Ace Combat: Squadron Leader PlayStation 2
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by NAMCO
Release Date: Out Now
Ace Combat: Squadron Leader, an introduction.
If the truth be told you're not going to find a flight simulator on a console. At least you won't find one to match the realism of those found on the PC. However whilst console gamers are confined to arcade flight experiences this doesn't mean they have to be any less impressive. The Ace Combat series has long been a favourite for flight fans and the previous game in the series, Ace Combat 4, was tremendously popular and judging from what we've seen this fifth game in the series should be equally as popular.
What's the game about?
After a wartime nuclear disaster the lands of Osea and Yuktobania have shared a fragile peace for several years. All seems fine until September 23rd 2010 when that fragile peace is shattered. The lands are divided by the Ceres Ocean and in the middle of the ocean lies Osea's Sand Island military base. Members of the 108th squadron attempt to intercept a group of unidentified aircraft and are almost wiped out in the process. Suddenly you're in a war situation and you'll have to protect Osea. The game comes with a campaign mode that contains around 30 missions and an arcade mode that offers shorter action filled missions for when you want a quick blast.
What's good about the game?
There's much to like about Ace Combat: Squadron Leader. The games story is actually interesting and both the campaign and arcade modes will keep you busy for months. The game may not be a simulation but Namco certainly didn't skimp on the details. The game includes an impressive amount of aircraft from manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE and Dassault Aviation. Not all of the aircraft are flyable but quite a lot are. You can actually buy new aircraft yourself and choose what to fly for a given mission. The AI of your enemies is also a high point as they can really give you a challenge and have a good variety of behaviours so you never quite know what to expect. The game also allows you to issue commands to your wingmen, which certainly proves useful at times. The mission variety is also impressive and you'll encounter air-to-air, sea and land assaults, recon missions, escort missions and much more. You never feel like you're playing missions that feel similar to ones you've already played, which helps to keep the game feeling fresh.
What's not so good about the game?
Although Ace Combat: Squadron Leader is a very satisfying game, the one downside is that there is no multiplayer options. It would have been great to have an online mode and a two player dogfight mode but sadly it's not to be. Owners of Ace Combat 4 might also argue that Ace Combat: Squadron Leader doesn't offer a large amount of improvements over the previous game but seeing that Ace Combat 4 was very impressive, there wasn't much that needed improving to begin with.
How does it look?
Most people wouldn't expect a flight game to look that good on a console but Ace Combat is surprising in that for the most part it looks great. Should you get destroyed in a mission you'll have a chance to see a realistic looking replay that looks so good you'll actually want to be destroyed from time to time, just to see the replay. The terrain graphics look very impressive and it was great to see a PlayStation 2 game with such realistic looking water. The aircraft models are similarly first class and whilst the damage modelling might not be completely realistic it still looks good enough. The cutscenes look impressive too and it's obvious Namco went to great lengths to give the game as much polish as possible and the result is well worth it. Best of all though is despite all this detail the frame never once appears to dip.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Subtitles can be enabled in Ace Combat: Squadron Leader and once they are the game is deaf gamer friendly. The tutorials are excellent and fully subtitled. In addition to the subtitles the tutorials also have an onscreen picture of the controller that highlights what controls are used to further simplify things. Flight games are not the easiest of games for a newbie but the structured and subtitled tutorials make sure that mastering the controls is a smooth and pain free process. The games cutscenes and briefings are also subtitled so you'll be able to enjoy the games story and fully understand what needs to be done in the games campaign. During flights the radio chatter is subtitled so you'll actually feel part of the team and not like you're flying around in isolation. You even get to supply answers to questions by using the directional button during flight, which is good to see.
Namco have created a classic in Ace Combat: Squadron Leader. Whether you're a veteran of the series or a complete novice you'll still be impressed by what's on offer here. The game has a variety of difficulty levels which will suit all abilities and the tutorials that have been included are very comprehensive and assume no previous experience in playing a game of this nature. In fact it's difficult to find fault with the game and only thing it doesn't deliver is multiplayer modes, which is a little disappointing. However as a single-player game it's superb and a must own if you're after a combat flight game.
Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Absolute quality from top to bottom and deaf gamer friendly too.