Ace Combat Squadron Leader comes from a long heritage of Ace Combat games on various platforms, so has something to live up to. And you know what? It's actually pretty smart. Coming from Namco, we were expecting an over-zealous Japanese spin, but things have been kept on the straight and level. We put the jets through their paces.
From the outset there’s a strong feeling of team spirit - like Top Gun - which plays out in the background as you complete the missions. This type of flying sim avoids too much of an emphasis on physics and sticks to the sort of aerobatics you assume a multi-role combat aircraft can perform. Whether the flight dynamics have been accurately modelled or not doesn’t really matter. The planes are great fun to fly and manoeuvrable enough to pull some decent -Gs.
Graphically it pulls a big punch. It’s impressive enough that we can happily say this produces some of the more convincing graphics in the PS2 game. Ground detail is good, the water detail is good, the clouds are impressive. The detailing on the planes is stunning - and that’s in the game, not the cutscenes. One of the predominant features is the replay that you get on ending a mission (either successfully or not). Make no mistake here, at times the replay looks like film - the wingtip vortices are quite remarkable. In the debriefing, the background plays out the action on a grid with arrows so you can see the movement of all your jets and the enemy as the dogfight evolves - again, it’s excellent to watch. As usual, you’ll get the most fun out of having done well though.
Dogfighting is the name of the game, and the tutorial takes you through some basic moves to make life easier. To aid you in your combat you get a range of jets to choose from, with the option to buy more as you go along. Most modern fighters are included. A touch of the unrealistic comes in with the ammo loadout, with an F5 Eagle carrying 52 missiles, rather than the standard 2. But what fun would a game be with only 2 missiles?
For those looking for some fun aerial and ground combat, Ace Combat certainly delivers entertainment. Some might find that the action is a little repetitive and technically quite easy. However, as a package you get a great range of planes and excellent graphics to support the fun gameplay. The radio chatter is not too bad and the music not too annoying. So what's missing? It perhaps lacks the hook that would make it a ‘great' game, but within the confines of what a PS2 joypad can deliver, it does a pretty good job.