Sky's the limit for air battles

My childhood dream was to be a fighter pilot, but myopia dashed my hopes.

Ever since, I have sought solace in air combat video games such as Falcon 4.0 and the long-running Ace Combat series.

The latter'slast major release was in 2007, with Ace Combat 6: Fires Of Liberation. After 12 years, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (AC7) has finally been released.

Despite having played several iterations, I am still confused by the series' storyline and the similar-sounding fictional nation names such as Osean and Erusean.

In AC7, you play as an Osean ace pilot, with a Trigger call sign, as war breaks out between Osean and Erusean.

The game is newbie-friendly. Even if you have not played the previous games, you will be able to get up to speed with the well-designed single-player campaign.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: From $79.90 (PS4, version tested; PC, Xbox One)

    GENRE: Air combat

    RATING: 8/10

Before each mission, you choose the aircraft and a special weapon apart from the standard auto-cannon and air-to-air missiles. With each successful mission, you get credits to buy new aircraft and weapons as well as unlock new upgrades.

You will need a variety of aircraft - from the versatile F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter to the iconic F-4 Phantom bomber - as well as different missiles to help you in your missions. The missions come in different varieties. There are bombing runs, escort missions, challenges that involve plenty of dogfighting and more.

If you are looking for a realistic flight simulator like the Falcon 4.0, you will be disappointed. The Ace Combat series has always used more forgiving arcade-like controls.

You can choose standard or expert control, depending on your experience level. With expert control, turning is performed via roll and pitch adjustments, instead of merely moving the left stick of the PlayStation 4 console controller (for the PS4 game version).

Or you can get the Thrustmaster Flight Hotas 4 Ace Combat 7 Limited Edition joystick and thrust control. This peripheral makes you feel like a fighter pilot. However, I find using the console controller to be easier, as it takes time to get familiar with the different buttons on the joystick and thrust control.

Regardless, it is not easy to pilot these supersonic jets.

There is a steep learning curve for newbies and veterans alike. This game is not easy, even in the lowest difficulty setting - be prepared to be shot down and to crash a lot.

The chatter among squadmates helps to liven the mood, as you move from points A to B to finish your objectives. And all the voice actors have done a superb job - it really feels like losing a real squadmate when one of them dies.

The missions are really tough. This is further exacerbated by the lack of waypoint saves. Sometimes, I had to replay the entire mission because Imissed the objective just by a few seconds.

A nice bonus for local gamers is a city called Sierraplata, which is modelled after Singapore, in one of the campaign missions.

Apart from a re-designed Marina Bay Sands, the other buildings around the Marina Bay area are faithfully re-created in the game's version.

Unfortunately, you will be too busy trying to gun down your enemies to notice the superb graphics, textures and details of the game world and aircraft.

The lighting and sound effects are also stunning and realistic.

After you are done with the campaign, you can move to the multiplayer mode where you can participate in team deathmatch - in groups of two to four players - or an eight-player free-for-all.

Of course, there is a virtual reality (VR) mode that takes advantage of the PlayStation VR headset.

I do not have the headset to test the VR mode. But with only three VR missions available, I doubt I am missing much.

• Verdict: For those who love to fly fighter jets and take part in intense dogfighting, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is the game to get.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'Sky's the limit for air battles'. Print Edition | Subscribe