This was bound to be painful. Aerial dogfighting and a dodgy analogue nub is hardly a match made in gaming heaven, and it seemed as though Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception was sure to be played to a chorus of sickening cracks, sort of like when an arthritic 90-year-old strains to lift himself out of his armchair.
Yet apart from a slight tenderness in the thumbs, down more to the design of PSP than anything bad in the game, PSW has come away from Ace Combat X in far less pain than was first thought. Not only is the control system surprisingly well implemented, but even if it was shit the actual game is enough fun to make digital distress seem unimportant.
Much like the excellent Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War released recently for PS2, Ace Combat X is a similarly high-octane rush, like Top Gun only without the sex and crap '80s music. It looks slick, has some very cool presentation and shit-loads of explosions. The trouble is the missions start to seem very familiar after a couple of hours' play. So after playing the mission where you bomb enemy bases, the mission where you have to chase a secret prototype aircraft, and the mission where you have to take down an entire squadron of bogeys single-handed, you've pretty much exhausted the game's imagination.
Despite this there's a lot of fun to be had, with some standout moments capping real airborne excitement. Taking on the enormous Gleipnir is a daunting task in your lone single-seater fighter, but it's up there with some of the finest boss fights you'll see on PSP.
There's ample opportunity to get your mates in on the act, too. The multiplayer options see you taking on all-comers in a head-to-head mode, or you can team up to escort valuable supply planes to safety, among other available missions.
But it's the single-player campaign which really shines, thanks to a branching storyline set over 15 different arenas that alters as you make certain decisions. You choose which mission to accept in a certain area, and then you decide your point of entry. You could, for example, sneak up on an airbase unawares by taking out its radar first (cutting off enemy reinforcements further down the line), or just take the American approach and attack it head on, all guns, missiles and laser-guided bombs blazing. Whatever you choose, there's loads of levels to be unlocked, which makes Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception a clear winner for Maverick wannabes.
Still the only plane game worth getting, despite the lack of Danger Zone on the soundtrack.
- Lots of mission replayability
- Simple controls
- Good multiplayer options
- No Top Gun soundtrack