Rob Dillman On December 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Ace Combat Assault HorizonAmong many things, Mark Twain is famous for coining the term “The Gilded Age” to describe a time of excess and shameless display that didn’t actually extend beyond the superficial. When industry boomed in the United States after the Civil War, wealth skyrocketed. Though the country seemed rich and full of life, it didn’t take a lot of careful examination to determine the lack of depth once past the surface.

Likewise, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the exact reason why demos and first levels can’t be trusted. The opening level of the game features a thrilling chase between skyscrapers in a crowded urban skyline. Poignant music plays as jets weave in between one another and missiles flare past the player’s field of vision. Explosions rock the city as America is under siege by Russian forces.

While other parts of the game certainly feel as scripted, the rest doesn’t measure up to this production quality. Not to worry, though: The opening mission ends up being a dream and is repeated with a couple minor changes later on. In fact, I was thinking of replaying the first mission midway through my playthrough because of how different the rest of the game felt. Luckily, the game took care of that for me.

Assault Horizon is one of the biggest mixed bags of any game I’ve ever played. All of the peripheral aspects of the game are quite good. The soundtrack is excellent, the voice acting is good, and the base dogfighting gameplay is solid. Your mileage will certainly vary, but I found it to be very repetitive. I enjoy my dogfighting, but I spent most of my time chasing an arrow to lock on with the same weapons, differentiated by little else other than how many missiles they shot off at once. With the limited AI and practically non-existent variety of enemies, this wore thin to me very quickly on the dogfighting missions.

However, fans of Ace Combat and arcade flight sims may be able to accept this depending on how much they can tolerate the other changes. Unlike the Ace Combat games in the series proper, this game takes place in the year 2015 in our world instead of the fictional land of Strangereal. Instead, this game’s plot features Russians with old grudges invading the US in hopes of using an experimental nuclear weapon. The new mission modes include helicopter flying, Black Hawk helicopter gunning, and AC-130 gunning.

If the plot and new modes sound familiar, it’s probably because they have a few things in common with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I have never seen a game borrow so many elements from a game in a completely different genre. The AC-130 level is identical to the AC-130 levels in Modern Warfare 2. I’m not saying that it’s similar. It looks, controls, and plays almost exactly the same. The plot with Russians on US soil alleviates none of these concerns, and, as silly as it sounds, even the names of the antagonists are similar (Makarov vs. Markov) and the situations equally as absurd. Without revealing too much, there’s a particularly egregious moment late in the game that requires the player to shoot at the canopy of an upside-down fighter jet on the player’s own side… to save the pilot’s life.

Thankfully, the game tones the copycatting down in the second half and mostly sticks to dogfighting (after a particularly shameless mission involving a battleship fleet and missile killcam every time one is destroyed). Ace Combat doesn’t change much here with the exception of its lone new feature, called DFM, which stands for “Dogfight Mode.” Though one may question whether the rest of the game is not “Dogfight Mode,” this mode attempts to take some of the pain out of aiming at small, elusive targets frequently present in flight sims by allowing players to go into a sort of auto-flight mode while close enough to their target. It doesn’t add much to the single-player with how simple the AI is, but it does shine a bit more in multiplayer, where a player might actually be countered out of DFM. It provides for easier kills once a player has the drop on their target.

As much as I’ve criticized the single-player, I can find very few flaws with the multiplayer other than the lack of players worldwide. Co-op missions, deathmatch, and even a new mode called “Capital City Battle,” where players attempt to take over the other team’s base, are all available for selection. Multiplayer doesn’t appear to suffer from serious lag issues as far as I could tell. With enough people, Assault Horizon offers a worthwhile multiplayer experience in a genre with very few other entries.

Graphically, the game doesn’t stand out. Ships conveniently break in half as though perforated in advance without much detail or structural damage. At the right angle, the jet killcam explosions look dramatic and pretty, though the limited camera angles at which this can occur are exhausted fairly quickly. I didn’t notice any slowdown or other graphical limitations. It won’t disappoint, but I doubt it will impress.

Assault Horizon brings a lot of new offerings to the Ace Combat series. Short of being the first game to ask the player to press Y to fist-pump, very little of this wasn’t taken from the Call of Duty franchise. The plot remarkably comes off as thinner than even the Modern Warfare series yet somehow attempts to create moments with emotional payoff. The problem is that it has neither developed nor earned these moments by creating any sort of attachment, backstory, or depth to its characters, so they ring hollow despite the production qualities present in the scripted parts of the game. Fans of dogfighting or the Ace Combat series as a whole may find enough to enjoy here, though, especially if they’re aching for some multiplayer dogfighting action.


Without multiplayer, this would be a 5 or 6. It really adds that much to this game.


They get the job done and occasionally look nice with a killcam shot. The lack of detail is noticeable.


The soundtrack and voice acting are stellar. That’s the one portion of this game that has no issues at all.


The game is not without issues, but it’s a solid arcade flight sim. It’s not deep, and it’s not original, but it doesn’t do much wrong.

Click here to buy Ace Combat Assault Horizon for the Xbox 360 online from

Click here to buy Ace Combat Assault Horizon New or Used for the Xbox 360 from EBgames.comicon

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