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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is an installment of the Ace Combat arcade combat flight video game series developed by Project Aces and initially published by Namco Bandai for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October 2011. The game was added to the PlayStation Store on November 28, 2012, and will be added to Xbox 360 Games on Demand in January 2013. It was also released on Microsoft Windows on January 25, 2013.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Plot

In 2015, Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, the leader of United States Air Force Warwolf Squadron, is part of the 108th Task Force, a large multinational U.N. military force composed of NATO and Russian forces sent to stop the SRN Rebellion that threatens East Africa. Tensions flare between NATO General Pierre La Pointe and Russian General Ivan Stagleishov. Others, such as Russian Major Sergei Illich, are happy to serve with their American counterparts; Illich himself strikes up a fast friendship with Bishop and his wingman, Josť "Guts" Gutierrez. Bishop suffers a nightmare of an intense air battle over Miami in which he is killed by a mysterious "shark mouthed" aircraft. Meanwhile, helicopter squadrons Nomad and Shooter go to a nearby town occupied by anti-government insurgent troops. The helicopters manage to put down the rebels' resistance and clear most of them out of the town, but a large explosion takes down most of the helicopters, injuring the crews.

During their attacks against the rebels, the SRN uses the unknown explosive device once more against the helicopter squadrons while they were on a rescue mission to retrieve Major Illich, who had been shot down in a sortie. The 108th Task Force determines the SRN must be hiding the weapon inside the caves of Mogadiyu, a nearby archaeological-significant region, and decides to utilize ground troops, Warwolf, Nomad, Shooter, and Spooky (a single AC-130 unit) to destroy the storage facilities. General Stagleishov refuses to provide his Russian MiGs for the operation for fear of an international conflict, but NATO performs it regardless. When Warwolf Squadron returns to the allied base, they get a transmission that a nearby city is under attack by rebels. Warwolf attempts to assist their allies in Carruth, but are intercepted by Stagleishov's squadron mid-way, who show their true colors; members of Blatnoi, a Russian criminal organization that is funding the SRN. Assisting Stagleishov is Andrei Markov, a highly skilled Russian pilot who flies the same plane from Bishop's nightmare. Markov attempts to shoot down Guts, but Bishop intervenes; however, Markov performs a maneuver that Bishop can't follow, and Markov damages his plane. He and Stagleishov are running low on fuel and must retreat, but not before Markov mocks his American rival. When Bishop lands his damaged plane, the rebel forces detonate an even more powerful version of the weapon never seen before.

The weapon has been identified as "Trinity," a conventional bomb with the power of a tactical nuclear weapon. Trinity has been outfitted onto cruise missiles and can be used anywhere. Blatnoi threatens to use Trinity on Dubai, and Warwolf defends the city, while Shooter and Nomad intercept rebel cargo ships in hopes of finding Trinity weapons. However, it turns out the threat was merely a smoke screen so Blatnoi could stage a coup in Russia, led by Stagleishov with the support of a large part of the Russian military, calling itself the New Russian Federation (NRF). The NRF quickly takes control of Moscow and surrounding areas, and the 108th performs many counter-operations to liberate the Russian cities. Illich, who was not loyal to Stagleishov, has returned to assist the 108th with his own Red Moon Squadron as the leader of the Russian loyalist forces. Markov has also attempted to use Trinity at one point, but the missile was shot down by Bishop. The NRF manages to fire an ICBM at the United States, but it was also shot down before it could leave Russia; strangely enough, though, Illich disappeared in the middle of the operation.

Eventually, the 108th manages to arrive at Moscow; however, another Trinity missile successfully detonates, taking down many of the 108th helicopters in the area. Warwolf intercepts six bombers en route to Moscow escorted by Markov, who ejects after been shot down by Bishop. Stagleishov decides to contact the 108th to negotiate the NRF's surrender exchanging the final Trinity missile for political immunity, but he is assassinated by Markov. Unaware of the live video feed, Markov reveals his true intention was not to take control of Russia, but to use this opportunity take revenge on the United States for the death of his illegally-married wife, Krista Yoslav, who was accidentally killed in an off-course American air strike during the Bosnian War. Markov blamed the Americans for the death of his wife and in retribution planned his strike back at America by using the coup as a decoy to lure many American forces out of the homeland, leaving many of its defenses weakened as he steals the last remaining Trinity missile and escapes to South America with his loyalists, where he plans to attack the United States directly.

Illich is revealed to have been Markov's sleeper agent, and betrays the 108th by joining Markov's forces bound for the U.S. In order to counter Markov, Warwolf Squadron is immediately relocated to Miami to join other remaining American squadrons in the homeland to intercept Markov's forces if they attempt to attack. As expected, Markov and his pilots attack Miami in full force, but are eventually repelled by Warwolf Squadron and the U.S. Air Force. However, Markov manages to ambush Bishop in a scene eerily similar to Bishop's nightmare, but Guts blocks off the missile with his own plane. Bishop shoots Guts' canopy off to help him eject, and Bishop then fires at Markov's plane head-on, managing to damage the Trinity missile before being forced to break off and refuel. Bishop catches up to Markov and Illich as they refuel off the coast of Florida. Bishop pursues Illich into a nearby Category 5 hurricane and engages him in a duel, resulting in Illich's death. Bishop proceeds to Washington, D.C. and finds the city already under attack by Markov's forces. Largely outnumbered by massive waves of attackers, Bishop and other USAF pilots struggles to repel the assault due to large numbers, but the USAF pilots still hold off the attack. Markov's forces successfully neutralize all of the anti-air defenses, and Markov then reappears, intent on dropping Trinity on the White House, but most of his loyalist were shot down after the defenses were neutralized. Bishop keeps Markov locked in a duel, eventually ending up at the White House; Markov manages to fire the missile before being shot down and killed, but Bishop manages to intercept it and destroy it harmlessly onto the Tidal Basin. Upon landing his plane at Reagan National Airport, Bishop is given a hero's welcome.

After the post credits, Guts is revealed to be still alive and being rescued.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Gameplay

The major new gameplay feature is a system called "Close-Range Assault" (CRA), which aims to increase the intensity and bring the action closer to the player, without the feeling of "shooting at faraway dots" commonly seen in flight games. In the game, it is named "Dogfight Mode" (DFM) for air-to-air battles and "Air Strike Mode" (ASM) for air-to-ground targets. They are not optional, as certain planes and ground targets cannot be destroyed without CRA. To initiate DFM, the player taps LB+RB on the Xbox 360 and L2+R2 on the PS3 when they have gotten close enough to the plane they are targeting. ASM is initiated by pressing the same buttons at specific points around the map.

For the first time in Ace Combat, players take control of an attack helicopter, a Black Hawk door gun, a stealth bomber, and an AC-130, adding variety to the gameplay alongside the standard fighter jet missions.

Reception

The game has garnered mostly positive reviews. Metacritic gives the game a 78 out of 100 (based on 71 reviews) for the Xbox 360 release and a 77 out of 100 (based on 28 reviews) for the PlayStation 3 release. Critics praised the real-world settings, graphics and the soundtrack, but criticized the game for being repetitive and overly scripted. Critics also praised the voice-acting of the characters. Reception from the audience has also been positive; users on Metacritic give a 6.8/10 for the Xbox 360 and a 7.2/10 for the PS3, with some gamers feeling that the new gameplay elements kept the series "fresh and exciting". IGN gave Assault Horizon a 7.5/10, praising the game for keeping the arcade-like controls to make it easy to jump into. The editor noted that this was more like a spin-off than an actual part of the series, especially since it didn't have a number; however, it was again criticized for its repetition in the new Close Range Assault systems. GameSpot gave the game a 5.5/10 and 1UP gave it a D+, finding some of these criticized features to be what ruined the game's potential, and comparing the game to the Call of Duty series.

In response to the initial mostly-positive response, Namco Bandai Games created a special "Accolades Trailer" one month after the game's release, in which many of the positive comments from well-known reviewers are featured alongside gameplay.

As of May 8, 2012, the game has sold 1.07 million copies worldwide


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