Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (エースコンバット アサルト・ホライゾン Ēsu Konbatto Asaruto Horaizon) was the 14th game released in the Ace Combat series. It took place in the real world, albeit in a different timeline from that of Joint Assault. Players took control of various members of Task Force 108, most notably William Bishop, as they shut down the threat posed by Andrei Markov and other rebels from Russia.
Assault Horizon was radically different from any other Ace Combat game in various ways. The Close Range Assault system added a new element of gameplay specific to Assault Horizon, and it was the first Ace Combat to be released on personal computers and the PlayStation 3.
Assault Horizon and its DLC are no longer available for digital purchase on the PlayStation Store, Xbox LIVE Marketplace, or Steam.
Assault Horizon boasts several radical changes to the standard Ace Combat formula. For the first time in the series, the player will alternate between piloting fighter jets, helicopters and bombers as the story progresses; for example, some missions will have the player being the door gunner of an MH-60 Blackhawk, while others put them in the role of a B-2A Spirit stealth bomber.
The game runs on a revamped game engine allowing for destruction on a scale never seen before in Ace Combat, and indeed in a flight simulator. This engine allows for real-time deformation: as an example, sustained gunfire on an enemy fighter will rip off its tail, while more severe damage will either tear off the wings or (in more extreme cases) even completely disintegrate the airframe as a whole, spilling the aircraft's oil across the sky and forcefully ejecting the pilot from the cockpit. As mentioned before, buildings and other structures are now subject to combat damage and will deform in real time. Scenery damage will be often combined with Close Range Assault to provide a cinematic feel to gameplay—for example, stray fire in a pursuit will hit nearby buildings, forcing the player to evade the debris while remaining in pursuit. However, this is only at scripted points in the campaign.
The game provides players with two control schemes, "Original" and "Optimum". The 'Original' control setting is similar to the controls known as "expert controls" in the previous Ace Combat games. As expected, it gives full control of the aircraft, with the left stick making it roll (not turn) when you push right or left. On the other side, the new "Optimum" control scheme -the default mode and the one used in all the trailers released so far- is NOT the equivalent of the usual 'beginner/novice' control style of the series. It prohibits one from doing full rolls but this is to gain the stability needed to get the best of the new ‘Close Range Assault System’.
High-G Turns are still available by pushing triggers together, as well as Autopilot if both shoulder buttons are depressed. A new feature called "Flight Assistance" provides comfortable options to players like Auto-leveling, Automatic Collision Prevention, Automatic Stall Prevention, sight assist and Automatic forward Target Selection. These options can be turned on or off.
In early 2015, an insurgent group named "SRN" surfaces in Eastern Africa. Quickly overwhelmed, the region's nations request the United Nations for help, which in turn calls upon NATO to deal with the situation. The insurgency has the advantage of guerilla warfare and unusually advanced weaponry, which allows it to rapidly move through the entire African continent. Seeing how the situation worsens, NATO commissions a special unit named the Task Force 108, an international military unit comprised of aircraft pilots and military commanders from, amidst other nations, the United States of America, Russian Federation and France. Furthermore, NATO has discovered that the rebels are in command of a weapon of mass destruction - a special cruise missile named "Trinity". To make things worse, it has been confirmed that the SRN is being assisted by a group of Russian mercenaries led by Colonel Andrei Markov, a feared ace pilot and former Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian Air Force. Soon thereafter, William Bishop, leader of the Task Force, sees himself and his comrades involved in an escalating race between NATO and SRN for the control of Trinity.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon features online multiplayer capabilities, similar to its 2007 predecessor. The game's feature mode, Capital Conquest, has players from both NRF and NATO either attacking or defending cities such as Paris or Washington. All ranges of aircraft can be used, from fighters and multiroles to attackers and choppers. When a base is at critical damage levels, the B-1B and B-2A become available for that side and can be used to cause massive damage to the opposing base. However, they require Air Strike Mode to bomb (meaning they can only bomb the HQ, and only when available), and are very vulnerable, given their limited maneuverability.
The other three modes are Domination, where two sides gain points by capturing and defending various bases; Deathmatch, where points are gained by shooting down other planes; and Mission Co-Op, where up to four players can choose from one of eight specially-designed Campaign missions to play together with increased difficulty.
A new addition to multiplayer is the "Skill Set" system, which allows players to customize their aircraft's statistics to suit their game style, in ways such as stealth, mobility, and weapons. Another addition is the "Friendly Assist System" (FAS), which allows up to four players to share a skill's benefits.
Assault Horizon also boasts a callsign setting, which allows different flights of players to customize their callsign for that match. Callsigns can only be set by the flight leader in the Capital Conquest or Domination modes and must be unlocked by completing a task. For example, to unlock the Garuda callsign, one must complete the entire campaign; to unlock the Mobius callsign, they must receive the "Hero" multiplayer bonus; and so on. If no callsigns are unlocked or changed, a default callsign will be used (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta).
Assault Horizon allows players to fly a variety of aircraft, ranging from fighters and attack aircraft to helicopters and bombers. Available aircraft include long-runners like the F-16C Fighting Falcon and the F-22A Raptor, while also including new designs like the PAK FA and the Su-24MP Fencer. They also play as a gunner of an AC-130 Spectre. Currently, there are 7 post-release downloadable aircraft which include the ASF-X Shinden II, a fictional aircraft designed by Macross creator Shōji Kawamori in cooperation with Namco Bandai, the Su-37 (with at least one skin being of Yellow Squadron), Ka-50 Hokum, Tornado GR.4, AV-8B Harrier II plus, YF-23A Black Widow II, F-15 S/MTD, and the CFA-44 Nosferatu.
Unlike in the previous games, the player doesn't have to purchase their aircraft but can instead choose freely from whichever is available for the upcoming mission. This isn't the first time that aircraft could be picked from the start after unlock, however, as this feature originated in Ace Combat 3. The selection is limited by the nature of the mission, e.g. in an air-to-ground, the player is limited to Attacker aircraft. After selecting the aircraft, the player can also select its paint scheme and special weaponry. In missions that switch between different player characters, the player has to select aircraft for all of them, e.g. in mission 11, they must select a bomber for Janice Rehl and a fighter or multirole aircraft for William Bishop. The player has no control over the aircraft, colors, and weaponry of their wingmen, who generally choose to fly the aircraft that best fit with the current mission.
In previous installments of Ace Combat, special aircraft colors had to be unlocked and/or purchased. Assault Horizon is the first installment to allow player customization of the plane's colors. Different parts of the plane's paint, including the missile smoke color, can be recolored to fit the pilot's preference, and paint schemes may be saved for future selection between schemes. Paint schemes are unique to only the plane it is first made on; for example, to fly every plane in one specific scheme, a separate paint scheme would have to be made for each and every plane in that color scheme.
There are special paint schemes that may be unlocked while playing the campaign or multiplayer, or downloaded/purchased as downloadable content (DLC) from the PlayStation Store and Xbox LIVE Marketplace. For example, to unlock the Death Rider scheme for the F-15C Eagle, it must be downloaded as DLC. But to attain the Mobius paint scheme, you have to play multiplayer and achieve the "Hero" MVP award. Each special paint scheme can also be recolored to a new color scheme of the player's choosing, and there are many hidden selections; for example, the Mobius Squadron logo is normally the same color as the rest of the scheme but can be recolored to be shown.
The Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Original Soundtrack is the game's official soundtrack. Similar in nature to the Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War Original Soundtrack and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation Original Soundtrack, it combines electronic music with bombing symphonic sounds, which include both Western and oriental instruments. As well, unlike previous Ace Combat soundtracks, it is notable for the inclusion of heavy electric guitar solos in many songs. A stand-alone release has not been confirmed.
It contains a total of 38 tracks divided into three discs. Pre-ordered Limited Edition copies in Europe contained a "small" version of the soundtrack, whereas pre-ordered copies in Japan contained the entire soundtrack.
Patch 1.02 & Digital Copies
On November 26, 2012, Assault Horizon received Patch 1.02, which came with the following changes:
- The health of the Capital Conquest HQs have been increased.
- Players can no longer respawn during the first 15 seconds of the match (to fix an exploit where players could respawn at an allied respawn base at the start of the match).
- If a player is being chased in Dogfight Mode and crashes on the ground or leaves the mission boundary, that player will count as being shot down and all players chasing them will receive credit for the kill. This also counts for the killstreak count for unlocking the use of Trinity.
- Some weapons have been adjusted. Specific details are not provided in the official patch notes. Fans have discovered that the 6AAMs have less mobility, and QAAMs have more speed and accuracy.
- The player's spawn invincibility (10 seconds of infinite health and stealth after spawning or respawning) is immediately canceled when firing any kind of weapon or initiating DFM or ASM. (The latter was already in effect pre-patch.)
- The uploading of statistics to the Assault Horizon website is no longer in use since the website was shutting down.
- The exploit where players could fire a charged standard missile in DFM, switch weapons, and immediately charge up their secondary weapon (or vice versa) is no longer possible.
- The hitbox on the aircraft carriers in Capital Conquest in Tokyo and Washington, D.C. has been fixed, primarily outside of ASM.
- The "Global ASM" skill has been modified. According to fans, Global ASM can no longer be initiated nearby a Capital Conquest HQ.
- On the PlayStation 3 version, multiplayer matches will no longer freeze or lag when a new player joins mid-session.
- On the Xbox 360 version, voice chat quality has been improved.
- Fans have independently discovered that the AI pilots have also received an update, now being incredibly aggressive instead of flying static around the map.
The next day, on November 27, Assault Horizon was added to the PlayStation Store as a digital download. An optional bundle pack was also made available, including the game, Tokyo, Honolulu, and some of the DLC aircraft. It was also added to Xbox LIVE Games on Demand on February 19, 2013, as a digital download, but no bundle was made available.
On November 27, 2012, Namco Bandai officially announced the development of a PC port for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon through their UK Twitter account and Facebook page, making it the first Ace Combat game to ever become available for personal computers. Known as the "Enhanced Edition", it has most of the downloadable content featured in the console versions, and optimized controls and graphics for computers. Multiplayer was supported through the Games for Windows - LIVE (GFWL) service before it was replaced by Steamworks (see below). It was released on January 25, 2013, in retail and digital download forms, in addition to being available for download on Steam.
GFWL Code Issues
Starting on the week of November 24, 2013, people who purchased Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition were given invalid GFWL keys that did not redeem for Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition, or anything at all. In response, on December 2, 2013, Steam shut down future purchases of the game while they worked out the problem with Namco Bandai Games and Microsoft. As of February 24, 2014, the game could still not be purchased; however, some players were given refunds (in the form of Steam credit). On February 24, Tony Shoupinou confirmed that the game was going to be available for sale again once the Steamworks transition was ensured to be running smoothly.
Transition to Steamworks
On January 17, 2014, Joystiq reported that Namco Bandai was set on removing the GFWL service from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon - Enhanced Edition, but no release date had been provided. According to SteamDB, depots of a "2.0" version of Assault Horizon were uploaded to Steam as early as January 30 with a description indicating that GFWL (G4WL in the description) was being removed. On February 20, 2014, various sources reported that Steam achievements were added to the game.
On February 24, 2014, an announcement was posted to the game's discussion forum confirming the transition to Steamworks for achievements and multiplayer. Users who had purchased ACE COMBAT™ ASSAULT HORIZON Enhanced Edition before the announcement would have to follow a multi-step process to transfer their GFWL save files and achievements to the new Steamworks version of the game, including switching the game to the "Acah-2.0-" beta from the game settings. Users who purchased the game after the announcement but before April 1, 2014, would just have to enable the "Acah-2.0-" beta. On April 1, 2014, the game updated again to completely remove GFWL, and it now completely runs with Steamworks. Remaining GFWL save files and achievements are not guaranteed to transfer to the Steamworks version anymore. However, renaming a custom aircraft skin or a custom skill set is no longer possible since the dialog to do so was previously utilizing GFWL input, and attempting to access the online leaderboards crashes the entire game.
On March 28, 2014, a private "beta3" branch was added to the Steam version of the game. As of June 2, 2015, this branch is still being updated; however, its contents and purpose are unknown.
Since its Steamworks transition, Assault Horizon has been on sale numerous times, typically for 75% off its USD$19.99 price tag. On the weekend of July 25–27, 2014, the game was available for free to all Steam users for the weekend only, and was 75% off again for anyone interested in purchasing it.
On August 8, 2012, Namco Bandai announced that they were in talks with OUYA, and asked for suggestions on what possible games to bring to the OUYA console. Out of 841 replies, over 30 people requested an Ace Combat game.
In December 2014, Playcast Media Systems formally released "Playcast Packful Of Fun", a streaming service for the OUYA console, which allowed gamers to play a selection of games with an $8/month subscription. Assault Horizon was included in the service, and a 10-minute timed demo was available for non-members from the game's intro menu. While the game supported achievements, it was not clear which version of the game was being streamed to the OUYA.
Sometime after June 2015, Assault Horizon and the rest of "Playcast Packful Of Fun" were removed from OUYA following Playcast's merge with GameFly. As part of the merge, GameFly rebranded and move Playcast's streaming service exclusively onto the Amazon Fire TV, where Assault Horizon is currently available to stream and play.
As of January 27, 2016, Assault Horizon and all of its DLC were removed from the PlayStation Store and Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Players could no longer purchase any Assault Horizon material digitally. However, players who already had purchased the game or DLC could still download them at any time.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon received generally positive reception from critic reviews. Metacritic currently holds a Metascore of 78 for the Xbox 360 version (based on 71 critics), a Metascore of 77 for the PS3 version (based on 28 critics), and a Metascore of 77 for the PC version (based on 14 critics). However, the reception from gamers was less positive. The PC version currently holds a "Mixed" rating on Steam, where 61% of the 2,300 user-published reviews are positive.
PlayStation: The Official Magazine reviewed the PS3 version and awarded a 9/10 as well as the "Best Vehicle Game" award during their 2011 "Game of the Year!" awards. They sent a commemorative plaque to Bandai Namco, and Kazutoki Kono posted a picture of it on Project Aces' Twitter.
IGN's Jack DeVries reviewed the PS3 version and awarded a 7.5/10. He praised the game's graphics, soundtrack, voice acting, and interesting multiplayer, and he especially praised the mission variety as well as for arriving to the real world instead of remaining on Strangereal. However, he criticized the gameplay for being repetitive, as well as the story for being uninteresting.
Joe Vargas (Angry Joe) reviewed the Xbox 360 version and awarded an 8/10 and the spot of "9th best game of 2011". He informed viewers he hadn't played an Ace Combat game before Assault Horizon, providing an unbiased opinion. He praised DFM for its originality over firing at "green boxes hundreds of miles away", as well as the game's mission variety, graphics, soundtrack, and multiplayer modes. He criticized the helicopter missions and momentary cutscenes in the middle of missions, as well as the overuse of DFM, especially when flying against ace characters who require the use of DFM to shoot down.
GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd reviewed both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 versions and awarded a 5.5/10. He shared the same criticisms as DeVries and Angry Joe, but weighed these far more heavily and believed them to be the game's worst points. He also lamented the lack of character development as seen in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, and repeatedly pointed out the game's similarities to the Call of Duty series. VanOrd's review was unique in additionally criticizing the soundtrack for being "overblown". However, he did praise multiplayer for adding the human element to DFM, as well as for the unique Capital Conquest mode.
John Bain (TotalBiscuit) reviewed the PC version without a score. He mentioned his history with the series, having played 04, 5, Zero, X, and Joint Assault to completion, as a disclaimer for his bias. He criticized the gunship, helicopter, and minigun missions, as well as the general mission length and pacing and the inclusion of regenerating health. He also criticized the cutscenes outside of missions due to their low quality and the game's departure from nameless protagonists. However, he praised DFM and its in-mission cutscenes, as well as the inclusion of the bomber mission. Bain incorrectly mentioned a lack of joystick support; all versions of the game fully support joysticks, but do not offer any settings for them. He also mentioned Games for Windows LIVE being a "black mark" against the game, but it has since been updated to remove GFWL (see above).
Assault Horizon sold over 1,070,000 copies worldwide within seven months of release. Bandai Namco considered this far more successful than the previous console game, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, which had sold 700,000 copies within four and a half years (55 months) of release.
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