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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Distinctly modern airborne warfare...

Kazutoki Kono, producer at Project Aces, is pretty adamant: "We're not calling this title Ace Combat 7 (because) it's been reborn," he explains.

"Assault Horizon is a new dawn for the franchise - for two reasons. Firstly, we're now using real world locations like Russia, Miami, Florida and have gotten a US military author on board for advice.

Secondly, a great deal of the combat emphasis now revolves around what we're calling 'Close Range Assault' - destroying bogies in close proximity at high speeds."

This second bit is what fairly blew our tiny minds during Assault Horizon's ultra visceral demo. Indeed, the footage arguably exuded more of a Western aura than even Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 - the strains of a jet plane riff on Modern Warfare all too apparent in the soundtrack, camera cuts, "f*ck yeah!" dialogue and overall presentation.

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Upon interrogation, Kono feigns ignorance: "We're aware that a lot of people are saying that, but we're trying to figure which parts they're talking about! Still, it's a privilege to be compared."

Also rocking the reveal trailer was the badass 'Steel Carnage,' a mechanic that allows players to utterly eviscerate their wounded foes. If you reckon that sounds like the type of barbarism Kratos might dish out to a maimed Cyclops rather than to a plane made of metal, then you're actually on the right lines.

"We want you to be able to destroy the enemy totally," reveals Kono. "When you bring down a foe with a missile, if they don't explode into pieces it's simply not realistic. Steel Carnage equates to a kind of bloodlust, a metallic massacre."

CHASE ACE
There's also a new cinematic flair to Assault Horizon that's both intriguing and befuddling. How does a typical dogfight play out compared to, say, Ace Combat 6? "Previously, each time you downed a plane and moved onto the next target there perhaps wasn't much of a reaction.

Our new assault system means for every player action there's a reaction - right in front of you. It's really exciting." User-friendliness is also key: "We've an entirely new control system to make the action available to new/ more casual players, but we've also retained the classic system for Ace Combat veterans. It's more accessible then, but not necessarily easier."

The new features keep on coming, with what looks suspiciously like a QTE prompt flashing up when you're tailing a bogey. "It's not," reassures Kono. "It's actually a part of the manoeuvre system, and the prompts depend on which aircraft you're flying.

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They occur when you're chasing enemies during dogfights - when you're trying to take each other's tails." Erm, well, that sounds like a QTE to us... doesn't it have an effect on balancing? "Well, it doesn't mean you'll always succeed with a single button press. We simply want people who can't control jets to pilot them without any stress."

Before we leave, Kono has one final reveal in store: big choppers. "In real life, helicopters are very difficult to control, but we've aimed to compact the controls so they're exciting and fun to play with.

That said, missions featuring helis focus on the exhilaration of attacking and destroying ground targets." So, it's all about the killing - and we're liking its style.

Order your copy of Xbox World 360 here and have it delivered straight to your door.

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