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Ace Combat: Joint Assault review

Ace Combat Joint Assault Screenshot - 866537

Ace Combat continues to fly high as 2011 approaches. Ace Combat 6 is still one of the more popular Xbox 360 titles out there, and the newly announced Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is looking very promising, despite the all-too-brief teaser trailer. In the middle, we have another aerial outing for the PSP, Ace Combat: Joint Assault, a game that features a much-requested new feature that lets you play alongside your friends, squadron style. It’s just too bad it didn’t bring that same level of freshness to the rest of the game.

In Joint Assault, you’ll tackle a campaign mode that has you performing a number of outlandish tasks that are better left for, say, the Rebel Alliance. You’ll attack everything from cargo planes to ground cannons to flying fortresses (apparently, today’s technology allows for hovering bases). It’s silly, and half the time doesn’t even make sense. To make matters worse, you’re stuck with a co-pilot who doesn’t really contribute to the mission, and you keep finding yourself wishing that Namco had installed an ejector seat, just so you can dump him.

That leads us to the mission structure. If you’re familiar with the Ace Combat games, then no doubt you’ll be experiencing déjà vu as you fly through these. That’s not to say they aren’t fun, because flying the unfriendly skies and taking down bogies in your sights is still as entertaining as ever. But still, considering this is supposed to be a new product opposed to a “greatest hits collection,” it presents itself as lazy and tedious. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule at least, like one particular mission that has you flying a lumbering cargo plane into dangerous territory.

Really, though, the main reason you’ll want to take part in Joint Assault is to fly alongside your compadres. The game supports four-player co-op through both AdHoc and Infrastructure, and from the sessions we tried out, it works remarkably well. You’ll have no trouble working with your buds in a team effort (unless you’ve got too many of those “Top Gun” types, if you catch my drift) to complete each mission with flying colors. For those interested, the game also comes with competitive multiplayer, with up to eight players supported in each match.

We also like the idea of branching paths. Having replay value in a flight game is difficult because, well, you fly through the same territory multiple times. With Joint Assault, you’re given select choices over the course of each mission, and have the opportunity to play through a second time and choose an alternate route. We like this approach, and hope to see it show up in Assault Horizon next year.

Ace Combat: Joint Assault doesn’t go above and beyond what previous Ace Combat titles did. The landscapes are decent (especially the cities) and the jets react accordingly in comparison to their real-life counterparts. But a lot of the prettiness of the previously released Ace Combat 6 is conspicuously missing, once again revealing Namco’s somewhat lazy side. The developers should’ve gone a little further with its PSP development, rather than “hey, this worked last time, throw it back in.” The music is adequate, and the sound effects are authentic for a flight sim, but, really, someone get this co-pilot off our backs. We’ve had more fun arguing with senior citizens over a Wii Sports match-up.

As for controls, you’ll need to make minor adjustments when it comes to the PSP setup. You don’t have access to a second analog stick, and aiming isn’t as entirely precise as other games. Still, it’s a title that is easy to play, and one you won’t get tired of if aviation-related destruction is your speed. It’s doable, but hardly memorable.

Joint Assault isn’t the worst Ace Combat game we’ve seen, but the ambition has waned a little bit. While it’s nice that Namco finally give us a technically proficient and entertaining co-op mode, it failed to touch up anything else to spruce up the series. Still, something is better than nothing, so if you’re a fan of the series or want something to play on the PSP with your friends, hit the skies.

Good

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Robert Workman
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