Ace Combat is a long running series of air combat titles that honestly, I’ve never played before. And after having played the heck out of Ace Combat 5, I can say that I feel really bad for not trying games in this series before. As a matter of fact, if its predecessors are anything like it, I may go and try to dig them all up in the bargain bins and used game stores in town. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War for PlayStation 2 is an excellent title that shines not only due to its high quality presentation, but also it’s out-and-out fun factor.
The gameplay is what you’d expect for a dogfighting game, but what differentiates it from most is that it’s not too much of a sim, and it’s not too much of an arcade title. There’s a delicate balance between arcade and sim, and the developers have managed to find that balance, making this a game to be enjoyed by fans of both types of aircraft titles. Sure it’s no IL-2 Stormovik, but it’s also not Lethal Skies, and that’s what makes it so great. For example, flight control is realistic enough to offer a challenge, though not so “simmy” as to have you spending all day adjusting flaps and ailerons. Combat is a simple matter of hitting the target with missiles, bombs or guns, depending on the situation and range. If there’s a weakness in the gameplay, it’s the fact that it’s a bit too easy to shake enemy missile locks. Actually, the other weakness is the seemingly unlimited amount of ammo available. I don’t know of many modern aircraft that can carry 70 missile as standard ordinance, but that’s exactly what the planes pack in Unsung War. Unless you’re a horrible shot, you won’t run out of missiles.
A combat game is useless without smart opponents, and here’s another area where the developers refused to slouch. While attack drones are brain dead cannon fodder, once you face off against fighter jets and other manned craft, you’ll have to work for those kill marks on your cockpit. And don’t think you’re the only one who can shake a missile lock with a few clever twists and turns, as you’ll spend plenty of time chasing opponents to score a missile hit. If you really want to show your stuff versus the AI, you can always go on the hunt using your cannons, which will make each mission last an incredibly long time.
Replay in Unsung War is practically guaranteed by the over 50 unlockable aircraft. Yes, you read that right, 50! The only way to unlock them is to shoot down certain types of aircraft while working your way through the campaign. Thankfully, the campaign is a ton of fun to play through, as it offers a pretty solid storyline and plenty of combat variety. If you’re not the campaign type, and don’t care about the extra planes, you can jump into arcade mode, which lets you enjoy the art of dogfighting without any specific goals.
Do you like pretty aircraft and detailed landscapes? Well Unsung War will have your eyes popping when you see how the developers pushed the PlayStation 2’s graphics engine. Flying through cities is one of the more exceptional moments in the game, as you’ll zip between buildings, bridges and over rivers. If you like detail in your aircraft, Ace Combat 5 won’t let you down, as the jets are modeled on their real world counterparts, right down to wing decals. The only issue are the famed jaggies, which are pretty much a given for a PS2 title. Nevertheless, you won’t mind them too much, since everything else is so wonderful to look at in Ace Combat 5.
The sound is a mixed bag, with good voice acting, good sound effects and a so-so soundtrack. The voices express plenty of emotion, though at time, they sound a bit cheesy and melodramatic, as if a soap opera actor were mouthing them. The sound effects are good, though lacking in any real visceral impact, especially the explosions. I would expect a plane’s afterburners to roar when fired up, but that doesn’t happen here, which his a bit of a letdown.
While Unsung War is a lot of fun, I have to ask why there isn’t any sort of online component. There isn’t even a simple split screen option, which is really too bad, as this game would’ve made a fantastic multiplayer title. Many times I imagined what it would be like to play this online, staging massive dogfights with players around the world. But I guess we can’t have everything. C’mon Ace Combat 6!
Fans of aircraft combat titles should really enjoy Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. It’s got a good storyline, top-notch presentation and a great gameplay engine. Fast action, furious combat and flying fun make this a game you shouldn’t miss.
- Gameplay: 8.9
- Plenty of action, great flight mechanics and a good AI.
- Graphics: 8.5
- Beautiful landscapes and cityscapes, realistic aircraft tinged with a bit of the jaggies
- Sound: 7.5
- Decent voice acting, excellent in-flight and in-combat sounds
- Replay: 7
- Bummer, no multiplayer. But the ability to buy new planes, along with playing at different difficulty settings will keep this fresh for some time
- Overall: 8.8
- A solid package all around. Not so “sim” as to turn off casual gamers, but not too easy either. If you like aircraft games, grab this one