Finally – it’s back: So let’s do a Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown PC Gameplay Review!
Today we gladly enrolled “Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown” into our gaming library. How does it stack up?
The Ace Combat (or AC) Franchise established air superiority in PlayStation’s skies way back in 1995 (with some titles also available for Xbox and iPhone) and has remained as the flagship of the arcade fighter jet genre, well deservedly I might add.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon – Grounded
At the time of this writing, Ace Combat 7 is the only game in the franchise that is available on Steam, with “Ace Combat: Assault Horizon” being withdrawn. Why? Nobody is certain although it seems to be most likely due to licensing issues.
Either way, the recent release of AC7 gives us another chance to enjoy the cathartic yet captivating gameplay that we have come to expect from the AC series. And let’s be honest, are we all not desperate to scratch that itch?
Let’s take a deeper look.
Not Ready for TakeOff
Sadly though, this title isn’t all ‘clear skies and ready for takeoff’, ‘sunny with cloudy spells’ is perhaps a more fitting description.
Issues began rearing their ugly little heads just a few seconds after launching the game in fact, the sort of issues that we have sadly come to expect from the usual hodgepodges of a poor pc ports. When will developers learn?
For instance, the menus have a total lack of mouse support. That’s right, no mouse support in 2019. It’s rather disconcerting quite frankly, we soldiered on though.
Problems with HOTAS
Lack of mouse supported menus aside we dive into the controls and are quite disappointed to see that yet again, we are faced with another issue perhaps more serious this time; a lack of remappable control options.
Oh no, Namco.
Sadly it appears as though only a few select HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) Joysticks are compatible for key remapping.
These particular types of HOTAS being “hybrids” – HOTAS that are compatible with console and PC. This left a slightly bitter taste in our mouths but perhaps we expected a little too much? Oh well, we were still quite excited to try the game regardless.
The game itself however? Beautiful at 60 FPS
Taking a look at the graphics menu was quite refreshing, you’ll find plenty of options there to tinker with on your quest to achieve 60fps. Luckily, we were able to keep the settings maxed throughout our playthrough and let us tell you, what a sight it was.
Having dealt with a few pre flight delays everything else begins to look fairly promising, our fingers crossed at this point.
Ace Combat 7 PC Release Date
Looking back, the official release date for Ace Combat Skies Unknown 7 PC was on January 31st 2019.
Although AC7 was announced all the way back in 2015 with a scheduled release for 2017, some complications in the development of the game pushed it into 2019.
In an open letter to the fans of the franchise, director Kazutoki Kono made an attempt to explain some of the problems the development team faced at the time.
According to Kono the then current game art and design standards were way below the development team’s vision and because of this the team went to work addressing the qualms they had. In addition, the developers changed their focus from primarily building for PS4 exclusively to then focusing on compatibility with Xbox One and PC as well.
Good move Namco.
Ace Combat 7 Trailer featuring Raffale Pilot Pierre-Henri “Até” Chuet
Interestingly, an actual pilot – and obviously the role model and name giver for our hero in Ace Combat Skies Unknown – thinks the game play has become somewhat more realistic. This is promising news for an otherwise arcade focused game, hopefully simulator fans who might have otherwise been discouraged from dipping their toes in the AC franchise will decide to give it a go this time.
Watch this testimonial trailer – as an avid simulator fan myself, I was pleased to see AC7 take a step into my world, albeit lightly.
Cloud Surfing and Raindrops
What the team have managed to do with the weather is probably one of the best and well thought out improvements to the game. According to “Até” clouds play a big role, especially during combat, just as they should. We might also mention that the thunderstorms in game are quite impressive too!
Ace Combat 7 VR
Caveat: Not for PC! Negative! Sorry!
Due to Sony sending in some coding troops to help the development team with VR only the PS4 Version of Ace Combat 7 comes with VR capacity out of the gate.
Unfortunate. Well, that’s the advantage of one company putting its resources behind a product (Sony didn’t do that with its laptops enough it would seem – I loved the Vaio notebooks).
In our opinion, we would say the PC gaming market is more than ripe for a good VR Fighter Jet game, at the moment pc gamers have few choices and even less so when it comes to the arcadey style of AC.
However, I come bearing encouraging news; on the physical case of Ace Combat 7 the small print does indeed state that the VR part of the game is only going to be exclusive to PS4 for one full year. I for one won’t be holding my breath expecting a sudden flood of VR compatibility across the other platforms but we’ll have to see.
In a perfect world, we PC Gamers might be able to also experience VR Capabilities around the end of January 2020.
VR for Ace Combat 7 (PS4) review
At the moment though, the VR experience of the Ace Combat 7 PS4 edition is far from “complete” anyways.
Yes, you’re able to experience how it feels to be flying inside a fighter jet cockpit, all the while being immersed in realistic ‘3D’ sound as you move your virtual head around. But at least on PS4, VR at the moment is an add-on at best; Only the “Mobius 1” missions come with VR capabilities.
Or to put it bluntly, about 90% of the game does not come with any VR capability whatsoever. So to call this game ‘VR compatible’ is a bit of a stretch indeed.
It seems like for every step forward we take two steps back.
So we PC gamers aren’t missing much at the moment, it seems as though Sony just did the bare minimum to slap the ‘VR’ label onto the game. But who knows, maybe when Sony looses its ius primae noctis on the VR feature at some point in 2020, Ace Combat for PC will receive a decent VR update? It’s not as if the bar has been set very high now is it?
So there is hope, we PC Players may still be able to enjoy the entire campaign and multiplayer in VR after all. As it stands, the VR experience of the Ace Combat 7 PS4 version is far from ‘complete’ and not anything I would miss.
Should you shoot for the Ace Combat 7 Collectors’ Edition?
Here is what you get from the Collectors’ Edition:
- Full version ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN
- The Ace Combat Season Pass: comes with three new and shiny aircraft, three additional missions and One music player mode (weird!)
- The Collectors among you will drool for the included Exclusive Arsenal Bird figurine (40 cm:500g)
- If you ever wondered how to get hold of an art book, here is your chance: 150 pages filled with everything a devout fan of this franchise would kill for
Wait? You are still here, not ordering on amazon?
Then it seems you are not (yet) a devout fan of this Game…
In this case that’s good, because… well it’s no longer available.
And if you are already a huge fan and collector, and you were one of the few chosen ones, you probably have the Arsenal Bird figurine by now encased in a glass container for everyone to admire. Lucky you.
Whilst the art book is a nice little touch (and pretty much par for the course as far as Collector’s editions go) the price tag for the package itself is rather steep. Expect to fork out $200 for the Collector’s edition, feel free to pour yourself a stiff drink also.
I am one of the unwashed. I love a great game more than nearly anything, but I will not (and more importantly can not afford to) invest 200 bucks to get a figurine and an art book. Oh, and don’t forget the Season Pass.
But to each his own. I take off my hat for long time fans of the series and pass this time.
Ace Combat 7 Gameplay
The engrossing gameplay of the Ace Combat Franchise is what kept it afloat through all these years.
Before take off, you have the option to choose what type of controls you want (Standard or Expert) to set the granularity of the gameplay. The handling of your jet will feel totally different depending on your settings and this is where AC7 comes into it’s own. In fact, several gamers starting out on Standard redid the campaign because after getting used to the expert level, the game simply opens up in terms of controls. This is adds a layer to what are in my opinion, the best games of this genre.
In campaigns, you have 20 different missions to play through, featuring multiple objectives to complete. The bulk of which comprises mostly of destroying targets such as tactical buildings and enemy aircraft.
At first it may seem like everything is just a little too easy, but given time and a bit of progress, the difficulty ramps up just enough to keep you busy and focused on staying alive.
Alongside the improvement of the enemy’s AI (which was sorely needed), the weather becomes a more and a more interactive feature of the game. Included within is a dynamic weather system that isn’t only cosmetic, for instance, high winds will actually affect the jet causing the plane’s heading to change. Lightning even plays a role, if you are unfortunate enough to be struck by it expect to experience a momentary loss of weapon system capability.
Ace Combat 7 on Steam
Surprisingly Ace Combat 7 isn’t that demanding on your gaming rig, some laptops and a decent computer should be able to deal with it without a breaking a sweat.
However let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, don’t expect 4k on mid tier systems (you shouldn’t be anyway) but you probably will have a decent gaming experience with your slightly aged PC. I think some praise is due for the developers in this regard.
On Steam, at the moment (February 2019) there are two options to get hold of the game: The Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown Launch Edition and the Deluxe Edition which contains the Seasons Pass.
On Steam you will also find achievements, trading cards, and the popular community hub.
Ace Combat 7 Strangereal Edition vs. Aces of War vs. Deluxe Edition?
Besides the price tag, consider these facts when choosing your version of Ace Combat 7.
Ace Combat 7 Collectors’ Edition (Strangereal Edition): This version practically contains the whole “package.” Sadly, it is no longer available for purchase in the official retailers.
- Ace Combat 7 Aces of War: This bundle features the Launch Edition, an Exclusive Steelbook, and Aces of War Artbook. This version is only available for Ace Combat 7 Xbox One and PS4. Currently accessible on the Bandai/Namco website.
- Ace Combat 7 Deluxe Edition: It contains the base game plus the season’s pass. For us PC gamers, this is the best option available.
Ace Combat 7 Multiplayer
The multiplayer capabilities of Ace Combat won’t disappoint you.
That is as long as you are not hoping for finishing the single player campaign in “co-op multiplayer”. Sadly this not a feature.
The Ace Combat Multiplayer comes with two different modes:
- Team Deathmatch: The players become randomly assigned to teams (2 vs. 2 or 4 vs. 4), the team with the highest score wins.
- Battle Royale: Anything goes in this mode. You enter a lobby against a maximum of seven players and try to survive as long as you can.
Ace Combat 7 News
Hint: If you get stuck in any part of the game it would be a good idea to ask for help in the Ace Combat 7 Reddit thread, plenty of helpful info is to be found there.
Refreshingly, after the release of the Ace Combat 7 PC version the gaming community (modders) and the development team have kept working on the game. Here are some improvements so far:
- “Modders fix pop-in and add ultra wide Monitor Support”: “pop-in” is traveling at full speed when suddenly a vast 70-story building appears out of nowhere in front of you and you crash into it. To fix this annoyance modders were able to amplify the draw distance of the game; in other words, your game will load more models than usual.
- Another Modder was able to find a fix for ultra wide monitors (21:9) taking full advantage of higher resolutions, a feature that should have been in the stock game.
- “More Flight Stick Support” One of the most common complaints that currently haunts the Ace Combat 7 PC version is the lack of Hotas compatibility. The development team is now adding more options to fix this issue. From now on we can only hope that the developers continue expanding the compatible list in the future.