[Review] Ace Combat: Infinity

ESRB:T
ONLINE:Yes. Up to 8-players.
INSTALL:3.2GB
RELEASE DATE:May 27, 2014
PLATFORM:Playstation 3
PUBLISHER:Namco-Bandai
DEVELOPER:Project ACES
ONLINE PASS:No. $20 "Unlimited Campaign Play" ticket available.

Story

I have a confession to make.

Ace Combat: Infinity is going to be the first review where I haven’t finished the main story. Why? Because I haven’t yet worked up enough credits in-game to unlock the remaining missions.

You see, that’s how this game is F2P – the first 2 missions are free. The rest have to be unlocked by paying in-game credits. I really don’t understand this choice, and it’s my biggest gripe with the game.

I’ll go into more detail on this later.

What I have played of the story, though, feels like your standard Ace Combat narrative. AC has never been a series known for its story, and Infinity doesn’t really seek to change that.

That being said, I like the dialogue, and the characters so far seem likable enough that I would care about what happens to them.

As I mentioned, though, I haven’t been able to finish it yet – so I can’t give a real opinion on it. If/when I’m able to finish it, I’ll update here.

Presentation

For a free-to-play game, it looks surprisingly good.

For a free-to-play game, it looks surprisingly good.

I’m surprised with how good Namco’s recent F2P games have looked. They look as good as their full-fledged console counterparts. Tekken Revolution, Ridge Racer: Driftopia, Soulcalibur: Lost Swords and now Ace Combat: Infinity. These are some fine looking games.

While Ace Combat isn’t the most colorful game – it isn’t washed out and dreary like a lot of other military based games are. It at least has color in its world – and that color does actually pop.

The game runs at a nice, smooth framerate – not once have I seen it falter, even when things get hectic.

Load times are pretty quick, and overall the game runs well. The technical side of the game is great.

The UI, on the other hand, could use some work.

The UI in this game isn't the best I've seen.

The UI in this game isn’t the best I’ve seen.

Mind you, the UI isn’t bad – it gets the job done – it’s just kind of boring. It’s very text heavy, not a lot of icons, and not much really happening while you browse menus.

Like I said, though, it works, I just feel it could be better – especially considering how good the overall game looks.

As far as the HUD is concerned – it hasn’t really changed much since the original games, which opt to simulate the feel of an actual fighter jet HUD. It looks nice, though the green can be a little hard to see sometimes against the light blue skies and clouds.

It can also seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s actually pretty simple to figure out.

There can be a lot to take in on screen, but you can ignore most of it.

There can be a lot to take in on screen, but you can ignore most of it.

The game does have its faults, though. Mainly on the ground.

While it looks good when you’re soaring past at mach speed, when you slow down and get close, the imagery used doesn’t look that great. I don’t expect a flight game to render every little building – I expect to see no more than a satellite image. That’s not the issue I have.

No, the issue I have is that the images used just don’t look that good. It feels like maybe they could be clearer – especially if you’re expecting players to slow down to fight ground enemies.

That brings me to the bigger issue – the ground enemies are difficult to see. I get they’re supposed to be small, but it’s almost impossible to see them. If it weren’t for the green reticule that surrounds them, you’d probably never spot them. It makes aiming your machine gun at them needlessly difficult.

Boats, buildings and grounded planes are alright, but AA Guns, SAMs and tanks are hard to spot, some buildings can be hard to make out as well.

These are, admittedly, minor issues, but they can mar the overall experience, making things more frustrating than they should be.

Gameplay

Now we come to the meat of the game.

Let me start by getting right into the thing I know most would be concerned about: the free-to-play model.

It’s in full force here. That’s not to say the game is “pay-to-win”, though. Because it really isn’t, and the game is genuinely free.

If you’re willing to put the time and effort into it, that is.

You see, everything in Infinity is free – you can play the campaign for free, you can earn special items that boost your credits and project research for free, planes and parts are free, and you can earn fuel for free.

The problem comes in that to play the campaign, you need to earn credits in-game. Campaign missions don’t reward much, so you play online Co-Op missions.

To go on these missions, you need sortie fuel – of which you have a limited stock that replenishes after a time.

Sounds good, right? The issue is that the campaign missions also require fuel to play. That is, if you don’t want to fork out the cash for the Unlimited Campaign Play item on the Playstation store.

Your supplied sortie fuel will replenish after a while – but it’s a long wait. 3 and a half hours long. And without fuel, you can’t do anything.

You can always purchase more fuel from the Store if you have the money to burn, though.

The other problem, is that the campaign missions have to be unlocked by paying in game credits – again, only if you don’t buy the Campaign ticket. This would be fine if the credits you earned from Co-op missions weren’t such small amounts. Your credit payouts are determined by your performance – but even if you do really, really well, don’t expect more than a few thousand.

The campaign missions start at the cost of 200,000 Credits, and they only increase from there. By a full 100,000 credits each time. And there are 7 missions available – with an 8th on the way.

You can see where the trouble comes in.

Oh, did I mention you also have to pay a small fee to take your plane out on a mission as well?

Oh, did I mention you also have to pay a small fee to take your plane out on a mission as well?

The actual gameplay is at least good, though.

The silly, out of place gunner missions are gone, and it opts for a more classic Ace Combat style. You, in a plane of your choice, going on a mission and blowing up enemies.

It’s great fun.

I also love the co-op missions. A match is up to 8 players, and you’re separated into 2 teams of up to 4 players each. Matches will always be 8 pilots, but they can range from 4, 6 or a full 8 human players. For rooms with less human players, the other pilots are handled by AI. Both teams are working together, but also competing with each other. It’s nice to play a multiplayer game where you aren’t being forced to feel like you have to be the best, everyone is working towards the same end goal, and it instead just feels like a bit of friendly “Hey, bet I can take out more baddies than you!” competition.

Every match is 4v4, but you're all working together to a common goal.

Every match is 4v4, but you’re all working together to a common goal.

That said, I do wish Deathmatches were a standard feature. Instead, they only come during special events.

Matches also don’t start until you have enough players in the lobby.

Control-wise, the game feels good. There are 2 control schemes – Beginner and Expert. For me, Beginner felt really weird. Moving the analog stick left or right actually causes your plane to bank in that direction. Like steering a car.

Expert was more my speed. It gives you full control over your plane and works more akin to a flight stick, allowing you to roll and bank the plane any way you want to.

If you’re new to flight games, I would still reccommend the Expert control scheme over Beginner – it’s just better.

I have noticed that locking on to enemies can be a bit of a pain. Not the actual locking on itself, rather, switching between targets. Sometimes, you just want your missiles to lock on to the structure or enemy that’s right in front of you, yet no matter how many times you hit the Triangle button, it just won’t get selected. It cycles through multiple other enemies, but never chooses the one you actually want. it can be really frustrating.

When it does work, it works really well.

The co-op missions, while limited in actual variety – there are only 3-4 available, not counting special raid missions – are interesting to play. The goal is always the same, but your targets are often different, and different events can happen durring these missions.

For instance, during one run of the Pipline Destruction mission, you may get an Emergency Mission to take out a powerful submarine. In another run, you could face a group of fighter jets with powerful missiles capable of wiping you out in one hit.

Emergency Missions help to keep things just a bit fresher.

Special Raid missions are special events set up by the developers, usually multipart missions against really powerful boss weapons. As of this writing, the current Raid mission is against the infamous Stonehenge railgun from Ace Combat 04. In the beta, it was the Aigaion-class heavy command cruiser “Moby Dick”.

Special Raid missions are also random and cannot be selected like other missions. They just happen.

Raid missions are also about all players working together – much like a Raid boss in an MMO.

Co-op missions are all timed and ranked – from a low E rank, up to an S. To get an S rank, you need to destroy close to all of the targets in a mission before time runs out. It’s much more challenging than it sounds.

Thankfully, you have a lot of tools available to you. There are a plethora of planes, weapons and customization parts to help you get the job done.

Honestly, the Aircraft tree might seem a little daunting at first, there's just so much on it.

Honestly, the Aircraft tree might seem a little daunting at first, there’s just so much on it.

Planes come in 3 flavors – Attacker, Fighter and Multirole.

Attackers are good against ground targets, and weak against aerial ones. They deal more damage to ground targets and have special weapons that are suited for ground runs, such as Unguided Bombs and Air-to-Ground missiles.

Fighters are the opposite. They excel in air-to-air combat, but leave a lot to be desired against the ground troops. They have special weapons suited to air combat, like multi-target air-to-air missiles.

Multirole planes are exactly like they sound – the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none class. These are your middle of the road, good at everything, amazing at nothing planes. They can use both kinds of special weapons, but have no bonuses against either target type.

Your plane’s class can be important – some missions have more targets on the ground, some have more in the air, and others have an even mix of both. It’s up to you to determine the right plane for the job.

Luckily, you can create up to 4 aircraft sets. Each set allows you to choose a plane and then customize it with parts that you’ve unlocked an purchased. Each plane has a set amount of points that you can use to install parts that can help increase your plane’s performance – such as items that increase your missile accuracy, or that increase your top speed.

Just keep in mind, you can’t layer parts to increase their effect. You can have two different missile parts that increase different attributes, such as speed and accuracy, but you can’t have two parts that both increase speed.

Replay Value

So, does Ace Combat: Infinity have a lot of replay value?

Well…not really. But at the same time, it does. Let me explain.

Infinity doesn’t have a ton of variety in its missions – you’re going to be playing the same ones over, and over, and over again while you work up enough credits to unlock that next plane, or continue the campaign.

However, you’re also constantly being rewarded while you play. There are challenges you can undertake that will earn you emblems, credits, fuel, research documents, and extra contracts – and a lot of these challenges can be repeated.

You’re also constantly unlocking emblems and new planes as drops after missions. Items that you already have are converted into credits.

I can't lie - you do unlock a LOT of stuff while you play. If you get something that you already have, it gives you credits instead.

I can’t lie – you do unlock a LOT of stuff while you play. If you get something that you already have, it gives you credits instead.

You see, much like an MMO, the draw of rare drops make it worth replaying missions – you never know when you might unlock an awesome emblem, or get a special, limited-time plane.

For the trophy hunters out there – this is a long one. It’s not difficult by any means, but if you’re the type that doesn’t like to put money into a F2P game, it’s going to be one hell of a grind for you.

Final Verdict

This was a tough one.

On the one hand, I really, truly enjoy the game. On the other – the amount of effort it takes to be able to advance the campaign seems ridiculous.

I’m all for extending the length of a game, and devs making money – but this feels so very artificial, and feels like it was purely done to get more money – and I really don’t like that. Lost Swords and Tekken Revolution definitely handled things a bit better on that front. Their wait times are much, much shorter – and in the case of Lost Swords, you’re given much more to work with and it’s much more well balanced.

Overall, I say give the game a try. After all, it is free – so if you end up not liking it, you really aren’t out anything.

However, I really can’t condone putting money into it unless you really, really like what you play, and are just extrememly impatient.

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PROS CONS
  • No silly gunner missions.
  • Wide array of planes and weapons to choose from.
  • Constantly rewarded.
  • Massive grind to get through the story without paying.
  • VS. multiplayer is only available during special events.
  • Limited amount of missions to choose from.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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