Combat 4: Shattered Skies
Review By: Jared Black
ever make a bad game? If you take a look at the companyís
offerings on the PS2 thus far (Ridge Racer V, Tekken Tag
Tournament, MotoGP, Klonoa II, etc.), each game has been among
the top games in itís genre. This tradition of excellence
continues with Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies, a slightly flawed
but nevertheless amazing experience.
Let me start
off by saying that Iíve never played an Ace Combat game
before. As this is my first experience with the series, Iím
able to approach this game with a different perspective (not a
hardcore flight fan) than other reviewers might. And as a casual
fan of the genre, Ace Combat 4 has done an excellent job
of grabbing me and turning me into a fan of the genre.
For those of
you unfamiliar with the series, itís basically an "arcade
simulation" Ė meaning that although real-life situations
are simulated, the controls are very arcade-like. The controls
are much more basic than what youíd find in other flying games
like the Janeís series, thus widening the gameís
appeal to more fans of action games. The player controls the
general direction of the plane (via the left analog stick), as
well as the camera view, guns, missiles, and special weapons.
And thatís it. All of that other stuff in more strict
simulations (that kills the "fun" for a lot of gamers)
is nowhere to be found here. Even landing your plane is
optional, although youíll probably want to do that yourself
simply because itís so easy to do.
are your standard variety of objectives youíll find in any
war-based (mech, plane, whatever) game. For some missions youíll
have to take out various ground objectives, while in other
missions youíll have to shoot down a certain number of planes.
The battles themselves arenít tied together by any sort of
storyline, other than the pre-mission briefing on why youíre
taking out what you are. However, in-between most missions a
seemingly unrelated storyline will play out via comic book
cutscenes and sound effects to accompany each image. As you
progress further into the game, that story will slowly converge
on whatís currently happening and will begin to make sense.
Surprisingly, the story is actually pretty gripping. While
obviously the narration is limited (this isnít an RPG), it has
one of the stronger and intriguing storylines this side of Final
stuff without having to worry about complicated controls is
always fun, but what really makes this game such a treat is the
way itís put together. The presentation of both the graphics
and sound is top-notch, and does a great job in immersing the
player. On the graphic side of things, this is the most
realistic flying game anywhere. The terrain is both
mind-bogglingly detailed and diverse, although if you look
closely (usually before you crash) you can spot some blurry
textures and seams in the landscape. Up in the air (where it
really matters) however, it looks virtually photo-realistic.
Each plane model is also very detailed, with distinct
characteristics and designs. The weaponry is also done to
perfection, with some gorgeous explosions and accurate weapon
designs. Add to this the fact that each camera view is both
beautiful (particularly the cockpit one) and very playable, and
youíve got a gorgeous game.
interface is also worth a special mention. It has a very
distinct design that really conveys the feeling of
"war". From the usage of the proper fonts to the
excellent mission maps, the entire interface flows together in
one perfect package. However, scrolling through your available
planes and weapons before each mission can be hard on the eyes
due to the fact that Namco used light colors for both the
background and text in the foreground. In some cases it can be
extremely hard to make out what youíre looking at. This is a
very minor inconvenience however in what is overall an excellent
The sound is
also wonderfully done. All of the voice acting is excellent,
from the pre-mission briefings to the radio chatter to narration
during cutscenes. There is plenty of radio chatter throughout
each mission, and rarely does it repeat more than once or twice.
Even when it does repeat, itís generally only something you
would expect to hear multiple times (such as "Youíve got
a bogey on your tail") in each mission. Of special note is
the music, which ignores the standard rock/metal tracks found in
games of this type for a more classical and soothing feel. And
for some odd reason, that works in this genre much better than
hard rock ever has. It was definitely a bold and excellent
choice in the music department. Everything else sounds exactly
like it should, from the various explosions to plane sounds.
and nearly photo-realistic in-game graphics.
surprisingly good storyline.
has never been so user-friendly or accessible. Just jump in
and blast away.
are diverse and focusedÖnever a dull moment.
times are virtually non-existent thanks to very smart
- Might be
too simple for hardcore vets of the genre.
- A little on
the short side, but thatís only because you want to keep
playing after itís all over.
me if this review is a little vague, but I havenít had a lot of
experience in the past with this genre. I hope Iíve gotten my
point across however, as Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies is an
amazing game that will appeal to both pure action fans and flying
fans. Take it from me, if youíre only a casual fan of this kind
of thing you still need this game. This is a must-play for
everyoneÖwell, except for pacifists anyway.