Ace Combat Assault Horizon was announced late last year, and While Namco hasn't offered a firm release date, it has confirmed the flight sim for a 2011 launch.
This month we managed to put our eyes on a San Francisco gameplay demonstration, and the 'reborn' instalment is definitely living up to its media tagline, 'the Call of Duty of the skies'.
Close up action, hailstorms of bullets and spectacular jet plane explosions are all here in abundance. Read more in our Ace Combat: Assault Horizon preview.
At the same San Fran event we managed to capture some time with game director Kazutoki Kono, who talked us through his FPS influences, HAWX impressions and more.
Assault Horizon definitely looks to be taking cues from the FPS genre. How much influence have you taken from shooters?
In order to make the system more intuitive for the user we rebuilt it from the ground up. Previous Ace Combat titles were pretty easy to get into if you were a hardcore simulation fan, but as a non-flight simulator person they were very difficult to get into.
This time around we decided to design the control so that people unfamiliar with the genre could just jump in and get into it. We really wanted to give the user direct feedback, to let them aim at something, shoot it and see it fly apart.
Did the popularity of games such as Call of Duty inspire the change?
We didn't have direct influence from Call of Duty, but I do think it is a spectacular game and we would like to reach the same level of success.
Can a flight-sim game be as popular as a first-person shooter on a mass market scale?
We believe there have been a lot of FPS games coming out recently - the market has been a little saturated with them. We'd like to bring something new where you're shooting in a high-speed environment. We want to bring something new to the table.
A lot of people who aren't flight-sim players are telling us how Assault Horizon is really cool and they're interested. To hear that feedback is reassuring and we hope that we'll nail it.
Why is now the right time to re-invent the franchise?
The reality of the situation is that the sales for the series were dwindling. To make sure it wouldn't just fizzle away we decided it was right to give the series a rebirth. There were also some things going on at the company that made this possible.
I also believe that the team that I'm working with right now has the history, background and experience necessary to make an Ace Combat I can call a true rebirth.
Did the team pay much attention to the tastes of Western gamers when considering how to reboot the franchise?
From the get go we wanted to pinpoint the North American and European audience. So we talked to people in America, France and UK to try and make a game to fit that audience as best as possible. Of course it needs to sell well in Japan but that isn't the biggest focus.
Also, when I was talking with the French they didn't like the American military (laughs).
What measures have you taken to make sure veteran Ace Combat fans are satisfied with the new game?
In terms of controls, there is full 360 movement so players still have the freedom to move and shoot from different distances. The people working on the game have worked on previous titles so when it comes to storylines the same kind of dramatic, epic storytelling will be implemented.