Namco Bandai's Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is out there ready to be purchased, or rented, and played. But should you invest the time and money? Since I'm the only one playing, here's my split personality Gut Check:
Michael Fahey, Die-Hard Ace Combat Fan: What the hell have they done to my series? I depend on Ace Combat for high-velocity aerial combat. In the three hours I've played Assault Horizon I've participated in a lengthy battle acting solely as a helicopter gunner, piloted my own helicopter slowly around a town providing cover fire for ground troops, and played an extended version of the gunner bit from the end of Modern Warfare 2. I've spent more time in other aircraft than I have in jets. This is not what I wanted. I can't even use my flight stick? Screw this. No.
Michael Fahey, Somewhat More Reasonable Ace Combat Fan: As much as I love the earlier entries in the series, I must admit that flying around in circles until the missiles hit was getting a bit tedious. Project Aces' new Close-Range Assault system gives me the chance to experience a more dynamic and dramatic sort of dogfighting. I'm riding my enemy's tails, camera shaking as I struggle to keep them in my sights. I'm killing bad guys with my machine guns — something that almost never happened in earlier entries in the series. Sure it's essentially on rails at that point, but the action is so intense that I don't mind so much. Between the new combat system and the frequency of flying (or not flying) things that are not jets, Assault Horizon doesn't feel like an Ace Combat game, but what it does feel like is a game I didn't mind purchasing. Yes.
Michael Fahey, Fan of Air Combat in General: When I play Battlefield games I spend the entire match running to the air strip to grab the plane. I bought Apache Air Assault knowing it wasn't good, just for a chance to spend a little time in a whup-whup machine. This game has helicopters, gunships, jets, and a multiplayer mode in which they can all fly together. With 31 different aircraft to pilot or wield against the enemy, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the best bang for my flying buck. Yes.
Mind you this is after the four hours I've spent so far playing through the story and tooling about multiplayer since I picked up the game on Tuesday night. Look for more on Ace Combat: Assault Horizon next week.