So to the skies. Here's what you do in the first five or so missions (which, incidentally, don't include a 'basics' training mission and hence there's a wade through the lengthy manual): Take off. Fly straight. Wait for your radar to light up a target or two. Fire missiles. Watch enemy explode. And that is literally your lot for a good half hour or more. Come on now, people. After the first scenario things do brighten up a little and a decent variety of mission types open up and the enemy decide to take notice of you, hence you'll need to do stuff like change course occasionally and watch your six o'clock for enemy jets. Hell, you might even have to get out of the way of an inbound missile.
So things get a lot trickier as the skies fill up, you start taking fire from ground or sea-based anti-aircraft weapons and are assigned multiple targets during a mission but there's scant relief from the pervading sense of naffness to the whole thing. Much is so unhelpful. There are plenty of hostiles in any given area but they come up on your radar as green blobs. Green = friend, surely? Confusing. More confusing is that you have targets specific to you, these painted orange, and while friendly AI aircraft fight alongside you and engage the 'greens', including a wing-man who you can issue commands to, too often you end up getting swarmed. Oh, and don't even think of eyeballing a target, you'll never get close enough to see the models in any detail and if you do it probably means a firey death is moments away.
Graphical quality is curiously changeable. Up close, especially in the replay mode, your planes look terrific. On the ground, it's frequently a disaster area. Take the cities - they look like they're lifted from the pages of a pop-up book, being mostly flat and 2D with the occasional large building jutting up in laughable fashion. Audio, as mentioned, is mostly taken up by whistling threat receivers and inane banter rather than a cacophony of missile explosions and afterburners.
Outside the main Scenario mode you'll find two Challenge modes, one being a 'kill as many bogeys as possible' affair while the other is 'design your own mission'. Online is probably the best of all, with eight-way dogfights and no technical hitches, but if there's anyone left on the servers by the time you read this we'd be very surprised. Don't bother smoking that kipper, we won't be back for breakfast.
A hasty port from old hardware to 360, this is found wanting in almost every area and you'll want to bail after take-off.
- Full of supersonic fighter planes...
- ...But grounded by numerous problems
- Nowhere near as good as Ace Combat