Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War

Console: Playstation 2
No. of Players: 2 (1 Player Campaign Mode / 2 Players Verus Mode)
Developer: Namco
Release Date: March 4th 2006
Released by: Namco
Rating: Teen

Ace Combat Zero cover

Story 90/100

Ace Combat Zero’s develops in a unique way. You, the player, don’t directly unfold the story, rather the story is told through a journalist on a mission to find out more about the Ace Pilot known as “Demon Lord”, who ironically is you. The story starts off with a bit of background information about the Belkan War which took place in 1995 in a world much like our own–except not! The details of the war is a mystery; all that is known is that involves the nation of Belka and the Allied Forces of surrounding nations. The journalist, who’s name we never actually told, goes out on a journey searching for people, all of which are fighter pilots, that have had interactions with “The Demon Lord”. Also as you finish campaigns there will be cut scenes where more and more information about the war will be told to you from the journalist’s perspective.

So you ask yourself, what exactly is your role as the player? Well, it’s simple you are a fighter pilot. You play as a messenary that’s hired to aid the Allied Forces’ assault on the Belkan nation. You will be briefed on your missions before hand and then you are off. You could say that two story lines develope: the ‘direct’ storyline from your flight campaigns and the story line that unfolds told by the journalist. The storyline as the pilot is much more specific. You are basically playing from the start of the Belkan War to the down fall of the Belkan Nation and the events that happen after the nation surrenders–it’s a secret if you couldn’t tell by my secretness.

What makes the story intriguing is the fact that it isn’t just a Flighter Simulation game, in fact I would argue that it isn’t even Flighter Simulation but instead an Action/Adventure game. The story is captivating because it seems so real. It isn’t just about shooting down planes and going at hundreds of miles per hour. You really are pulled into the story and that story is about the consequences of war. You are in the middle of a war and while you have to fight (or else this game wouldn’t be very productive) the story is really trying to say that war is not necessary. It may sound ironic but the game can be considered a “Anti-War” Fligher Game, perfectly timing for the days we are in. As you get the taste of both sides.

Another part of story that’s very captivating the story that’s told from the journalist perspective shown through the cutscenes. Since the journalist is basically tracking you through history, you get to hear about yourself ten years in the future. I know that sounds very confusing so I’ll try to elaborate on that. The journalist uses his connections and finds several flighter pilots that you’ve either fought on the same team with or flighter pilots that you fought in the skies. These pilots are known as Aces, a term reserved for extremely well talented flighter pilots, these pilots tell their story and their side of the war. They also talk about you and how your flying skills were so amazing and how you somehow changed them for better or worse. And the make your flying skills sound much better than the actually were, or that might just be in my case. What’s cool is that we never hear from you, the “Demon Lord of the Round Table”, so it’s all third person and you get to see your effect on people without you a making a direct impact, well other than blowing them up. That’s my thought on it anyway.

Overall the story is captivating, interesting, and damn good.

Gameplay 90/100
Ace Combat Zero - Screenshot 1
When you start the game you are asked to pick a level of difficulty and how realistic you want your fligher plane to manuver, trust me it makes a difference! Then from there you are pretty much off to fighter. Before each battle you will be briefed on the mission objective.

Now in the air it’s a bit more chaotic. Each campaign will have a set area for the air fight. The area is very large and makes for good quick escapes when you are covered by enemies. As you start off flying you will engage the enemy and from then on it’s pretty straight forward. Each stage is comprised of targets you must defeat and secondary targets you don’t have to, but might want to, since they could be firing at you as well. Be careful though as it does effect your rank after. Let me explain. After each stage there will be a post briefing where your actions in the campaign will be evaulated. You will here some information relating to the mission but also see your scores. In Ace Combat Zero you have the possiblity to be ranked a mercenary, a soldier, or a knight. All many different factors play into that, but a major part is the amount of secondary enemies you kill. Are you there to just kill any and everything, or are you there to complete the mission? If you are asking why any of that is important, I’ll tell you why, because it allows you to unlock a ton of stuff when the game is over. And don’t think you just have to be a Knight; you can and will unlock things in mercenary or soldier that you won’t be able to unlock in Knight. It really boil downs to how you play.

Now an important factor in games like this is to try to keep the player, you, entertained in some way; because, it’s very easy to get bored if all you are doing is shooting down A.I. jets all day. So the games has implemented a new perks to spice it up a bit.

Firstly, the variety of the battles. There will be campaigns were you have to take on tanks, battleships–which makes screaming “You sunk my battleship” even funnier, giant laser beams, and so much more. Clearly you can see that I’m the type of person that likes shinny objects. Still on a much more calmer note the game when not engaging giant machines bent on world domination you are engaging in some amazing dog fighting. At certain key points in the game you will battle the Aces of the Belkan for air surpremcy. These “aces” are different from regular pilots in terms of skill, artilliary, and difficulty. They’ll enter the battle at different times, sometimes at the worst time possible as you are down to your last few misslies.

The game will require you to be on your toes because you will be taking on multiple enemies at once. And each enemy only has one thing in mind: taking you down! Which means they’ll be shooting and sending missiles your way all the time. So you’ll be dodging, aiming, and flying all at once. It can be challenging, since there is no set pattern to any of the enemie’s actions you, you’ll just have to find their weak spot.

The game dymanics is really cool and and it’s easy to get use to. It took me about 10-15 minutes to get the basics and as time progressed I discovered new things, like how to switch between weapons (max 2) and what not. It’s the first time I played a flighter jet game and of all those out there I think Ace Combat gives noobies and vets a good dog-fighter experience. One thing to point out though is that this is not a simulation in many aspects. Hardcore jet gamers looking for real life simulation aren’t going to find it here. Ace Combat Zero is clearly a video game making no real attempt as passing off as a military recruiment demo–even though many of the jets featured in the game are actual jets that cost millions of dollars out of good tax payers like yourselves. In easy mode you start off with an infinite amount of bullets, 99 main missiles, and a dozen or so second special weapons, it’s asburdly impossible but it’s a game so you thank the lord that you don’t have to destroy 30 flighter planes with 20 missiles.

Graphics 85/100
Ace Combat Zero - Screenshot 2
In terms of graphics there’s a split. During gameplay the graphics aren’t very attractive. The enviroment below is a simple spread sheet and the only things that stick out are enemies. Which means the houses and frolking people below resemble one of the mats you had when you were a child that had a town on it. Also in the areas where the world in 3-D it doesn’t always follow the rules of perspective. The buildings you see when you are 18000 feet in the air are the same size when you are flying right next to them, not very persuavive if you ask me. That aside the battles themselves are beautifully done. The jets look fabulous and when you launch a missile you actually see the missile launch from your aircraft. Neat huh!

Now the one thing that’s on your mind is the aircrafts themselves? Right! Well it should be. Far too many times games like this tend to make the aircrafts blend together and the look far too similar. Since many of the jets are video games copies actual flighter jets, each jet looks real and have their strengths and weakness. Which means the jet you choose to go into battle will either make your mission harder or easier. And as you complete more campaign, and since you are a mercenary, you will earn credits and those credits you can exchange for different aircrafts.

However by far the most impressive thing about this game in terms of graphics are the cutscenes. The first cutscenes, where the journalist interviewed one of the enemy aces, made me drog my controller. They were as realistic as you may possible get. I even doubted if I wasn’t seeing real actos–now wouldn’t that be a treat! Now even though the cutscenes are few in number, and really aren’t, with a few exceptions, nothing but interviews they are really amazing to look at. It pulls you in, simply because it looks so fool yourself into thing believing that you aren’t playing a game.

Controls & Camera 80/100

Nothing is really dazzleing about the controls. They are pretty stardard and what you would expect. So everything is self-explanatory really. You really don’t need the manual. Eventually you’ll just get the hang of it and be blowing up stuff in no time. The only button that’s tricky to get use to is the triangle angle button, and that’s mainly because of the lock-on feature. Because of the sheer amount of choas that does on in this games it’s hard to lock on to the target you want, especially if there several them in one area. The lock on button if you hold down on it will focus the camera on your target, this makes it difficult when your target can zoom by you so fast. And since you are locked on to that target you become vulnerable to other enemies. This isn’t so much a bad thing for the game it just means you have to be more on top of things. It would have also helped if your target could have been pointed out much easier. Also the fact that you have to hold down the triangle button to keep the camera focused on your target is tidious as you could be putting that finger to better use. Another problem area is the map. Which is pressure sensitive to the square-button. The map will either zoom in or zoom out depending on how much pressure you apply to the square button. This however can work against you. The information relayed in the map window can be vital at many points and a lot of it depends on how far and much you zoom in. And sometimes you might be applying too much pressure and other times not enough. Either all of this can become annoying when you are trying to accomplish the mission. However besides those points I think the controls are easy to get used to and can be put to use pretty easily during gameplay.

Much of the same could be said for the camera. You’ll have a variety of camera modes to use for you to see which you feel more comfortable with. You’ll have the cockpit mode which gives you the angle moded from inside the cockpit of the aircraft. Then you’ll have, what I call, the “target mode”. This basically just shows you the battle field with a “right in fornt of you” angle, this is good for when you are just taking down targets and don’t have to do much dog-fighting. And the last mode which is the view of the aircraft. The last option is my personal favorite. It really boils down to whicher you feel more comfortable with.

Personal Thoughts

Ace Combat has been on my to play list for a while. Despite my passive attitude towards human life I am in love with military aircrafts and war in general, the only more interesting is naval combat, and you can get I’m looking into a game there too. I’ve heard good things about the Ace Combat series and decided to give it a try and wow was I impressed. It wasn’t just shooting down jets but there was an actual decent, what am I saying, good, story attached. The dog-fights where challenging and interesting. This being the first game of this genre that I have played I must say I am addicted; however, I’m pretty sure veterans of this genre would like it as well. Even though there are only about 18 mission with no sidequest, the game takes a decent day to finish if you play it all the way through, but there are a lot of things to unlock so if you want to you will be busy for a while. There is also a 2 player feature but it’s not as interesting as the campaign mode, but it is sweet to how how much better you are of a dog-fighter than your best friend. I did here that in previous Ace Combat games there was an online feature, and I can say that would have been awesome and would have made this game excellent; however, there was not in this game. Oh well!

This is this genre of video games interests you. I saw pick up a copy, or rent, this game as you won’t be disappointed.

Final Score 85/100

By Cherubim

Work in progress... not home!
Trying to get all/most of the new code working before I start on the eyecandy.