I’ll be upfront: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a beautifully-rendered game coupled with brilliant flight and gameplay mechanics but bogged down with shoddy level design. Think of a superbly performing sportscar but with questionable quality of life decisions.

Yes, I love that turbo and the number of horses under the hood but if only the designers put a bit more thought on that cup holder….

While the game doesn’t leave you with buyers’ remorse, it does make you wonder if this game would have achieved greater heights if the makers put just a little extra effort in several places.

In AC7, players get to live their Top Gun fantasies with state-of-the-art, real-life jet fighters as they run recon ops, bombing runs and the most fun of it all, dog-fighting a few thousand feet up in the air. It’s exhilarating, fun and even for non-Ace Combat fans, covers the price of admission. However, we cannot help but feel disappointed for several portions of the game which causes it to fall just a step below greatness.

Now we don’t want you to misinterpret this as us hating on the game. It’s quite the contrary, really. In our official review of the game, our designated reviewer Alleef used the term ‘Jet Porn’ to describe Ace Combat 7 – a term which I agree a hundred percent.

Let’s start with my favourite bits of the game.

The Good

Flight control mechanics

Regardless of which control scheme you choose to fly your aircraft, Ace Combat 7 makes you feel like the most badass pilot in the skies. Be it the simplistic normal control or the tricky yet satisfying expert configuration, both equally give you that sense of invulnerability as you take on the skies, preying on other inferior pilots and drones around you. Just make sure to stay alert of any missile warning.

Perfectly straddling between being intuitive yet not overtly simplistic, the controls allow newcomers to easily acquaint themselves in the game, while for returning veterans, enough challenge when attempting those death-defying maneuvers.

Graphics

Did we mention that it’s a pretty game?

We can’t emphasize enough that these gameplay clips don’t do the game justice. It’s one of those games where it gets prettier when you’re actually the one controlling it.

Realism

We ain’t fighter pilots but the game sure makes us feel like one. Shooting down enemies while aided by the target tracking system, doesn’t guarantee a hit as you will still have to not only close down on your target, but also angle your craft to allow an optimum trajectory of your missiles.

Players will have to take into consideration their missile flight path as well as the speed they are at to increase their chances of hitting their targets. The same goes to dodging enemies which leads to an endless yet satisfying cat-and-mouse game of trying to outwit opponents.

Lots of different planes

You don’t need to be a military nut to appreciate the fighter planes featured in Ace Combat 7. In fact, the game may convert you into one thanks to its detailed depiction of these modern fighter planes.

My favourite fighter plane growing up has always been the F-14D Super Tomcat thanks to its variable-geometry wings and it didn’t take me long before plonking all the MRP I accumulated early in the game for this bad boy. As you progress further into the game and gain more MRPs, you’ll be able to purchase more modern fighters such as the F-35 Lightning II or the F-22 Raptor.

Ace Combat 7 2

But what if you’re more of a fan of Russian-made crafts? Then you’d want to look into the other aircraft tree featuring MiGs and Sukhois – from the classic MiG-21 to the state of the art SU-57.

Bad:

Team A.I & Team Chat

I do enjoy the occasional banter and chatter in the comms in my games but I’ve never come across anything as annoying and nonsensical like the one found in Ace Combat 7. Throughout the 20 story missions, you will come across a number of friendly pilots in your squadron who speak more than they fight.

Time and time again you hear them commenting on your feats in the battlefield – which isn’t hard to achieve considering you’re THE ONLY ONE doing actual work. In another scenario, a team member continuously chided me for being a ‘murderer’ smack dab in the middle of a mission which required us to shoot down enemy bomber planes.

I know they wanted to make the comms chatter sound as organic as possible but it seemed like they hired the same team who worked on Rainbow Six: Siege‘s E3 presentation. It felt forced, was bland and worst of all, annoying.

Thankfully though, the enemy A.I are a joy to play against as they constantly pull a fast one over you – even on lower difficulty settings.

Story

You know those pointless, idealistic drivel so commonly associated with Hideo Kojima games? I’m looking at you, Metal Gear Solid V.

The sort that speaks about philosophies of war, humanity and having characters doing the exact opposite of what they just preached a few cut-scenes earlier? They come in spades here.

To sum it up, there’s a superweapon that’s gonna change the course of civilization forever. The story told in Ace Combat 7 is essentially another Metal Gear script reinterpreted in the presence of fighter jets.

Long story short: it’s boring. No one cares. Just tell me what you want to be blown up!

The Ugly

Level Design

Let me point out that there are several really good set-pieces and missions in the game where you will find yourself returning to several times over in the Free Play mode. Sadly though, the good does come with equally bad set pieces and missions which may induce rage-quitting.

My frustration is directed at several missions that seem totally out of place in an otherwise stellar game. People pick up Ace Combat games to shoot down planes in dog-fights. Not hunt tanker trucks in sandstorms!

People pick up Ace Combat looking forward to lock-on to enemy planes while at three thousand feet up in the air – not lock into missile silos for other bombers to target.

I prefer shooting down MiGs, Sukhois and Gripens – not chase down an ICBM which isn’t firing back. And bloody hell, they just had to include an escort mission.

Remember that cup holder analogy I mentioned earlier? These are the four cup holders which are badly-placed and can only accommodate small cups.


In all, Ace Combat 7 is a good game short of greatness due to several areas which weren’t given equal thought during development. I had a great time playing the game but we have to say that the meat is definitely the multiplayer mode which can be delved into at any time.

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