Hollywood needs a new iconic jet movie, because I am running out of Top Gun quotes for these Ace Combat Infinity articles. In this world of nuclear weapons and terrorists, planes are just not that hip for the youngsters anymore I suppose. With the way Project Aces and Bandai Namco handles them, you’d think we were still in the 1980s.
We’ll keep this relatively short, because it is just the beta test after all. Ace Combat Infinity is everything you can hope for from a free-to-play game. Project Aces sacrificed nothing to bring its expertise in aerial combat to a new payment model. Great graphics recreate the same majestic feel of the older games, and the music is no slouch either.
This is how you sell free-to-play to console gamers. No corners cut. This is Ace Combat, just as you would have paid $60 for it.
Well, the plot is 50 percent Ace Combat, anyway. On one hand, it summons the old-school days of the series focusing on a war fought in a ruined world. A meteor storm has rocked the Earth, and the only reason why mankind still exists in a functional fashion is because of a series of massive “Stonehenge” rail guns which blow meteors out of the sky.
Alliances have been drawn between survivors and huge refugee camps have morphed into the new nations of the world, but the weapon manufacturers work behind puppet governments as true local leaders. Planes have once again become the conventional weapon for fighting wars because the data for creating them survived the meteor shower.
So far, it sounds like an Ace Combat storyline, but it starts to stray with its setting. This is not “Strangreal,” another world similar to ours used in previous games. The U.N. and real-world places like Russia and Cuba have replaced all of the fictional places and organizations which have a long canonical history in the first six games.
Newcomers might not mind, but long time vets might be turned off. Ace Combat Infinity also abandons the emotional anchor and anti-war sentiment perfected in Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat 5, and it instead obviously turns to Call of Duty and Battlefield for inspiration, telling a story through exposition over a cheaply drawn map.
The beta test only has two campaign missions available, so it’s not possible to get a feel how the whole story plays out. Your pilot, Reaper, is a rookie working for a mercenary group hired by the U.N. You take care of missions all over the world. Pretty barebones really, and a little disappointing so far.
As a free to play game, the heart of this package lies in the multiplayer. Matches take the form of a co-op/competitive nature in which two teams work together to take out enemy bases, planes and other vehicles. There are no PvP dogfights available in the beta, nor do I think the final game will have them either.
Missions run for exactly six minutes, and you and your squad will be taking down cheap enemy pilots for much of the time. Once a mission, at about the three minute market, bonus targets will appear, and these are worth extra points. Both teams get a bonus if they are totally destroyed, and then the final two minutes will continue as normal while the two teams try to outperform each other.
While the beta only has the two afore mentioned missions available, it occasionally has an “Emergency sortie” to switch up the monotony and all eight pilots will work together to take down a super plane. No doubt these are all missions from the campaign, but the bonus targets are randomly generated.
Combat feels great, and it definitely slides more towards the arcade style of flying as opposed to the realistic flight simulators out there. Hundreds of missiles are equipped on the planes, and your pilot will be pulling off techniques that would make him an absolute ace in the real world.
Progress is made by researching new planes, armor and weapons. Each battle grants experience points, and the plane and equipment which accompany you will make a little progress. Use them enough, and they will be come stronger. Easy enough.
Free-to-play doesn’t rear its ugly head until “fuel” is introduced. Ace Combat Infinity pilots must provide their own fuel to take into battle because they are mercenaries after all. Fuel comes in two forms: “supplied” and “stocked.” Supplied fuel is fuel which regenerates over time. Every four hours, you are granted a unit of fuel which allows you to play an online match, freeing you from the burden of being forced to play.
The beta has a maximum of two units, which means two matches can be played, but my guess is that will increase as your pilot gains rank.
“Stocked” fuel is the fuel you will purchase to play. With stocked fuel, you will not longer have to worry about hitting a pay-wall, and the fuel even grants experience point bonuses that supplied fuel does not. The beta test provides stocked fuel for free, but don’t expect the final game to do so. Bandai Namco needs to make its money after all.
Ace Combat Infinity is a lot of fun so far, and I will certainly want to check out the entire campaign once the full game is released. The multiplayer missions can get a little repetitive, but if you only intend to use “supplied” fuel like I do, then maybe a quick match here and there through your weekly routine will be enough.
The beta test is live and free on the PlayStation 3’s Store. Be sure to check it out while this classic franchise finds its legs once again.