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"Unmanned fighters are no longer a dream. Pilots taking to the skies will soon be a distant memory."
Our Science: Era of the Drones[4]

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown[a] is the 17th entry in the Ace Combat franchise. It released on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One on January 17, 2019 in Japan and Asia[3] followed by the rest of the world on January 18, 2019. The game released on the Steam platform on February 1, 2019.[1][2] Pre-order bonuses for the game included two older games in the franchise: Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War for the PlayStation 4 and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for the Xbox One.[5]

The single-player campaign takes place in Strangereal in 2019. The player character is Trigger, an Osean Air Defense Force pilot in the Lighthouse War. After Trigger supposedly commits a crime during a mission, he is sent to the Spare Squadron penal unit. The game's cutscenes follow Avril Mead, Dr. Schroeder, and other characters in the war.

The downloadable SP missions follow David North, an Osean intelligence analyst tracking the case of the Erusean super-submarine Alicorn. Following the defection of the sub and its captain, Matias Torres, North must work together with Trigger to help prevent an attack on Osea by the Alicorn.

The game's multiplayer is comprised of two player-versus-player modes: Team Deathmatch and Battle Royal. Ace Combat 7 also features VR Mode, which will be exclusive to PlayStation VR for the first year of release. The VR Mode includes three exclusive missions featuring Mobius 1, an airshow mode, and Free Flight. The game's single-player campaign and multiplayer modes cannot be played in VR.

Ace Combat 7 was first revealed in an Ace Combat Infinity data leak in November 2015. Bandai Namco officially announced the game the next month at PlayStation Experience. The game was first scheduled to release in 2017, but delayed to 2018[6][7] and finally to January 2019.[1][2]

Portal

Basic Info

Multiplayer Modes

Game Mechanics

Plot

Combatants

Synopsis

AC7 Air Battle at ISEV

A battle at the International Space Elevator

Prior to the game's events, the Osean Federation constructed the International Space Elevator (commonly referred to as the Lighthouse) in the Usean continent to help reconstruction efforts following the Ulysses Impact Event and the Continental War. Tensions rose between Osea and the Kingdom of Erusea, a major Usean country, because of Erusea's suspicions that Osea aimed to control the entire Usean continent through the space elevator.[8] This culminated in an Erusean UAV attack in Osea[9] and Erusea simultaneously capturing the space elevator and its surrounding facilities.[8] Erusea also captured the two large unmanned UAV carriers—Arsenal Birds—defending the space elevator.[10]

Trigger begins in the war fighting for Osea and the IUN, defending the Fort Grays Island air base[11] and helping Osea destroy Erusean forces at the Scofield Plateau.[12] The IUN learned that former President Vincent Harling was hiding in the space elevator. The IUN tried to recapture territory on the way, but Osean squadrons suffered losses in the Chopinburg Rainforest due to attacks from one of the two Arsenal Birds.[10] The IUN instead sent Trigger to infiltrate Erusea's radar net around the space elevator to open a path for Sea Goblin to attempt a rescue. While Harling was being airlifted out, a missile identified as Osean struck his aircraft, killing Harling. Trigger was the closest and blamed for the assassination.[13] At the same time, Osea attempted to perform early attacks on Erusea's capital, Farbanti, but abandoned these attacks after losing the Kestrel II.[10]

444th Base Flyover

The 444th Air Base

Trigger was transferred to the prison at the 444th Air Base and its penal unit, Spare Squadron. After defending the base[14] and destroying Erusean forces,[15] Trigger meets Mihaly A. Shilage for the first time while dogfighting over Yinshi Valley.[16] Spare Squadron is then sent to destroy an Erusean oil pipeline[17] and a drone radar facility. At the radar facility, a squadron of drone F/A-18F Super Hornets, posing as Osean, ambushed Spare Squadron with fire support from the Helios, a new anti-air burst missile equipped onto the Arsenal Birds. Spare Squadron shot down all of the UAVs and escaped the area.[18]

Osea's General Staff Office decided to make the Spare Squadron legitimate, pardoned all of the convicts, and sent them to recapture Tyler Island. The staff office requested 444th Base Commander McKinsey and Trigger—believing Trigger may not have killed Harling—to temporarily transfer to a base in North Point. McKinsey requested that Trigger and Spare 2, Count, escort him on the way. During the flight, McKinsey's transport came under attack by an unidentified drone, which Trigger shot down, earning him respect from other Osean forces.[19] He and Count were subsequently transferred to Osea's Long Range Strategic Strike Group's two main squadrons: Strider Squadron (Trigger as Strider 1) and Cyclops Squadron (Count as Cyclops 2), operating out of New Arrows Air Base in eastern Usea.[20]

AC7 Stonehenge Firing

The reactivated Stonehenge railgun firing on the Arsenal Bird

Osea tasked the LRSSG squadrons with an extended plan to capture Farbanti, recapture the space elevator, and end the war. This included attacking Erusea's Njord Fleet in the northern part of the continent,[20] reactivating a Stonehenge railgun to shoot down one of the Arsenal Birds,[21] destroying missile silos attempting to fire IRBMs at Osean forces,[22] and capturing Cape Rainy as a forward base.[23] Osea launched a massive attack on Farbanti with the LRSSG providing support. Erusea sent Sol Squadron to protect Farbanti and, after an extended dogfight, both sides disengaged after losing all satellite connections. The LRSSG landed at Gardos Air Base, an IUN forward base, following the loss of communications.[24]

Erusea and Osea had simultaneously sent anti-satellite attacks against each other, and the resulting debris field destroyed scores of other private and government satellites, plunging Usea into chaos.[25] The LRSSG attempted to cover a defecting Erusean officer during a civil war that broke out in Anchorhead, but the officer was killed by an Osean pilot.[26] The LRSSG then attempted to rendezvous with Spare Squadron and other friendly forces at Tyler Island, but discovered that Spare's Tyler Island offensive was a failure. The LRSSG provided support for starved forces on the island and helped refugees escape, including Erusea's Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise.[27] With no other options, the LRSSG attacked Shilage Castle to resupply with the castle's resources. Sol Squadron attempted to defend but Trigger shot down most of them, including Mihaly flying in a new X-02S Strike Wyvern. Mihaly ordered the remaining two members, Wit and Seymour, to retreat.[28]

Arsenal Bird Shield

The second Arsenal Bird activating its shield against a saturation attack

Doctor Schroeder revealed to Princess Cossette and other refugees with them that Gründer Industries had partially orchestrated the war by developing the UAVs and sending them to Erusea for research and development in the Erusean Air and Space Administration. Schroeder and the others resolved to deactivate the space elevator to prevent any more drones from being manufactured.[29] Meanwhile, Osea formed a coalition force with Erusean conservatives and breakaway Erusean factions, including Wit and Seymour, to end the war by defeating Erusea's radical warmongers that continued to control the space elevator. A massive dogfight broke out at the space elevator, attracting the surviving Arsenal Bird. After Princess Cossette destroyed the space elevator's energy transmitters, the Arsenal Bird's shield went down and Trigger fully destroyed it. Two new drones—ADF-11F Ravens manufactured before the space elevator was disabled—entered the airspace and fired on the coalition forces, leaving them heavily weakened as a result.[30] The remaining members fled to the nearby Osean carrier Admiral Andersen.[31]

ADF-11F Blurry Flyby

An ADF-11F flying past the space elevator

The next day, most of the remaining coalition pilots engaged the two ADF-11Fs. Trigger shot them both down, including one ADF-11 that broke off of an ADF-11F. The other ADF-11 escaped combat and flew into the tunnel network leading to the space elevator in an attempt to transmit its data to other drone factories across Usea. Trigger and Count pursued and destroyed it. Count landed in the tunnel network due to battle damage while Trigger flew through the space elevator to escape.[32]

The game's final cutscene shows that the coalition force gathered at the space elevator to accept refugees from across the continent, ignoring their original country allegiances in the name of peace.[33]

DLC

Alicorn Firing Missiles

The Alicorn fights its way out of port

On September 4, 2019, during the Lighthouse War, the Osean Maritime Defense Force attempted to seize the Erusean submersible aviation cruiser Alicorn under the orders of Brigadier General Howard Clemens, in the hope of finding nuclear weapons on board. Strider Squadron, led by Trigger, and the other Osean forces overcame the Erusean defenses despite the interference of the mercenary Mimic Squadron. Erusea's senior officers ordered Captain Matias Torres to scuttle the Alicorn immediately, but Torres refused the order and went rogue. Leaving dock with its fanatical crew, the Alicorn sank several Osean ships and escaped.[34]

Clemens ordered Strider Squadron to attack Anchorhead to prevent the Alicorn from joining forces with the Erusean fleet there. Strider devastated the Erusean fleet and other defenses, and was withdrawing when Mimic Squadron appeared again for a rematch with Trigger. Ignoring Clemens' order to disengage, Mimic dueled Trigger and Count, but were ultimately defeated and killed.

The Oseans discovered that the supposed plan to link up with the Erusean fleet was disinformation transmitted to Clemens by Alicorn agent Edgar Saxon; the true intent was to have Strider destroy the Erusean defenses to allow the Alicorn to resupply at Anchorhead, loading two tactical nuclear shells. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Edwards accused Clemens of suspected treason and ordered his arrest.[35]

OIA analyst David North deduced that Torres planned to fire a tactical nuke at the Osean capital of Oured on September 19, 2019, the 15th anniversary of the end of the Usean Continental War. Osea intercepted the Alicorn in the shallow PX80443 region of the Spring Sea. LRSSG battled the Alicorn and SACS, eventually damaging the submarine sufficiently for Torres to announce a surrender. However, this proved to be a ruse to fire a long-range nuclear shot at Oured. Trigger deflected the shot with a last-moment hit on the railgun barrel. The LRSSG renewed its attack on the Alicorn, destroying it before it could fire its second shot, and returned home in triumph.[36]

Characters

  • Callsign Trigger (real name unknown) is the player character and the protagonist of the game. Clown signed him on to fill an empty spot in Mage Squadron, but Trigger shows true combat potential throughout the conflict.
  • Avril Mead is a mechanic imprisoned at the 444th Air Base. She earns the nickname "Scrap Queen" for her skill in restoring mothballed aircraft to full combat effectiveness. She later joins the force at Tyler Island and leads the refugees into fighting the radical Erusean forces and disabling the space elevator.
  • Mihaly A. Shilage is an Erusean Air Force ace pilot and the flight lead of Sol Squadron. His combat data is being used to develop drone technology and maneuvers. He was once the heir to the Grand Duchy of Shilage, but joined the Erusean military after Erusea annexed Shilage.
  • Dr. Schroeder is a Gründer Industries chief researcher working for the Erusean military and the EASA. He leads the drone development effort with Mihaly.
  • Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise is the Princess of Erusea during the war, which her father initiated. She was convinced that the International Space Elevator was Osea's way of interfering with Usea and especially Erusea.
  • Matias Torres is the captain of the Erusean super-sub Alicorn. He defects from Erusea to pursue his personal goal of ending the Lighthouse War by any means necessary - even if it means nuking Osea.
  • David North is an analyst for the Osean Intelligence Agency and has been keeping tabs on the Alicorn. He provides helpful intel to Trigger and the rest of Strider Squadron during their missions to stop the Alicorn.
  • Howard Clemens is a Brigadier General in the Osean military and is the commander of the operations to stop the Alicorn. He is an oppressive officer with no respect or concern for those under his command.
  • Otto van Dalsen, callsign Rage, is a mercenary belonging to a PMC hired by a mysterious figure to kill Trigger. He is the flight leader of Mimic Squadron and brother of his wingman, Scream.
  • Elke van Dalsen, callsign Scream, is the older sister of Otto and is a mercenary belonging to a PMC hired by a mysterious figure to kill Trigger. She flies as her brother's wingman as part of Mimic Squadron.

Gameplay

Core Mechanics

AC7 Typhoon Cockpit 6

Cockpit of a Typhoon during "First Contact"

The flight model in Ace Combat 7 feels similar to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.[37] The HUD is very reminiscent of Ace Combat Infinity. Flares return for player control from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.[38]

AC7 Retry Menu

The retry menu during "Long Day", allowing players to restart from a checkpoint

Checkpoints also return, allowing players to restart a mission from a particular checkpoint if they die in the middle of a mission.

Allies in need of an escort, like in previous entries, feature a large blue container around their box on the HUD. For the first time, if an ally is pinned down, the radar will ping their location and the pilot will call for help on the radio. If the player does not respond in enough time, the ally calling for help will be killed, in most of the cases, ending the mission in failure. This feature is also available in multiplayer when using certain radio messages.

Clouds play a major role in gameplay for the first time in the franchise. Units inside of clouds, including the player, gain stealth but lose visibility. The player may risk crashing into other aircraft and the terrain. The player's plane can also ice and stall if they stay in cloud cover for too long.[39] In addition to clouds, direct lightning strikes interfere with the player's flight control and fire-control system and distort the HUD.[8]

Helicopters and Piston Fighters do not make an appearance in Ace Combat 7. The game only focuses on playable fighter jets.[40]

Su-35 Post Stall Maneuver AC7

An Su-35S Flanker-E performing a Post Stall Maneuver to get behind its enemy

The player can also manually perform Post Stall Maneuvers. If successful, the player can get behind an enemy aircraft and turn a dogfight in their favor.[41] This mechanic replaces the automatic Close Range Assault counter-maneuvers from Assault Horizon. Like in previous games, certain enemies can also perform Post Stall Manuevers in combat, forcing players to adapt to their increased mobility.

Customization

AC7 Aircraft Tree

Aircraft Tree in Ace Combat 7

The Aircraft Tree from Ace Combat Infinity returns to Ace Combat 7. Players can purchase aircraft, special weapons, and tuning parts within the tree by spending MRP (Military Result Points), earned by completing campaign missions or multiplayer matches. Unlike Infinity, aircraft and weapons cannot be leveled up for higher performance.

AC7 Su-37 Parts Tuning

An Su-37 being tuned

Like in Ace Combat X, Joint Assault, Assault Horizon Legacy, and Infinity, aircraft can be tuned via the Hangar. Players can equip tuning parts to enhance aircraft and special weapons performance or adding special features to aircraft such as stealth, health regeneration, anti-icing, and more. Players can also change the aircraft skin and equip emblems on the aircraft's body, wings, and tails.

The Aircraft Set system from Infinity also returns in Ace Combat 7, but only for multiplayer. Players can create custom sets of an aircraft, skin, emblem, nickname, and tuning parts for repeated use in future matches.

Virtual Reality

AC7 FA-18F Taking Off Aircraft Carrier 3

Cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet prior to takeoff in PS VR

Ace Combat 7 features an optional[42] VR Mode exclusively through PlayStation VR on PS4.[43] VR Mode contains an exclusive set of three missions separate from the main campaign, as well as an airshow mode and hangar mode. Players cannot play these modes without PlayStation VR, but VR is not available for the main campaign or multiplayer. VR Mode sacrifices some visual detail to maintain the required 60 frames-per-second.[44]

When playing in VR Mode's missions, the player must use cockpit view; first-person and third-person views are not available.[37] The player can turn their head to look at an enemy to lock on to them, at which point they can fire missiles as usual.[45] Holding down the Options button will re-calibrate the headset.[46] The player can look down and see the entire cockpit, including the pilot's legs. The in-game pilot will interact with the plane's control sticks, despite the player's use of a DualShock 4 controller.[37]

Multiplayer

AC7 F-22A Battle Royal Clouds

Battle Royal gameplay featuring an F-22A over Fort Grays Island

Ace Combat 7 features two online multiplayer modes at launch, Battle Royal and Team Deathmatch. In Battle Royal, players engage in a free-for-all deathmatch where the first player reaches the score limit wins, or the player with the most points wins if the timer runs out. In Team Deathmatch, two teams must shoot each other down until the timer runs out or when one team reaches the score limit. Both modes support up to 8 players at once.[47]

Pre-Orders

Global Bonuses

AC7 North America Pre-Order Bonuses

The pre-order bonuses for all platforms

All Ace Combat 7 pre-orders and all digital copies purchased within one month of release,[48] regardless of the edition or platform, came with the F-4E Phantom II + 3 Skins DLC pack for free.[note 1]

All pre-orders for PlayStation 4 copies of Ace Combat 7 included a digital PS2 copy of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War for the PlayStation 4, which is not available by any other means.[5][note 1]

All pre-orders for Xbox One copies of Ace Combat 7 included a digital download of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. Ace Combat 6 was also added to Xbox One's backward compatibility program, allowing Xbox One users to play the game without the need for an Xbox 360.[note 1]

Retailer Extras

Players who pre-ordered Ace Combat 7 also received an exclusive extra specific to the retailer they pre-ordered from. Most of these extras were exclusive to Japanese retailers. However, PlayStation Store's digital PS4 theme and GameStop's OADF pin were available to American customers, and the luggage strap was available to most Taiwanese customers.

Editions

Various special editions were announced for the release of Ace Combat 7. All of these editions are listed below.

Players who purchase a digital copy of Ace Combat 7 on any platform, regardless of edition or pre-order status, will receive the F-104C -Avril- skin for the F-104C Starfighter as a digital incentive.

Comparison

Edition Standard Deluxe Aces at War Collector's Strangereal
Medium/Region Retail Digital Digital[b] NA/SA JP KR/TW EU/OCE SEA
Available Platforms
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Steam
Pre-Order Bonuses
Pre-order bonuses apply to all editions and platforms. See § Pre-Orders.
Digital Bonuses
F-104C -Avril- skin
Season Pass
8 Popular Squadron Emblems
Physical Bonuses
Collector's box
Aces At War: A History 2019
(language depends on region)
F-22A steelbook
Trigger emblem patch
Legacy emblem stickers[note 2]
Arsenal Bird 40 cm diecast figurine
Trigger 3 cm metal pin
OADF and Erusea patches

Deluxe Edition

Ace Combat 7 Deluxe Edition Contents

The contents of the Deluxe Edition

The Ace Combat 7 "Deluxe Edition" comes with the game's Season Pass, as well as eight additional in-game emblems: "Aquila", "Wardog", "Garuda", "Gryphus", and low-visibility variants of each. In almost all regions, this edition is only available digitally and cannot be purchased with physical copies.[49]

The United Kingdom retailer GAME allows players to purchase a physical Ace Combat 7 Deluxe Edition. GAME has exclusive rights to the physical version of this edition in the United Kingdom.[50][51]

Aces at War Bundle

Ace Combat 7 Aces At War Bundle

The contents of the Aces at War Bundle

North American and South American players have the option to purchase a special edition dubbed the "Aces at War Bundle" exclusively through Bandai Namco's online store. Players can purchase an Aces At War Bundle for PS4 or Xbox One; there is no Steam version of this edition. The Aces at War Bundle comes with the following physical goods:[52]

  • A copy of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown on PS4 or Xbox One
  • An English[53] copy of Aces At War: A History 2019
  • A steelbook case for the game disc featuring an F-22A Raptor

By December 19, 2018, the Aces at War Bundle had sold out of consumer copies on both platforms, forcing customers to join a wait list for the special edition.[54][55]

Collector's Edition

  • The contents of the Collector's Edition
  • The Japanese Collector's Edition
  • The Korean Collector's Edition
  • The Taiwanese Collector's Edition

Japanese,[49] South Korean,[56] and Taiwanese players have the option to purchase a special PS4 Collector's Edition. There is no Xbox One or Steam version of this edition. The Collector's Edition comes with the following physical goods:[57]

  • A copy of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown on PS4
  • A copy of Aces At War: A History 2019 (in Japanese, Korean, or Traditional Chinese, depending on the region)[49][56][57]
  • A copy of the game's Season Pass (only for South Korea and Taiwan, not for Japan)
  • A steelbook case for the game disc featuring an F-22A Raptor
  • A specially-designed collector's box featuring the International Space Elevator
  • An embroidered Trigger emblem patch
  • Six emblem stickers (Galm, Aquila, Garuda, Razgriz, Mobius, and Sol)

Strangereal Edition

  • The contents of the European and Oceanic Strangereal Edition
  • The contents of the Southeast Asian Strangereal Edition

European, Oceanic, and Southeast Asian players have the option to purchase a special collector's edition dubbed the "Strangereal Edition". Players in Europe and Oceania can purchase a Strangereal Edition for any platform (game disc for PS4 and Xbox One, digital code for Steam);[58] players in Southeast Asia can only purchase it for PS4.[59]

In late December 2018, the Strangereal Edition was apparently updated to include the eight emblems from the Deluxe Edition as well as the F-104C -Avril- aircraft skin.[60]

The Strangereal Edition comes with the following physical goods:

  • A copy of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
  • An English[53] copy of Aces At War: A History 2019
  • A copy of the game's Season Pass and the eight emblems from the Deluxe Edition[60]
  • An individually-numbered collector's box featuring the game box art
  • A 40 cm:500g diecast model of the Arsenal Bird
  • A 3 cm Trigger emblem pin
  • Two embroidered patches of the Osean Air Defense Force and Erusea

Development

Pre-Announcement

Ace Combat 20th Anniversary Wallpaper

The original 20th anniversary wallpaper; the tagline was used to tease Ace Combat 7

After Ace Combat: Assault Horizon released in late 2011, Project Aces used the game's engine to test new cloud technology.[61][62] However, over the next couple of years, the team's limited resources forced development to shift to Ace Combat Infinity.[62] Ace Combat series producer Kazutoki Kono stated in 2014 that a "next-generation" Ace Combat game—and the future of the franchise—would depend on Infinity.[63][64] Kono reiterated a year later that Project Aces was a small team busy with maintaining Infinity, but also stated that Infinity's overwhelming success helped push them to the "next step".[65][66]

When Ace Combat 7 got the green light, the Ace Combat proprietary engine had entered a "state of limbo".[67] Around this time, Bandai Namco's Tekken team used Unreal Engine 4 to develop and release Tekken 7, which saved development time and made porting easier.[68] Project Aces decided to follow suit and develop Ace Combat 7 in Unreal Engine 4 as well.[67] The team also licensed trueSKY for the cloud mechanics[61] and SpeedTree for rendering vegetation.[69]

Project Aces did not consider virtual reality in the initial development stages. When Kono offered the possibility, the team jumped at the chance to include it.[62] Bandai Namco's prior work on Mach Storm and Star Wars: Battle Pod provided assistance for the VR development.[70] The team also started modeling the aircraft from scratch in higher detail to make the best use of modern hardware.[62]

In June 2015, Project Aces revealed a 20th anniversary wallpaper featuring the tagline "ACES even challenge the true sky".[71] Kono revealed two years later that "ACES even" was hiding the phrase "ACE Seven", referencing the future title.[72]

PSX 2015

Ace Combat 7 Thumbnail

The announcement trailer's thumbnail/end screen

Ace Combat 7 entered full development by November 2015. Bandai Namco scheduled a trailer to debut during PlayStation Experience 2015. Project Aces added data to Infinity in advance for a celebratory event after the trailer aired. Japanese players discovered this data by November 19 and leaked its existence online.[73] On December 5, the trailer aired at the tail end of PlayStation Experience's VR segment. They only announced the game for PS4, and confirmed it would support PlayStation VR. By this point, Ace Combat 7 was 20% complete, and details began to emerge on the importance of clouds. The game's subtitle, or even if there would be one, was not confirmed.[74][75]

The following year remained quiet on announcements. Project Aces continued developing Ace Combat 7 and supporting Ace Combat Infinity. In March 2016, Bandai Namco's Brasil[76] and Latinoamérica[77] Facebook pages announced that Ace Combat 7 would release that year. No English or Japanese source confirmed this. Later that month, Kono tweeted that the script for Ace Combat 7 was almost complete. Yet, the team had not decided on the player's squadron and name (later "Mage Squadron" and "Trigger"). He joked that they would be "Player" and "Player 1".[78]

Despite no such announcement, some players expected Ace Combat 7 to appear at E3 in June 2016. They expressed disappointment online when it didn't appear. Kono apologized on Twitter and said many things prevented the game from appearing at E3.[79] He echoed this apology following the game's absence at Tokyo Game Show in September 2016.[80] He later revealed that the VR demo had framerate problems, preventing it from showing at Tokyo Game Show.[81]

Keiki Kobayashi tweeted a photo of the third campaign mission's sheet music in November 2016.[82] Later that month, Gematsu reported that Bandai Namco trademarked five new titles.[83] One of them was "Skies Unknown", which later turned out to be the subtitle for Ace Combat 7. The company held the official announcement for two months.

PSX 2016

On November 23, 2016, PlayStation announced that Ace Combat 7 would be playable at PSX next month.[84] Kono thought the appearance was a secret and expressed surprise at the announcement.[85] Project Aces confirmed the demo would be on PS VR and tweeted a cropped photo of the F/A-18F's cockpit in VR.[86] On December 3, the game's first story trailer aired near the start of the PSX presentation. The official YouTube uploads of the trailer confirmed the game would release in 2017.[87] A leak from Gematsu confirmed the game's full title would be Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.[88] Masahide Kito, the radio script writer for Ace Combat 04, announced he will return for Ace Combat 7.[89]

GamingBolt asked Kono if Ace Combat 7 could see an Xbox One release. Kono said "the doors [are not closed] for a multi platform release" but their focus was on PlayStation first.[90] Gematsu reported on January 3, 2017 that Taiwan's games rating board gave Ace Combat 7 an Xbox One rating. The rating board removed it from the website two days later.[91] At that month's Taipei Game Show, Kono announced a Traditional Chinese localization.[92]

Bandai Namco revealed an extended version of the PSX trailer on January 26. This coincided with an announcement of the game's full title, as well as Xbox One and Steam ports. The press release also mentioned 2-player local multiplayer, which was later disproven,[93] and it reiterated that VR would remain exclusive to PlayStation.[43] On May 20 Bandai Namco Entertainment Korea announced Korean localisation for a number of games, including Ace Combat 7.[94]

June–October 2017

Project Aces had an internal goal to have a non-VR demo build ready early for the next E3 in June 2017. The E3 build took longer to complete than the team first thought it would. In May, Kono delayed the game's release from 2017 to 2018. When asked by Famitsu, he denied that VR caused the delay, stating that VR was only one of Ace Combat 7's many gameplay elements.[95]

Bandai Namco released an E3 story trailer for the game a few days before the event. By the time E3 began, footage of the campaign mission demo began to emerge. DigitalFoundry discovered the game's demo was not running at 60 frames-per-second. Kono mentioned the possibility of better framerates on the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. He also confirmed the player could customize their plane's emblem and skin after completing the story.[96]

Two months later, at Gamescom 2017, Bandai Namco released another new story trailer. The trailer mostly used dialogue and visuals from the E3 trailer, but included a few new lines and scenes.[97] The E3 campaign mission demo was available with some framerate improvements.[98] The company also showed off another campaign mission with commentary from Kono.[99] In an interview with DualShockers, Kono said they couldn't port the game to the Nintendo Switch due to performance concerns.[100]

The team released another gameplay trailer for Tokyo Game Show 2017 presenting Post Stall Maneuvers.[41] The final trailer released in this news cycle was a new VR trailer for Paris Games Week. This trailer revealed the VR side campaign would follow Mobius Squadron and allow the players to view their aircraft up-close.[101]

E3 2018

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Gamescom 2018

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Reception

Sales

Ace Combat 7 had a strong sales performance upon release. In Japan, the game sold over 200,000 physical console copies in the first week of release, surpassing Ace Combat: Assault Horizon which sold 170,000 physical console copies in its first week.[102] About 1% (~2,000) of the Ace Combat 7 copies were on Xbox One, placing the Xbox One version of the game on Japan's best-selling charts, a very rare event for Xbox One games in Japan.[102] Famitsu estimates that 220,195 copies of the physical PS4 version were sold in Japan throughout 2019.[103] 80,096 digital copies of the PS4 version were sold in Japan by February 27,[104] totaling around 300,000 PS4 copies sold in Japan in 2019, excluding digital sales from March through December.

On February 25, Bandai Namco Entertainment Southeast Asia announced that Ace Combat 7 sold a combined 500,000 units solely in its publishing region of Southeast Asia. The split between formats and platforms was not revealed.[105]

In the United Kingdom, the physical console versions of Ace Combat 7 set a new record for an Ace Combat debut in the UK and earned second-place in that week's sales. 76% of these sales were on the PlayStation 4.[106] The game received similar performance in Australia and New Zealand.[107] On January 28, Europe's Game Sales Data charts were updated to prioritize value over units sold. Ace Combat 7 reached the first-place spot in the newly-updated charts across all of Europe.[108]

The digital PC version of Ace Combat 7 made enough revenue in the first few days of release to reach 5th place in Steam's top selling games (based on recent revenue).[109] The Deluxe Edition was just below, at 6th place.[110] As of December 2019, SteamSpy estimates that at least 200,000 worldwide Steam users own the PC version of the game.[111]

Critical reception

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown received generally positive reception from critic reviews. Metacritic's aggregate scores, as of December 2019, are 80/100 on the PlayStation 4,[112] 79/100 on the Xbox One,[113] and 78/100 on Steam.[114]

OpenCritic holds an aggregate score of 81/100 for all three platforms. The site summarizes Ace Combat 7 as having refined gameplay and smooth controls but hampered by a complicated narrative, though it explains that it's "just another reason why this is a return to form."[115] Jason Rodriguez for PC Invasion rated the PC version 4.5/5, praising the core gameplay and presentation while finding the story "tacked on, with unnecessary twists and uninspiring characters." Rodriguez also found the missions to be linear and repetitive,[116] a view that Ollie Barder for Forbes disagreed with, finding "a lot of variety" across the game's 20 missions. Barder rated the PS4 version 9/10[117] and 4th-best game of 2019,[118] but mentioned he "found the Japanese audio coupled with English subtitles a more compelling way to appreciate the story".[117] A French Naval Aviation consultant, Pierre-Henri "Ate" Chuet, was impressed with the game's portrayal of detailed briefings and the accuracy of the Rafale M, his former aircraft.[119] TheGamer's Sean Murray praised Ace Combat 7 for focusing on a robust single-player experience and avoiding the pitfalls of microtransactions and live services.[120]

Mike Epstein for IGN rated the PS4 and Xbox One versions 7/10, criticizing the game for lacking tutorials (in fact, tutorials are presented during the first two missions), not updating the controls, and not explaining mission objectives.[121] Kazutoki Kono expressed disappointment at IGN for not using the "expert" control scheme,[122] commenters ridiculed Epstein's review for poorly representing the game,[121] and Chuet instead found the objectives well-explained in the briefings and dialogue.[119] Blaine Smith for GamersHeroes[123] and Ben Wilson for Gameplanet Australia both rated the PS4 version 6/10, viewing the classic gameplay as more of a detriment than other reviewers did.[124]

Awards

AC7 PlayStation Awards 2019

The Gold Prize and PlayStation VR awards presented to Ace Combat 7

Prior to release, Ace Combat 7 received various awards from gaming media and fans, particularly for the virtual reality implementation. DualShockers awarded Ace Combat 7 with "Best AR/VR Game" at Gamescom 2017[125] and Tokyo Game Show 2018,[126] as well as "Readers' Choice Game of the Show" at Gamescom 2018.[127] The Japanese Computer Entertainment Software Association also awarded Ace Combat 7 the Japan Game Awards 2018 "Future Division" award alongside 10 other games, as voted on by attendees of Tokyo Game Show.[128][129]

The 2019 CEDEC Awards presented Ace Combat 7 with the Sound category award, praising the game's immersive sound effects and dynamic background music depending on the player's actions in gameplay.[130] Gameranx singled out "Daredevil" as one of the best original gaming tracks in 2019[131] and Metro GameCentral awarded the game's soundtrack their Best Music of 2019 award.[132] The National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers nominated the VR Mode for best Control Design in VR and best Sound Mixing in VR.[133] The PlayStation Awards 2019 presented Ace Combat 7 with a VR Award for contributing to the growth of PlayStation VR, as well as the Gold Prize for selling over 500,000 copies in the Japan and Asia regions combined.[134][135] GameTyrant awarded Ace Combat 7 with their Game of the Year award for 2019.[136] The 2019 NAVGTR Awards awarded Ace Combat 7 for best Sound Mixing in Virtual Reality, and nominated the game for best Control Design in VR.[137]

The North American PlayStation Blog, as voted by fans, awarded Ace Combat 7 the Gold Trophy in the Best PS VR Experience category and an honorable mention in the Best Soundtrack category.[138] In September 2019, the Reddit community r/PS4 rated Ace Combat 7 as the 43rd best PlayStation 4 game of all time.[139] Closer to the end of the year, Eurogamer readers rated Ace Combat 7 as the 32nd best game of 2019,[140] GamingBolt rated it as the 25th best game of 2019,[141] and GameRevolution rated it as the 19th best game of 2019.[142] 132 of the top Japanese developers and industry celebrities voted Ace Combat 7 as the 12th-best game of 2019 with specific mentions of the game made by producers Shinjiro Katsuda (Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2), Yozo Sakagami (THE iDOLM@STER), and Takanobu Terada (Super Robot Wars).[143].

HOTAS support

Upon the Steam release of Ace Combat 7, a large number of users posted negative reviews due to the game's apparent lack of HOTAS support. This "review bombing" led to the game initially showing "Mostly Negative" reception on the Steam store.[144] Thrustmaster[145] and Project Aces asked T.Flight Hotas users to update their drivers.[146] Thrustmaster later announced that Ace Combat 7 only supports their T.Flight Hotas 4 and T.Flight Hotas One sticks;[147] Bandai Namco clarified that HORI's HOTAS sticks for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are also compatible, but no others.[148] Charlie Hall for Polygon criticized the review bombing, stating HOTAS support is unnecessary for Ace Combat 7's arcade-style gameplay.[149] The game's Steam reception recovered from the review bombing and shows "Very Positive" as of December 2019.[150]

Galleries

Box Art

Trailers

Screenshots

Also see Category:Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for all Ace Combat 7 screenshots uploaded to Acepedia!

Trivia

  • Ace Combat 7 is the first...
    • ...Ace Combat game since Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation to feature a number in the title;
    • ...console Ace Combat game since Ace Combat 6 to take place in the Strangereal universe;[151]
    • ...Ace Combat game to release on 8th-generation home consoles;
    • ...Ace Combat game to use a third-party engine, namely Unreal Engine 4;[152]
    • ...Strangereal-based Ace Combat game on PC;
    • ...Ace Combat game since Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War to have screenplay written by Sunao Katabuchi;[153]
    • ...Ace Combat game to be localized in Traditional Chinese;[92]
    • ...Ace Combat game to be localised in Brazilian Portuguese;
    • ...Ace Combat game to be localised in Korean since Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception;[94] and the first
    • ...Ace Combat game to be playable in virtual reality.
  • The game's final release date in Europe and North America, January 18, 2019, may be a reference to Mobius Squadron's official designation, 118th Tactical Fighter Wing.
  • Before the game's first trailer aired, Asad Qizilbash (head of Software Marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America) described "staying up all night to unlock this Easter egg, it was a FALKEN fighter", referencing Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
  • Katsuhiro Harada (producer for Tekken) said in 2014 that Ace Combat would never get VR support because of how the horizon shakes in aerial flight games, which could make players feel sick.[154]

Footnotes

  1. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (エースコンバット7 スカイズ・アンノウン Ēsu Konbatto Sebun: Sukaizu An'nōn)
  2. The Deluxe Edition is also available physically through specific retailers. See § Deluxe Edition for more details.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Retail copies only received their respective bonuses in this section if they were pre-ordered or were otherwise purchased as a launch edition. Digital copies received their respective bonuses if they were purchased before the following dates:

    PS4/Xbox One: February 18, 2019
    Steam: March 4, 2019
  2. The emblems available as stickers in the Collector's Edition are Galm, Aquila, Garuda, Razgriz, Mobius, and Sol.

References

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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 BANDAI NAMCO Europe [@BandaiNamcoEU] (21 August 2018). "ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN launches January 18th 2019 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and on February 1st on PC via Steam!". Twitter.
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