My Ace Combat 7 demo proved to be quite a rude awakening. I mean, I’ve played most of the games in the series, have maxed out my plane collection in both Ace Combat 4 and Ace Combat 5, and I even wrapped up my demo of Ace Combat Infinity with a full ten minutes remaining after blasting my enemies out of the skies.

Yeah, after an hour of waiting in line and watcing people play to various levels of success, I crashed in just five minutes. Ace Combat totally caught me off guard.

Of course, I was worried about my suitcase being potentially stolen, stiff after standing in line for an hour to play the game, recovering from a cold the day before and a stiff neck from awful Japanese pillows, and a handful of other excuses, but I flat out got toasted by the enemy planes in this demo.

Whatever the case, Bandai Namco and its team at Project Aces have used the powers of the modern day consoles for more than just a graphical boost. They seem to have put some genuine thought into the AI of these games, so that these dummy enemy pilots also know what they are doing. I couldn’t get a line on a single one of them, and marveled how well they dodged in and out clouds, used the nature to cover their tracks, and even baited me into smacking right into the ground.

And then boom, a missile hit me in the back, and I got toasted. I thought this was easy mode! I didn’t even get to see the giant football sized airplane that the other people playing the demo were battling against. Totally caught me off guard. I need to get my skills back in shape.

Keep in mind, I’m not complaining or blaming the game in the least. As is the tradition with the series, it is stunning to look at and is a genuine return to form for a series that lost its way for about a decade or so. The brilliant sky, the nature effects, the landscapes, the explosions, and of course, the planes themselves, Project Aces uses the Unreal Engine to stunning results and created what could be one of the most beautiful games for the PlayStation 4 to date.

And as fans know, the Ace Combat series is about more than being the best franchise on Earth at creating dogfights that just barely push the boundaries of being physically possible. The best games in the series tell wonderful stories penned by professional writers. The global conflict at hand is an important shell to set the story in, but the true drama resides in the pilots and anti-war themes that are scribed in between each mission. I only got a taste of the conflict at hand, and didn’t get to see any of the drama.

That’s what I want more of! I guess I’ll have to learn how to survive when the main game comes out next year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. And no, I did not give VR a chance. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the convention a sick mess.