- "Make metal bleed"
- ― Official tagline
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) is an arcade flight simulator developed by Project Aces and published by Namco Bandai. It is the second title of the series (after Ace Combat: Joint Assault) to take place in the real world, although it takes place in an entirely different timeline. It is the first title in the series to be released on the PC. It was first announced in August 9, 2010 with a trailer published in YouTube, and was released on October 13, 2011.
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 in 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 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 insurgence has the advantage of guerillia 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 Sukhoi PAK FA and the Su-24MP Fencer. They also play as a gunner of an AC-130 Spectre. Currently, there are 7, possibly more, downloadable aircraft planned for post-release, 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-15S/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 are available for the upcoming mission. 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 with the best stats available for 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, may 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 through 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.
The Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Original Soundtrack is the game's official soundtrack. Similar in nature to the soundtracks ofAce Combat 5 and Ace Combat 6, 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 thirty eight tracks divided in three discs. Pre-orderd Limited Edition copies in Europe contained an "small" version of the soundtrack, whereas pre-ordered copies in Japan contained the entire soundtrack.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has received generally positive reception from gaming sites. The first professional review of the game was made by Famitsu in October 4, 2011, which awarded 37 points out of 40 to the game, making it the week's most critically acclaimed title.
Official PlayStation Magazine awarded the game an 8 out of 10. IGN gave it a score of 7.5 out of 10, praising the graphics, real-world settings, sound, and voice-acting of the characters. It did, however, criticize the gameplay for being repetitive. Another positive review came from Angry Joe from BlisteredThumbs with a score of 8 out of 10, praising DFM, sound design, cutscenes, aircraft models and multiplayer. He also gave the game the "Angry Joe Badass seal of approval." and the title of the 9th best game of 2011. Other sites such as GameSpot (5.5/10) rated it poorly noting the poor story and bad game mechanics, with some praise directed towards the multiplayer content.
The game has a critic score of 78 metacore for Xbox 360 and 75 for PlayStation 3 and a user review of 6.8/10 on metacritic.com website. As of November 2012, the game has sold 1.07 million copies worldwide.
PC & Digital Ports
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 computers.
Dubbed the "Enhanced Edition", it has been described has having most of the downloadable content featured in the console versions, and was said to have optimized controls and graphics for computers. As well, it will support multiplayer through the "Games for Windows Live" service. It is scheduled to be released in Q1 2013 in both retail and digital download forms, in addition to being available for download in Steam.
In addition to the PC port, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was added to the PlayStation Network Store as a downloadable game around the same time as the announcement. The game can be downloaded standalone, or it can be purchased in a bundle pack with Tokyo, Honolulu, and some of the DLC aircraft. It will also be added to Xbox 360 Games on Demand in January 2013 as a standalone downloadable game. No bundle will be available on the Games on Demand service.