Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is out now, and the Ace Combat series on the PS2 is easily one of the most engaging pieces of entertainment, even if you’re not particularly into aircraft of any description.
This latest game carries that reputation onto the Sony PSP with a storyline that pitches the Federal Republic of Auerila up against its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Leasath. You’re the leader of the Gryphus Squadron for the former and aren’t particularly interested in the politics involved, since there is a story but it does goo on and you just want to get back into the action, so strap yourself in, feel the “G”s and kick ass in a fantastic dogfight.
Disappointment is nowhere to be found from the off, even in the very atmospheric menus which are like a radar screen with the shadow line going up, and although the mission briefings go on for ages, you can easily work out what to do from the basics, so you can skip these and move on.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and a great meal in which to indulge is to zoom up to the enemy, target them and fire a rocket, which takes a little while getting used to but it’s good stuff afterwards. Holding down O (missile) allows you to track your missile to the target as it travels and then hits it. Damn, that’s cool! In fact, this is also very handy as you’ll be able to see why a missile misses, if that happens, such as if the enemy quickly dives out of the way.
Top tip here: if it’s your first attempt on a plane, fire two missiles within a moment of each other while you’ve still got it in your sights, then watch them – both together – close in on the plane. It’ll take 2 or 3 hits to wipe them out, so you may as well get your first chance in while you can. However, be careful not to fire too many as you’ll run out of missiles!
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is a very difficult game at times and there’s a need to use napalm in level 2 and one involving the Gleipnir stealth fighter causes many headaches because there’s time pressure in that one, but before that’s up all the ships you’re meant to be protecting will have been wiped out by this dastardly fiend.
Air-to-ground missions are one of the most challenging because you’re often very close to the ground and going bang! You also need to be careful while pitching and rolling here, there and everywhere so you don’t inadvertently crash into the sea or ground. It’s easily done. In addition to this, it can sometimes be a bit confusing working out which way up you are mid-dogfight, as you might lock-on to an enemy, destroy him and then realise you’re too close to the ground/sea to pull up and… bang!
Other random observations about this game include the fact that there are many different aircraft in which you can fly, such as the Su-27 Flanker, EF-2000 Typhoon, F-5E Tiger II, F-1 Kai/Kaizen, F-2A Banshee, F-14D Super Tomcat and MiG-31 and new ones can be purchased as you go through the missions. Plus, once you’ve done a few of these, you’ll get a chance to select several different ones instead of being only given the one option, so it’s not quite as linear as it originally feels.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to repeat a level several times because you’re bobbins at it, the same old opening and continuing comments from your colleagues can get very repetitive. That said, the time when it is worth seeing something again comes down to the replays, which are available for the last few minutes before you crash, or of the whole mission if you succeed, and there’s also the ability to save these replays.
Another top tip is to not play the game while you’ve got a cold. Your streaming eyes won’t be able to see a great deal as you twist and turn…
The graphics are top-notch and it’s largely a faultless performance all-round, particularly with the brilliant stereo sound positioning.
And, just to through in a trite conclusion for the sake of it – your missiles might occasionally miss, but for Sony, this PSP outing is a resounding hit!
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is out now on PSP.
- Developer: Namco
- Publisher: Sony
- Players: Single player, multiplayer (1-4) between PSPs
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.