globe and some that are complete fantasy.
The dog fights are exhilarating as you take on modern jets trying to save the country from an invasion by drones. It's incredible how well the engine delivers on its physics. When you pull a high speed turn it feels like you are on the control stick. It’s quite bizarre but it actually feels like you're fighting real world physics. Furthermore, unlike reality where a the modern adversaries we face have no chance against our technology, this game has planes that can keep apace with a modern F-22 Raptor. It is truly awe inspiring how well they did in sheer programing.
There are three different perspectives you can play: third person, first person, and cockpit first person. I personally am not a fan of the third person because it feels slightly clunky and weird to be behind the plane you’re controlling. I am sure that for some it works well, but I prefer the latter two options. The cockpit first person mode is especially enticing because you feel as though you're actually the pilot of the plane. It is exhilarating to experience the rush of being in the air, and the visuals helped drive that home for me every step of the way.
Overall, the game was incredible. While the games story is a little convoluted as all anime stories are, it is worth playing. I have never experienced such a good flight combat sim outside of real simulators. The dev team should be incredibly proud of their work and I hope that Bandai Namco continues the series because I absolutely have to know what happens next.