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Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation is to Blazing Angels 2 what Radiant Silvergun is to Ikagura. As evidenced by Radiant Silvergun’s ‘maximalist’ scope, the contrast is befitting despite the obvious dimensional differences. Rallying against enemy forces in up to six operations at once, AC6 demands the player to concentrate on a multitude of factors in real time.

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Are you within the parameters of the operation you want to focus on? Are you using the right plane for the mission? Maybe it would be a good idea to dissuade those missiles on your tail by scratching close to the mountainside and dipping beyond its climax.

Thankfully the gameplay is fundamentally fit and after an excessively lengthy learning curve, you’ll be dog fighting with the best of ‘em. Whether you burn a hole in your wallet with the Ace Edge (AC6’s flight stick perhipheral), or opt for the standard 360 controller at a fraction of the price, both are mapped flawlessly. There isn’t even a discernable attribute which might favor the player one way or the other, aside from the obvious one: unfamiliar peripherals are often times confusing. In any case, performance is equal over XBL.

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Whereas Blazing Angels 2 rightfully garnered praise for its pick-up-and-play arcade feel, Ace Combat 6 has evolved. Furthermore, AC6 developer Bandai-Namco has a reputation to live up to. Thus, the aircraft available in BA2 have all the appeal of a paper airplane in juxtaposition. The seemingly endless string of enemy aircrafts tied with hard hitting radio feedback relative to your performance creates an experience which transcends description.

There’s so much to explore, a good portion of which will either be over sprawling mountainous regions, over the sea, or in the air. After every completed (or failed) mission, you’re provided with a video playback recaping the flight. This is the first time I got a chance to enjoy the extremely powerful (sometimes distractingly so) visual engine, sans several hundred enemies, all with seemingly identicle target-indendicators. The water reflects terrifically, and is especially vibrant when the sun’s beating down in full.

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All of the available aircraft look sleek and inviting. They’re made available to you in the hangar as you progress in the game, and are buyable using points earned from previous missions as currency. A few have also been added to the Xbox Live marketplace, including one from AC2 that sticks to its origin and says “feh” to special weapons.

The biggest downfall comes in the form of cityscape that’s horrendous on the eyes. That’s at an in-game altitude of anywhere below around 1,500 feet, worsening on the descent and eventually flattening into murky mixes of brown and other assorted warm colors. I assume this is to allow for the player to better spot ground units and keep from crash-landing half an hour into their mission. But there’s so much to explore and a good portion of the game will either be in mountainous regions, over the sea, or in the air, anyway.

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Rather than merely surpassing the expectations set by its predecessors, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation provides a foundation for console-based aerial combat games of the future. Seeing as AC6 met its release date on the coattails of Blazing Angels 2 and a new Tom Clancy air-combat release is right around the corner – would it be too much to ask for AC7 to be released on the 360? The hardware truly feels as though it’s made for the sort of open-environment on a large scale that aerial combat titles enable.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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