The Infinite Zenith

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Battlefield V: The Lynette Bishop Loadout, Operation Mercury, Killtastrophe, Rampage and a new Headshot Record

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” —Eliza Tabor

The third Tides of War chapter to Battlefield V introduced a host of new weapons, and the first new map in over half a year: the map Mercury was added at the end of May, and portrays the Battle of Crete, during which the Germans mounted an airborne assault on the Greek island, which was under British occupation. The map itself is beautiful, with blue skies, turquoise waters, Greek-style houses and cliffs that encourage vertical gameplay. Besides a new map, six new weapons were also added. The medic class gains access to the bolt-action carbine weapons, which allows them to hang back and engage enemies at a medium range more effectively. In particular, the M28 con Tromboncino provides medics with a brand-new playstyle, where they can use the integral grenade launcher to damage vehicles. Similarly, the scout class also received two new weapon classes: the P08 Pistol Carbine is the first close-quarters weapon for the scout, bringing back the aggressive recon style gameplay that I was very fond of in earlier Battlefield titles, while the Boys AT Rifle is an immensely powerful weapon that, in addition to being able to decimate infantry, also gives the Scouts the ability to damage vehicles. The third chapter thus provides players with different options for their classes, and this in turn has helped with keeping things fresh, even though the development and release of new content has been at a snail’s pace: by this point in Battlefield 1‘s lifespan, the They Shall Not Pass DLC had released, introducing five new maps, a new tank and six new weapons. However, while things have been progressing very slowly, Battlefield V‘s roadmap for the months upcoming have revealed that the fourth Tides of War chapter will bring at six new maps to the table, including a re-imagining of Battlefield 3’s Operation Metro. Chapter five subsequently introduces the American Pacific and Imperial Japan factions, bringing players to the long-awaited Pacific Theatre. Iwo Jima and the M1 Garand rifle will be introduced, and this is particularly exciting.

Over the past six months, since I last wrote about Battlefield V‘s multiplayer, I’ve now reached the point where it costed me less than a dollar per hour to play Battlefield V, and I’m hovering around a KDR of 0.9, a considerable improvement relative to my performance in Battlefield 1. While Battlefield V‘s consistently failed to deliver on new maps, Tides of War and its weekly rewards have been sufficient incentive to return and complete assignments, encouraging replay. While I’m not particularly fond of the constant introduction of new game modes, and feel that playing the same maps have become very repetitive (DICE would be better served building new maps rather than adding game modes which have had insufficient testing and lack the same scale as conquest), the silver lining is that I’ve become very familiar with the maps, to the point where my performance has been of a consistently high standard. Map and weapon knowledge has allowed me to help my team out, top the scoreboards and generally have a good time while attempting each of the weekly assignments. With the improvement in familiarity comes a few new personal bests. The close-quarters chaos of Outpost allowed me to score a killtastrophe (a multi-kill of eight, equivalent to killing 8 opponents within 4 seconds of each previous kill in Halo 3). The Valentine Archer tank, introduced during the second Tides of War chapter, has been my go-to vehicle. Despite its lack of a rotating turret, the Archer’s loadout is incredibly effective against infantry and vehicles alike. I’ve gone on multiple 15-streaks with the Archer, and my current best is a 23-streak (equivalent to Halo 2’s Rampage). Knowing the weapons better have allowed me to best my headshot record by one metre using the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I — my headshot record is now 258 metres, up from 257. While the maps have not been something to write home about, new weapons also have kept things satisfactorily enjoyable: the P08 and Boys AT Rifle are especially fun, adding a new dimension to the scout class.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open this post up with a killtactular I got while operating a Tiger I against a loaded transport. During my time with the Tides of War, I found my skills tested not against other players, but with the assignment requirements themselves. Most challenging was the assignment to unlock the StuG IV, which entailed using a passenger gun to kill enemies while attacking an objective – I ended up finishing this assignment and grabbing my StuG IV (an upgrade the the StuG III that the history team of Girls und Panzer operate) before DICE modified the assignment and accidentally locked people out of it.

  • The De Lisle Carbine is one of the few suppressed weapons in Battlefield V, and while it marks the first time that the medics got access to something new, the weapon is also remarkably difficult to use, being ineffectual at close quarters, and demanding superb aim to land medium range shots. However, in offering something new to the medic class, Battlefield V shows that with the right content, the game has the potential to last quite a while.

  • While the StuG IV was an interesting vehicle, the Valentine Archer is perhaps the most overpowered vehicle in the game, even following the patch. Before, with the right specialisations, the Archer could hold a total of 50 rounds: 40 standard shells for its QF 17PDR and an additional ten APDS rounds. Combined with a high mobility, the Archer becomes the perfect tank for delivering an incredible volume of fire downrange – while limited by the fact that it has no rotating turret, the vehicle has extreme endurance, and I had no difficulty in going on long the equivalent of a Running Riot even with the base Archer. So effective is the Archer that I’ve been accused of cheating while using it: when used as a long-range solution, the Archer is untouchable.

  • The longest killstreak I’ve gone on is with the Archer: during a match, I ended up going 23-0 with it, which is equivalent to Halo‘s “Rampage” killstreak. The Archer was subsequently nerfed to carry less ammunition, but even then, it remains terrifyingly powerful. Despite the updated Archer carrying a maximum of 32 shells for the QF 17PDR for a total of 42 rounds, down from its original 50, the Archer still has exceptional endurance in combat. For my part, I play the Archer as a sniper: if one is assured some security from the rear and flanks, no other tank comes close to it in performance.

  • After putting in over eighty hours into Battlefield V, it’s become apparent that cheating is a much greater issue here than it has been with previous titles: low level players with scores and KD-ratios that far exceed what is feasible in-game very are encountered frequently. Low levels translate to less time spent learning weapon patterns and reduced map knowledge, so doing unrealistically well is an indicator I am dealing with someone who is employing some sort of client-side modifications. While I ordinarily quit out of games with such players, the Tides of War assignments often require that I stay to completion, which makes for a frustrating experience. Conversely, in game where there are no cheaters, I perform modestly well.

  • The Boys AT Rifle was the most welcome addition to Battlefield V thus far: I’ve long desired to run with the Lynette Bishop loadout in Battlefield, and after unlocking this gun, immediately set about putting it to the test. With a fire rate of 10 RMP, the Boys AT Rifle fired a 13.9 mm round at 747 m/s in real life, and could punch through up to 23.2 mm of armour at 91.44 meters. The weapon was initially effective against lighter tanks, but improvements in German armour meant the Boys AT Rifle was no longer as useful, and eventually became replaced by the PIAT. In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle fires at 22 RPM and has a muzzle velocity of 400 m/s, but can be upgraded to fire at 26 RPM and rounds that travel at 460 m/s.

  • In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle is useless against tanks, can deal reasonable damage to light vehicles (a few shots will destroy them) and is obscenely powerful against infantry under 100 metres, being able to one shot anyone with a body shot. To run the most authentic Lynette loadout possible, I opted to equip the machined bolt to improve the Boys AT Rifle’s firing rate: Lynette typically uses magic to increase her Boys AT Rifle’s fire rate, as well as to stablise her shots and aim at longer distances. Since magic isn’t a feature in Battlefield V, I decided that a good set of optics would need to replace Lynette’s ability to resolve targets at great distances.

  • One of my favourite moments with the Boys AT Rifle is getting a double kill with one shot on enemies in a narrow street in Rotterdam. Getting kills with the weapon is incredibly satisfying. While capable of downing infantry in one shot under 100 metres, the Boys AT Rifle is balanced by the fact that it has a very slow muzzle velocity, low firing rate and demands a bipod to operate accurately. Setting the weapon up is a challenge and leaves one exposed: in exchange for its great power, there are concessions that must be made. As such, I find that the Boys AT Rifle is well-balanced, and not overpowered. In the right situation, it is devastating, but not sufficiently so as to change the outcome of a game. I believe that an issue where the Boys AT Rifle had inappropriately good hip-fire accuracy has since been addressed.

  • Set on Crete, Mercury is the first new map to grace Battlefield V since Panzerstorm came out back in December. Filled with cliffs and set alongside the coasts of Crete on the Mediterranean, Mercury is a beautiful map that offers a brand-new atmosphere to Battlefield V. My first kill on the map was with the Panzer IV Ausf. H, Miho’s preferred tank as Girls und Panzer progressed: the Ausf. D configuration was originally intended for an anti-infantry role. On the topic of Girls und Panzer, it appears that overseas viewers have begun flying over to Japan for Das Finale‘s second part, and if what I’m hearing is to be believed, at least one individual intends to do this for the remaining four parts. I’ve mentioned this numerous times that I don’t get this behaviour, since the payoffs of seeing a film ahead of everyone else are not worth the price it takes for such an endeavour.

  • I’ve always been practically-minded about these things: assuming a cost of around 2500 CAD (including flights, ground transportation, accommodations, food and the movie ticket itself), seeing all six parts of Girls und Panzer: Das Finale would cost 15000 CAD. I get that there are people who are dedicated to Girls und Panzer, but spending this much money just to see a military-moé series ahead of everyone else cannot be considered wise, especially since watching the movie in theatres does not allow one the option of taking high-resolution screenshots and generating interesting discussions as one might see here. Instead of attempting to match the folly that some might have, I’ll take a more practical route and for the present, focus on enjoying Battlefield V and the other things in the now. Here, I run with the Bren: Perrine H. Clostermann’s weapon of choice, the slow-firing and hard-hitting Bren has quickly become my favourite LMG of Battlefield V for its reliability at medium ranges.

  • The turquoise waters off the coast of Crete are stunning, and give way to the verdant cliffs players fight on. The map greatly resembles Battlefield 1‘s Achi Baba, which was located on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. However, whereas Achi Baba is located inland and features narrow canyons, rocky hills and ruins, Mercury has villages and a spectacular view of the water. Battlefield V is definitely more colourful than its predecessor, but has had very little opportunity to show off what the Frostbite Engine is capable of primarily because of its limited map selection.

  • Besides a lack of maps, every patch of Battlefield V also introduced a series of unusual bugs that negatively impacted performance and user experience. This aspect of Battlefield V makes no sense: DICE has already proven that the Frostbite Engine is capable of excellent net code, managing 64 players seamlessly and ensuring hit detection is accurately reported. As such, when things like TTD are still a problem in Battlefield V, I cannot help but wonder if core aspects of the game will be improved; while my experiences have been reasonably smooth, that DICE continues to encounter these problems is not encouraging.

  • Having reached rank twenty for the medic, I finally unlocked the M1928A1 Thompson Submachine Gun. Better known as the Tommy Gun, this weapon was an iconic part of American history, known for its use by bootleggers during the Prohibition era. The basic Thompson has a 20-round stick magazine and handles similar to the Suomi, but once upgraded with its 50-round drum magazine, the weapon becomes a powerhouse weapon for the medic.

  • Its effectiveness has quickly made the Thompson my favourite of the medic weapons, and rendered the journey to reach rank twenty worth it. Up until now, I predominantly ran the MP-40 and ZK-383: the former is reliable and consistent, while the latter packs a punch and is suited for slightly longer ranges thanks to its bipod. While the medic class had started Battlefield V as an ineffectual one, updates to submachine gun performance and access to weapon specialisations have come together to make the class much more viable.

  • Addition of the M28 con Tromboncino (an upgraded version of Battlefield 1‘s M91 Carcano Carbine) to the medic class finally provides one with the option of medium-range combat. The bolt-action carbines for the medic class exchange raw damage, range and accuracy of the bolt-action rifles for a higher firing rate; they have a straight-pull bolt, and so, one can continue firing without zooming out, making it possible to land follow-up shots more effectively.

  • Lacking the same limitations as the De Lisle Carbine, the M28 con Tromboncino is the first proper medium-range weapon for the medic, and it is a great choice for maps that have wide open spaces. While medics can typically get around by making use of smoke and relying on their teammates to provide return fire at range, there are situations where being able to reliably hit back is valuable.

  • The M28 con Tromboncino also has one additional feature that makes it an attractive weapon: it possesses an integral grenade launcher that was originally intended to extend the firepower infantry could carry without relying on mortar support. In Battlefield V, the integral grenade launcher handles similarly to the support class’ AT grenade pistol, and gives medics the option of engaging light vehicles, as well as discouraging tanks. Here, I managed to destroy a tank that was low on health using the M28 con Tromboncino’s grenades.

  • Outpost is the latest game mode to join Battlefield V, and while it is focused on smaller-scale combat, I feel that the radio tower construction/destruction mechanic adds a bit more engagement to capturing points: one must actively build or destroy a radio tower to control a point. The mode was surprisingly fun, forcing a different play style compared to standard conquest, and the aggregation of players on a capture point also makes reinforcements highly useful. My original wish for more reinforcements was realised: smoke barrage and artillery strike were added to the game during the second chapter, and it appears that spotting aircraft and flamethrowers could make their way into the main game in the future.

  • All that’s left would be a 4-player strategic bomber like the B-29 that can deal massive damage and provide several gun turrets similar to Call of Duty WWII‘s B-17 Ball turret kill-streak. The tradeoff would be that the B-29 flies extremely slowly and would be vulnerable to AA guns, as well as enemy aircraft. here, I score a headshot with the Gewehr M.95, a weapon with a fast muzzle velocity. The headshot I refer to in this post’s title was actually scored on Arras with the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I, where I landed a particularly lucky shot from the church tower close to the B-point on a player standing at the C-point. Considering the difficulty of sniping in Battlefield V compared to its predecessors, I’d say that this isn’t too shabby a feat.

  • My most impressive moment in Battlefield V actually comes a few days ago, after the third Tides of War chapter ended. I was messing around on Arras and had gone on a short kill-streak with the Valentine Archer, but was unceremoniously killed by a player who got lucky with the sticky dynamite. Spawning back in close to where I’d died, I noticed that the enemy team had begun swarming the A point and immediately called in a JB-2 rocket. When it struck, I got eight kills simultaneously, which is counted as a Killtastrophe in Halo 3.  The skill-based aspects of Battlefield V means that I’ve actually improved much more quickly than I did with Battlefield 1, and with this in mind, while Battlefield V had been off to a weak start, the recent announcements about chapter four in Tides of War, and confirmation of the Pacific Theatre has me very excited. Despite my disappointments, I remain optimistic that DICE will turn Battlefield V into a superbly enjoyable title, much as they had for Battlefield 3Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 before it.

For the past while, I’ve thus been running the Lynette Bishop loadout: the addition of the Boys AT Rifle into the game has finally made it possible for me to run around as my favourite Witch of the 501st, and it has been quite exhilarating to make the Boys AT Rifle work. Blessed with the ability to one-hit-kill anyone from under 100 metres owing to its .55 Boys ammunition, the Boys AT Rifle is constrained by low muzzle velocity, fire rate and the fact that its bipod must be deployed for it to be effective. For the most part, since I don’t happen to have magic that allows me to use the Boys AT Rifle the same way Lynette does, I need to place myself strategically to make the weapon work. However, when positioning is good, the Boys AT Rifle is a beast: to match Lynette’s abilities, I run the Boys AT Rifle with Slings and Swivels (faster weapon draw), flashless propellant (reduces muzzle flash), the machined bolt (increases firing rate) and high velocity bullets. While its damage makes it a terrifying weapon to square off against, the Boys AT Rifle’s limitations means that it takes a bit of skill and patience to properly wield the weapon: missing a shot is unforgiving, and having the bipod deployed makes one vulnerable to counter-snipers. On the whole, however, the Boys AT Rifle has been a fun weapon to use, and Lynette’s loadout is, when played correctly, a viable one in Battlefield V. The upcoming Tides of War chapters look to bring even more iconic weapons and vehicles into Battlefield V, and so, while it is disappointing to see that Battlefield V has remained buggy and lacking in content, the future for the title remains quite encouraging: Battlefield V could still very well become an incredible World War Two shooter, and the Pacific Theatre definitely looks to be helping the game along. If a new elite soldier wielding a katana is introduced in the Pacific Theatre chapter, I would be tempted to drop additional coin for this, as it would allow me to run the Mio Sakamoto loadout.

Battlefield V: An Incursion into Firestorm and remarks on Battle Royale

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

– Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire

Introduced with the third Tides of War chapter, Firestorm is Battlefield V‘s answer to the wildly popular battle royale genre. Set on Halvoy, a vast map of snowy forests, lakeside cabins and mountain roads in the Nordic landscape, Firestorm features the biggest map to ever figure in a Battlefield game. The principles are the same: eliminate enemies, stay alive and move to a safe area whenever the ring of fire shrinks the playable area. The mode can be played independently, as well as in squads of two or four people, and for Firestorm, Battlefield V offers a modestly intuitive and efficient inventory management system, allowing players to swap out their gear, use additional support items like armour plates, health kits and gadgets and determine what ammunition they ought to carry. Weapons and gear items come in different rarities, with higher-end items being more suited for their intended roles. However, even low end items can still be useful, and immediately after touchdown, it is important to immediately kit up before seeking out better gear, and making one’s way to the next play area. This is about the gist of Firestorm, and prior to its introduction, I had no inclination to play it whatsoever. Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, however, required that I at least acquainted myself with the mode in order to complete several of the challenges. During my time with Firestorm, I found a mode that was unexpectedly refreshing from the usual tenour of Battlefield V‘s core offerings.

Battlefield has traditionally been about large maps and large scale, setting it apart from the close-quarters frenzies of titles like Call of Duty, and the more tactical, slower experiences that Rainbow Six Siege and Counter Strike offers. Not quite as hectic as an arena shooter, but also faster-paced than tactical shooters, I’ve long enjoyed Battlefield for modes like conquest and domination, which offer large-scale battles. Battle royale modes like Firestorm modify this dynamic entirely, pitting individual players and their map knowledge against other players. The pacing is even slower than that of a tactical shooter, since players aren’t ever really too sure of what lurks around the corner or over the next hill: this sense of foreboding and anticipation creates a suspense that elevates the immersion. With the stunning visuals and performance afforded by the Frostbite Engine, Firestorm offers a unique battle royale experience that has impressed. There are certainly merits to a mode like this in Battlefield V, although the dubious decision to only make this available to existing Battlefield V players means that the mode might not have as much staying power in the long term. For me, the pacing is not something I particularly look for in a game despite being enjoyable and a different experience than Battlefield V‘s traditional modes: I’m more inclined to enjoy modes where I am able to respawn back into intense warfare involving infantry and vehicles.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During my first match of Firestorm, I dropped into a snowy area, found a common rifle and then proceeded to get melted by another player with an epic weapon. The different tiers are differentiated by the specialisations and optics on the weapon, with rare tier weapons having better characteristics. Epic weapons have two specialisations and an optic that improves its performance, although damage is unmodified, and so, players can go toe-to-toe with other players even if their weapon is of a lower tier.

  • My favourite part of the Halvoy maps are set in the areas with less snow, more grass and some of the Nordic-style cabins. The water effects here are amazing, and the houses around tend to old common or rare items. I tend to discard ammunition I find for shotguns, only holding onto ammunition for a weapon that I currently have active.

  • My first kill in Firestorm was using the Sten: this submachine gun has good hipfire performance, and I noticed that another player was hanging around the house I was chilling in. I eventually baited this player into the house, and with the Sten, proceeded to get the kill on them. It’s a bit of a dirty play, since I normally avoiding using camping techniques in normal play – Firestorm encourages the camping approach.

  • Besides healing pouches and armour plates, I usually make it a point to carry anti-personnel explosives if I can find them. I’ve not encountered any players in vehicles, mainly because the solo game mode means players going on foot rather than use vehicles and attract attention to themselves. This means that anti-armour weapons are usually of lesser use, although they can be useful in blasting open houses enemies are camping.

  • While battle royale intrinsically is more suspenseful than any other gamemode in Battlefield V, the scenery is exceptionally good, and Halvoy is beautiful. The diversity of landscapes and terrain on Halvoy allow everything from snowy fields to lakeside cabins to be portrayed in beautiful detail, and there’s an unusual tranquility on the map found nowhere else in Battlefield V. It would be worth going into Halvoy and avoiding enemy players just to explore the different points of interest.

  • My typical strategy for Firestorm is to drop where players are not, and then continue moving through cover to avoid being shot at. Since the objective of the solo game mode is to avoid death for as long as possible, keeping away from unnecessary combat and letting other players whittle one another down. Of course, if I do get the drop on another player, I will opt to eliminate them if it is safe to do so.

  • In a straight-up confrontation, I usually end up winning owing to a combination of superior reflexes and weapon understanding. Where I unexpectedly come under fire, I usually end up losing the firefight if my opponent is more hidden away. While Firestorm uses a completely different health and armour system, the time to kill is still relatively quick.

  • Every battle royale game involves a shrinking game area. In Firestorm, a literal ring of fire surrounds the map and burns areas inland as time wears on. Players are eliminated instantly from this inferno, so it is imperative to always continue moving inward as time wears on. This naturally increases the risk of running into other players, and having good weapons becomes more important as a match progresses.

  • During my best match, I found an epic FG-42 with 3x optics, and it was a superbly effective weapon that allowed me to score three kills in total. I had secured the requirements for the Tides of War achievement, but was also desperately low on ammunition for the FG-42. I ended up dying in an ambush. While I’ve not put enough time into Firestorm to win a match, it is fun to see how far I can progress.

  • Supply drops become available in Firestorm that act as mini-objectives – offering superior equipment, they also give incentive for players to converge on a point and engage one another for better equipment, as well as to score a few kills before moving on. I’ve never been close enough to these supply drops to do anything meaningful with them, such as taking potshots at enemies or securing better gear.

  • Firestorm did allow me to utilise the M1928A1 Thompson, which I’ve still yet to unlock in the multiplayer proper. This iconic submachine gun is one of the best weapons available to the medic class, and its base version is fairly powerful, having a high fire rate and good accuracy. While stymied by a low ammunition capacity, the weapon can be upgraded to have a fifty round capacity. At the time of writing, I’m level nineteen with the medic and will be unlocking the Thompson shortly.

  • On the whole, I’d say that the simplified experience that Firestorm offers, in conjunction with being powered by the Frostbite Engine, makes it the superior battle royale game compared to the likes of Fortnite or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, which have comparatively more sophisticated mechanics and therefore, has a slightly larger learning curve.

  • The Bren Gun excels at medium ranges: while it has a slower rate of fire, it is accurate and hits fairly hard, making it a solid choice for maps with wider open spaces. Its main limitation is its top-mounted box magazine, which severely obstructs visibility. Perrine’s weapon of choice in Strike Witches, the Bren has served her well in missions against the Neuroi, although like most movies, Perrine is shown operating it for much longer than its box magazine allows.

  • I’m almost certain that carrying a Liberator pistol around is meant to be a joke: the weapon does pitiful damage and cannot kill with a single headshot. Hampered by an uncommonly long reload time, the Liberator lacks the Kolibri’s headshot damage multiplier and firing rate (a skillful player can kill up to two opponents with eight back-to-back headshots): Hikari used the Liberator to great effect in Brave Witches in finishing off the Gregori Neuroi Hive, but the incredibly poor characteristics, in conjunction with a lack of behemoths, means that accomplishing what Hikari did in Battlefield V is outright impossible.

  • If the rumours are to be believed, updates to Battlefield V will introduce the American and Japanese factions, plus the Pacific Theatre, in addition to the Boys Anti-Tank rifle. This will allow me to run the Lynette Bishop loadout, where I attempt to run around with the Boys Anti-Tank rifle as a primary weapon as Lynette does, and attempt to snipe enemy players. The inclusion of the American M4 Sherman will also let me run the Kay loadout: if one of the upgrade paths includes a 17-pounder, that would be phenomenal.

  • On the Japanese side of things, being able to utilise the Type 99 Mk. 2 Model Kai would allow me to run an authentic Yoshika Miyafuji loadout. While the weapon is technically an autocannon, firing 20mm rounds, its firing rate is closer to that of a heavy machine gun. The weapon was used in an anti-air role capacity, and this may reduce the odds of it being an infantry-portable weapon. While the Japanese did have their own LMGs and MMGs, they’re quite unremarkable as weapons (the Type 96, for instance, outwardly resembles the Bren).

  • While Battlefield V has continued to suffer from an unclear content release schedule and limited content, I note that Star Wars: Battlefront II has done exceptionally well of late. With sustained new content and a revision of the in-game currency system, Battlefront II has reached its launch player counts and is said to be a solid game that handles well. Continued support for the game after a rough launch has turned it into a respectable title, and given DICE’s track record, I expect that Battlefield V will very likely become a highly enjoyable and solid instalment to Battlefield, as well.

  • The promise of Pacific Theatre content is definitely encouraging, and in the meantime, I’ll periodically play Battlefield V to completely the weekly Tides of War assignments. I am going to have to miss this week’s assignment, which yields the Tromboncino M28 on completion. This weapon is a variation of the Carcano Carbine and has the distinction of being able to act as a bolt action rifle with anti-vehicle capabilities: it fires grenades, as well. Here, I eliminate an enemy in Firestorm using the M1A1 Carbine.

  • We’re now two days into May, and the reason why I’m going to miss this week’s assignment is because I’ve been in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley for Facebook’s F8 conference. I applied back in March and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was invited. The F8 conference represented a fabulous opportunity to speak with Facebook’s engineers, network and also watch their keynotes in person. Aside from the technical presentations and sessions, the conference was a solid opportunity to also converse with other developers, try out the new Oculus Quest and partake in the evening events.

  • With F8 now over, I’ll be offering a few thoughts on my experiences in upcoming posts. I am pushing forwards with Yama no Susume‘s second season and will have my thoughts on the first half in due course. In addition, I am moving through Valkyria Chronicles 4 – the eighth chapter appears to be the equivalent of the Batomys engagement at the Barious Desert, and I’m still figuring out an optimal moveset for finishing this fight. Finally, entering May, I am pleased to announce that I am hosting June’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, an initiative to share and discuss noteworthy blog posts. Come June, I will be gathering posts from the month of May of all sorts. More information on this will become available towards the end of the month, and I will be applying my own unique brand of discussion towards this programme, which is geared towards increasing exposure to different blogs out there.

For me, my lack of patience in gaming means that the slower, methodical gameplay of battle royale games means that I have not particularly found the fad to be one I could get behind. Having only played the solo mode of Firestorm, it is clear that battle royale’s merits come with playing in a squad, where one is able to coordinate with other players to create some genuinely exciting moments of strategy and cunning. As I am very much a lone-wolf player when it comes to gaming, battle royale is a mode I’ve not gotten too much out of. With this being said, Battlefield V‘s implementation shows that the Frostbite Engine is indeed capable of accommodating a technically solid battle royale mode, and with the right adjustments to Battlefield mechanics, battle royale can be quite engaging in its own right. There’s a market for this game type, and while I personally might not be it, rolling out a standalone Firestorm launcher and allowing interested players to play freely would definitely allow Firestorm to reach more players. In the meantime, it’s a mode that remains little more than a curiosity as I push further into the Tides of War programme – the hunt to unlock new weapons has provided incentive enough to continue with Battlefield V even though there’s been no new maps.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown- Final Review and Reflection at the Endgame

“When I close my eyes, the sky in my dreams…is a deep, dark blue.” ―Avril

With the Osean communications satellites destroyed, the Osean military is unable to organise a response to Erusean actions. Strider squadron is sent out to Anchorhead Bay to cover a defecting Erusean military official. With the IFF system down, Trigger must identify his targets to ensure he does not fire upon friendly forces, and manages to defend the official long enough from attack for him to reach a helicopter, but the Erusean official is accidentally shot down by Osean forces. Later, Strider Squadron heads to Tyler Island to take an airbase close to the space elevator. Here, they destroy occupying Erusean forces, save refugees and manage to protect the Erusean princess, as well as destroy aircraft launched from the mass driver with munitions headed for the Arsenal Bird. With provisions running low, Strider Squadron launches an assault on the Grand Duchy of Shilage to capture a base, and in the process, encounter Sol Squadron. Trigger manages to shoot down Mihaly in a dogfight, and Mihaly’s last wish is for drone production to be halted. Erusean and Osean forces form a coalition to destroy the Arsenal Bird and force the radicals to surrender. After eliminating radical Erusean forces, the Arsenal Bird appears. When saturation fire from ground forces fail to reach the Arsenal Bird, the princess manages to disable the power supply long enough for the Arsenal Bird’s shields to go down. Trigger knocks out its propellers and exposes its microwave powered dome, destroying it to sink the Arsenal Bird. However, two autonomous drones arrive in response to the Arsenal Bird’s destruction. After shooting down allied aircraft, they prepare to use the space elevator to transmit their accumulated data to drone manufacturing facilities around Erusea. Trigger manages to shoot down both drones, but the second drone ejects an ADF-11 unit that heads into the tunnels leading into the space elevator. Trigger and Count pursue the ADF-11 and successfully destroy it to prevent it from uploading its combat data. Both pilots manage to fly through the space elevator’s windbreak, back into open skies. Thus, my journey in Ace Combat 7 comes to an end, and with it, my first-ever experience with a true Ace Combat game on PC.

While Ace Combat games have always been about the arcade experience of taking to open skies and becoming a veritable ace, each of the games (save Assault Horizon) also has a distinct theme. The introduction of UAVs into Ace Combat 7 speak to the current events surrounding the increased presence of technology, automation and artificial intelligence. With UAVs providing Erusea with a powerful air force, Erusean military leaders deemed it prudent to turn their resentment against Osea into a war. While the initial drones are inferior to human pilots in terms of adaptability and creativity, they more than make up for it with superior endurance and mobility, being able to overwhelm human pilots with their numbers and wear them down over time. The lack of a pilot means that drones are expendable, as well. Pilots from both Erusean and Osean air forces continue to express their distaste in drones, feeling that they can never replace human pilots despite their advantages. However, when information from super-ace Mihaly is utilised in powering a new generation of UAVs, both sides, and even Mihaly objects, feeling that improved artificial intelligence and a powerful data set would allow machines to tirelessly fight wars without end, where humans might see the futility of warfare and set aside their differences. The gap between humans and machines, then, is empathy – machine learning algorithms are constantly improving and excelling at their tasks, but they have yet to reproduce the process that make humans distinct. Thus, where a machine might simply fight until its fitness function is satisfied, humans have the capabilities to understand how others might feel and make a decision that machines cannot comprehend. Mihaly recognises this, as do many of the pilots that resent the UAVs for being pale imitation of human pilots. Ace Combat 7 suggests that the most important decisions sometimes do have a human, emotional component to them, and that entrusting warfare to machines may have detrimental consequences that wind up being undesirable for all sides involved.

Themes of the horror and desolation of warfare are also explored in Ace Combat 7 – again, save for Assault Horizon, all of the Ace Combat games give players a glimpse of the effects that conflicts have on civilians. While players might get to fly in the skies, far removed from the destruction on the ground, as players push further into the campaign, it becomes clear that the war between Osea and Erusea is having a toll on both nation’s civilian populations. Erusea is particularly hit hard, and even those in the Erusean military begin to wonder whether or not their war is worth fighting. Anti-war themes are present in Ace Combat games with a degree of irony, suggesting to players that for all of the amusement derived from accomplishing incredible feats in the skies, war nonetheless is more tragedy than glory. This is likely the reason why Japanese games tend to place an emphasis on combat efficiency, scoring players favourably for swiftly completing a mission; the sooner an objective can be accomplished, the lower the odds that unnecessary casualties, both military and civilian, can result. Ace Combat missions are scored based on time, rewarding players for attacking precisely what they need to, and where necessary, do as much damage to an enemy as to limit their ability to wage war elsewhere. This mechanic encourages players to pick their engagements smartly and approach them with creativity, rather than brute force. Instead of destroying an enemy outright, it is preferable to stop them from fighting while other solutions are implemented. In a proper Ace Combat game, the themes of the game are directly baked into the mechanics that create a level of immersion that is unparalleled. With this being said, Bandai-Namco have not sacrificed gameplay in any way with these mechanics – Ace Combat 7 is thrilling, engaging and exciting, providing the first-ever Ace Combat experience on PC that was well worth the price of admissions and then some.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the satellite network goes down, the IFF system is taken down with it, and while the aircraft’s sensor suite thankfully still locates enemies, they are now tagged in yellow as unknowns. Players must fly close enough to them to positively identify them before they can start shooting. Flying closely amongst skyscrapers in the dark of night makes for an exceptionally exciting mission: players are taxed as they must simultaneously determine which targets present a threat to the convoy while at once maintaining a reasonable awareness of their surroundings.

  • Ace Combat 7 really kicks into high gear in its final quarter, and every mission is simply a thrill to fly in. At this point in time, I’ve become sufficiently versed with my controls such that losing sight of the convoy was never a concern – as threats materialised, I simply flew over them, melted them and then flew off to find more targets to ID. While the mission was a chaotic one, at no point did I ever feel like something was outside of my control. This was a problem in Assault Horizon, but by Ace Combat 7, it’s clear that all of the best elements from Ace Combat 5 were brought back.

  • I fly by a cable-stayed bridge en route to tagging unknown targets on my HUD here: this bridge looks like it’s modelled after Shanghai’s Nanpu Bridge, with its spiral ramp. Anchorhead Bay is a massive city, and offers one of the most compelling environments to fly in: when I saw the trailers for Ace Combat 7 and combat sequences set here, I knew immediately that I was going to pick up the game without any question.

  • Much as how I featured an image of an explosion’s shock wave in Assault Horizon, I feature one here from a fortuitous screenshot that I captured while flying low over the bridge and blasted the hostile armour on it. The pressure wave is clearly visible here in the dark of night, and I’m flying low enough so that the different lane markers are visible on the spiral ramp below; while this mission entailed some of the lowest altitudes I’ve flown at, the F-15E Strike Eagle was more than up to the task.

  • After the F-15E’s solid performance in the fourteenth mission, I elected to field it again over Anchorhead Bay; in hindsight, a different aircraft with dedicated anti-ground munitions might have been more effective owing to the abundance of surface targets. While there are enemy helicopter gunships and aircraft, most of the sixteenth mission entails strafing ground targets. The F-15E’s large missile capacity and handling means it’s more than up for the job even when equipped with the 6-target missiles, but specialised anti-ground weapons would make it more straightforwards to clear out ground targets.

  • After the Erusean general makes it safely to the helicopter, an unknown group of aircraft arrive. A few tense moments elapse, and Trigger is given the order to shoot them down. Most of the enemies up until now have been ground targets, and my missile stockpile was dwindling, but I did have a large reserve of the 6AAMs remaining, so I made short work of the remaining fighters in the sky to finish off the mission.

  • The seventeenth mission is set over Tyler Island, Osean territory that has been under Erusean attack since the conflict started. There’s a mass driver here (just visible in the image’s leftmost side): these electromagnetic catapults are used to slingshot objects at high velocities, and the Mobile Suit Gundam series is known for employing them as a practical means of launching craft into space. Ace Combat 7 feels, more than any other instalment of Ace Combat, like a Gundam game in the Unreal Engine with aircraft rather than mobile suits.

  • While a fair portion of mission seventeen deals with blasting ground targets, there is wisdom in carrying a good anti-air loadout: the ground targets are relatively easy to deal with, and as Trigger hammers the Erusean ground forces, their bombers make an appearance. Like previous missions, failure will result if the bombers are allowed to reach their targets, and the bombers come from difficult angles, so making good use of special weapons will allow these to be swiftly dealt with before they can deal any damage.

  • A glance at this blog’s archives show that I began writing the posts for Assault Horizon precisely five years ago. During this time, my application to graduate school was accepted, and I accepted an offer to work on The Giant Walkthrough Brain project. I also saw heartbreak of a calibre I’d never quite previously expected, and in hindsight, The Giant Walkthrough Brain ended up being the tonic that saved me from melancholy – this is one of the reasons why the project had such a profound impact on me, and why I continue to mention the project to this day.

  • In fact, news of the heartbreak came on social media precisely five years ago to this day. Five years since, while things’ve not really changed in that department, I’ve found other ways to turn things around. It’s important to never lose sight of what’s important, and during times of difficulty, regrouping and finding ways to move forward is critical in healing the hurts. Focus on The Giant Walkthrough Brain and graduate school was my answer to heartbreak; I think that after five years and troubling readers with numerous recollections of this later, I’m all the stronger for it.

  • I’m sure readers don’t come hear to read stories on how I accepted my rejection and moved on, so I’ll promptly return the discussion to Ace Combat 7, where I blasted remaining air targets with my missiles after clearing the bombers out. The moody skies of Tyler Island reflect on the general atmosphere surrounding allied forces: despite lacking communications with the military leaders, Strider Squadron and their allies continue to do what they feel is necessary to end this conflict.

  • The mission checkpoint is reached when players are tasked with rescuing Princess Cosette and Avril from hostile Erusean forces. There’s not much time to do this, and players must hasten to reach the two before the timer runs to zero. I quickly restarted from the checkpoint here to reset my damage and restock on munitions: this act is a rather low-handed but effective way to quickly resupply and repair without affecting one’s time spent (and corresponding score).

  • Yellow smoke marks the targets, and once the threats surrounding Avril and Cosette are neutralised, players have one final objective remaining – take out the supply ships carrying parts and munitions for the Arsenal Birds. Launched from the mass driver, players have a  maximum of ten minutes to pursue the ships and shoot them down.

  • In my case, the 6AAMs were more than sufficient in dealing with the supply ships: they turn out to be carrying Helios missiles, and will detonate in a brilliant flash of blue light once destroyed. The challenge in mission seventeen ended up being the bombers that appear mid-mission; they are quite difficult to pin down in the clouds, and so, while I was carrying anti-ground munitions on my first attempts, necessity dictated that I carry good anti-air weapons. I ultimately choose my special weapons based on what the tougher enemies of a mission are, and only use them for these segments.

  • The eighteenth mission is set in a small country adjacent to Erusea: Shilage was once an Erusean state and declared independence. Strider Squadron undertakes this mission with the aim of acquiring provisions, and launch an airstrike against Shilage Castle, a known site where supplies were stockpiled. This mission has some of the most beautiful skies of any level in Ace Combat 7, being set in the early hours of a quiet, misty morning.

  • With all unknowns presumed hostile, the need to identify targets before firing is no longer a part of the mission, and so, players are able to freely fire on all marked targets. For this mission, I chose the F-15C for its superior performance in air-to-air combat; I’d come into the mission knowing that I’d be squaring off against Sol Squadron and Mihaly again, so having a good plane for dogfighting would be critical. The pulse lasers that had worked so well earlier came to mind: unlike missiles, they cannot be dodged, and I knew that Mihaly in particular was every bit as agile as Assault Horizon‘s Markov.

  • The early part of the mission is melancholy – blasting hapless ground targets on a quiet morning did not offer too much in the way of excitement, and I turned the F-15C’s payload against ground targets. By this point in Ace Combat 7, I’ve become accustomed to rapidly switching between targets quickly: missiles will continue tracking the last target with a lock, and most ground targets only require one missile to destroy. With this being said, I’ve heard that tanks can shoot down players if they’re careless.

  • Shilage Castle is based off Slovakia’s Spiš Castle, a UNESCO world Heritage site that was built in the twelfth century as the political and economic center of Szepes Country. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1780, and while the cause is unknown, the castle underwent reconstruction towards the latter half of the twentieth century. It stands to reason that Shilage is probably a blend of Slovakian and Hungarian cultures.

  • With the pulse lasers, Sol Squadron becomes a pushover in air combat. However, when Mihaly arrives, he arrives in style with the X-02S Strike Wyvern, the most powerful aircraft in the game. Armed with an electromagnetic launcher of his own, the Strike Wyvern is a straight upgrade of the Wyvern, featuring improved electronics and flight control surfaces that allow Mihaly to dodge almost anything players can throw at him. The EML will devastate players, and I sustained one hit that brought me to the brink of death.

  • With my pulse lasers nearly exhausted, I managed to get behind Mihaly and downed him with missiles. This fight between two aces epitomises what dogfights in Ace Combat are about – just a player and their wits. Assault Horizon‘s handling of the fight between Bishop and Markov proved to be a chore to complete, and when I completed Assault Horizon, I wondered if I would ever go back on a summer’s evening to fly over Washington, D.C. again. The answer was that, with how ardous the fight with Markov was, I ended up never returning.

  • After Mihaly is shot down, he requests that Trigger, a worthy pilot, put an end to drone production. I never got the impression that Mihaly was an antagonist per se: a legendary pilot fighting for Erusea, Mihaly is not a warmonger or seeking revenge, and flies only for his own sake. His loss here, coupled with the toll of combat on his body, means that he will retire from active service. Beating Mihaly was exhilarating, and I flew off into the sunrise once the mission was completed.

  • We’ve come to it at last: a coalition of Erusean moderates and Oseans cooperate at the space elevator to destroy radical forces and lure the Arsenal Bird out with the aim of destroying it. Fighting over brilliant blue skies, the first part of mission nineteen is an annihilation assignment – players simply need to shoot down as much stuff as they can within the allocated time limit. I ended up returning to the F-15E Strike Eagle; with its larger missile capacity and handling characteristics, it would be well-suited for taking on the large numbers of enemy aircraft and UAVs.

  • Of late, things have been remarkably busy, both at work and outside of work. Yesterday, I took the morning to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair (CYSF): unlike last year, where I was assigned projects from the physical sciences and therefore did not have as strong of a background, I was given biological science related projects this time around, meaning I could engage with the participants to a greater extent. The projects I saw were of a satisfactory standard, save one group that started mere weeks ago; it’s always a thrill to see what young minds are up to these days.

  • Earlier today, after hitting the gym, I attended a volunteer orientation for Otafest. Having been an attendee once, after going to Japan a few years back, it suddenly felt a little hollow to merely be attending, so this time around, I applied to be a volunteer. The convention will be in May on the Victoria Day long weekend, and there’s a bit of time between then and now. My main interest in returning as a volunteer was that I wanted to see things from the other side of the fence: much as how I participated in the CYSF when I was in middle school and then got to judge it, I wished to see the efforts that go into making the local anime convention possible.

  • For the first time ever on PC, I fire the Tactical Laser System (TLS) on the F-15E. Firing a single continuous beam, the TLS was first introduced with the ADFX 01 and 02, then integrated into the Falken. The TLS hits its target instantaneously and deals massive damage, making it the ultimate special weapon that aircraft can carry. At least, this was the TLS in older Ace Combat titles: by Ace Combat 7, a simpler system was developed and could be mounted on conventional aircraft. This TLS feels weaker than the version found on the Falken, but seeing as I would be fighting the Arsenal Bird, which has its own laser weapons, I’d figured that it’d be prudent to bring my own laser to the fight.

  • In the end, I had no trouble shooting down enough aircraft to meet the mission requirements, and evaded the Helios missiles that the Arsenal Bird had hammered the area with. With the skies largely clear, the moment had come at last to utilise the TLS against the Arsenal Bird: despite being weaker than previous iterations, I ultimately found that the TLS proved adequate even without the improved power upgrade part. I entered the mission with the beam expander that increased the hit area.

  • Against the Arsenal Bird, the coalition forces initially cannot do anything to it: the microwave-powered dome provides the airborne carrier with an impenetrable energy shield, and after surface and air forces hammer the Arsenal Bird, the shield absorbs all damage. There’s little point in continuing the assault on the Arsenal Bird at this point, and focus should go towards whittling down the number of MQ-101s in the air.

  • While Trigger and the other pilots fight to stay alive long enough to work out a plan, Cosette and Avril work from elsewhere to disrupt the power supply, which one of Sol Squadron’s pilots explains, is powered from a transmitter in the space elevator. I particularly enjoyed the voice acting here: while Cosette and Avril aren’t seen on screen, their actions are audibly heard. By this point, the MQ-101s are trivial to fight, and once the shields drop, the coalition forces will turn their attention towards keeping the UAVs off Trigger’s back.

  • The time has come to put the F-15E’s tactical laser to use for real: Trigger must destroy the sub-propellers and the main propellers to slow the Arsenal Bird down. The sustained damage from the tactical laser makes this much easier: the propellers can sustain quite a bit of damage, and the Arsenal Bird has an impressive array of weaponry against players. Besides its missile barrage, the Arsenal Bird has a tactical laser of its own, and pulse laser CIWS that can bring down Trigger on short order. Concentrating on the propellers and then breaking off for another run will make more sense than pushing aggressively forward.

  • The Arsenal Bird’s propellers will self-repair, and Trigger is given new targets to hit: after destroying the docking clamps, the final step is to hit the Arsenal Bird’s power supply. Here, I engage the Arsenal Bird’s docking clamps with my laser, while it attempts to fire its laser on me. Moments like these are unscripted and fun: with the freedom to tackle the problem that is the Arsenal Bird however I pleased, I felt like I was shaping my own fate, in contrast with Assault Horizon, which had me on rails during the final fight and therefore, did not give me the same feeling that I’d improved as a pilot through the game’s progression.

  • Hitting the small microwave-powered dome took more skill than any objective previously, but I eventually got a lucky shot off with the tactical laser and brought down the Arsenal Bird. Ace Combat 7 is all about the thrills, and each subsequent mission towards the end made players feel the rush of achievement from pulling off increasingly wacky stunts. In my mind, the story in Ace Combat 7 is average in concept, but superb in execution: in conjunction with exceptional gameplay and visuals, Ace Combat 7 simply works.

  • On a quiet Friday evening two weeks ago, I finally reached the final mission of Ace Combat 7: the sun was setting, and I decided that, since Battlefield V had no active assignments, I might as well finish Ace Combat 7. I had enough of the in-game currency to buy the F-22A, the most advanced aircraft available on the American Tree. Players can also pick up the YF-23 as an alternate American aircraft, or the Su-57 on the Russian tree. Having invested all of my currency into the American tree, I ended up going with the F-22A, and in the knowledge that I was going up against the most advanced drones Ace Combat 7 would throw at me, I figured the time had come to into the cockpit of an F-22A.

  • With the best firepower, defense, acceleration and manoeuvrability of any of the aircraft I’d flown previously, the F-22A is a veritable monster of the skies. I flew the basic version armed with the Quick Maneuver Air-to-Air Missile, but didn’t fire a single one during the final mission’s first phase: while the ADF-11 UAVs are manoeuvrable and can dodge missiles with ease, the F-22A was able to keep up with them. I had no difficulty getting behind them and getting a few good hits off. The ADF-11s are equipped with tactical lasers of their own, as well as smaller drones, but despite being formidable foes, I downed both.

  • As the skies darken, one of the ADF-11s shot down detaches its cockpit unit and flies into a tunnel beneath the space elevator, intent on transmitting its combat data. No options are left to the player, who must fly into the tunnel in pursuit. When I was in middle school, the public library had a strategy guide for Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and reading through it, I became interested in playing the series: during my time as an undergraduate student some years later, I found the soundtrack on YouTube and subsequently watched some playthroughs when I admittedly should have been studying for organic chemistry and data structures.

  • While a few interesting air combat games surfaced for iOS, none of them had the same magic as Ace Combat, and so, when Assault Horizon was released to PC, I picked it up, feeling that it would be the closest I would get to flying in Strangereal. Ace Combat Infinity was a PS4-only title, and so, when Ace Combat 7 was announced in 2015, my interest was piqued. Four years later, I was able experience this, and my verdict is that it was well worth the wait: the finished product is engaging, polished and fun.

  • No Ace Combat game can truly be considered one without a tunnel flight: Unsung War had players fly through a tunnel to destroy a computer core for SOLG, and the final mission then involved destroying the SOLG itself on New Year’s Eve. Unsung War was filled with symbolism, and a final mission on December 31 was meant to symbolise the wrapping up of loose ends, and preparing for the future. Dates don’t seem to figure quite so heavily in Ace Combat 7: the final mission is set on November 1, 2019.

  • The first part of the tunnel flight isn’t actually too demanding, and using yaw alone, with some pitch, is enough to safely navigate the tunnel leading into the space elevator’s core. The UAV will use its electronics to close the gates leading into the core, and players must quickly decide on which gate is the right one to fly through. Count will follow Trigger into the tunnel, and appears to sustain damage from the UAV despite Trigger being in pursuit of the UAV.

  • With the QAAMs, destroying the ADF-11 becomes too easy: I simply waited for it to fly to just left of the central column here and then wasted it in under five seconds, then blasted the terminals lining the core. The tight confines is supposed to make for a thrilling battle, but the QAAMs are a little too effective and ended what would’ve been an otherwise harrowing dogfight. Destroying the wall-mounted targets brought to mind how Poe Dameron’s flying inside Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator.

  • I don’t mind admitting that it took me a few tries to fly into the space elevator’s windbreak – even with an aircraft as capable as the F-22A, I crashed more than a few times trying to break out of the circling pattern in an attempt to get into the windbreak. However, I managed it in the end, and dodging a few elevator pods, I flew to the top of the tunnel, bringing the mission and game to an end.

  • I am so thoroughly impressed with Ace Combat 7 that I have absolutely no regrets about buying the game at full price: while games will hold their value if I can get a dollar CAD per hour, Ace Combat 7 was so well done that I feel I got more than my money’s worth even at full price. I deeply enjoyed the game – like DOOM and what the Halo: Master Chief Collection will be, classic gameplay with a fresh coat of paint is exactly what is welcomed in gaming of this day and age. While new titles have a great deal of features, sometimes, returning to the roots and freshening everything up can produce unparalleled experiences. With Ace Combat 7‘s campaign in the books, I am turning my attention to Valkyria Chronicles 4 next, and once I have more information on The Master Chief Collection, I can make a decision on whether or not I’ll be buying anything else for the next little while.

Representing a triumphant return of Ace Combat to consoles, and the first time a true Ace Combat title has been available for PC, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a solid title that brings back the gameplay that made the original titles so captivating, while at once, modernising the game with current-generation visuals and sound. Ace Combat 7 looks and feels great, capitalising on modern game engines to add additional depth to the flight system. The use of clouds and icing as cover, that doubles as an obstruction, is innovative and clever, adding new ways to approach missions. Flying itself is very smooth and precise: even though I was running with a keyboard-only setup, I had no trouble completing even the trickiest of manoeuvres. Enemies were well-designed, requiring skill rather than uncommon patience, to best. A solid upgrade system pushes players to consider their upgrades and purchases, while simultaneously encouraging replay for folks who wish to unlock everything. The soundtrack, while perhaps not as inspired as Ace Combat 5‘s, is nonetheless an experience that captures the different moods of the missions, and the sound engineering is solid; aircraft feel powerful to fly. The English voice acting is also on-point: earlier titles had corny-sounding dialogue throughout, but in Ace Combat 7, the dialogue feels much more natural (even if it does sound somewhat cheesy in a few spots). Overall, Ace Combat 7 is a proper instalment in the Ace Combat series – it was worth the four year wait since the game’s announcement in 2015 to finally be able to fly the skies of Strangereal, and looking ahead, the additional content for Ace Combat 7 is looking quite tempting. I anticipate that I will be picking up the DLCs once they release and I have a concrete idea of what they will encompass, but for the time being, I will be going through the campaign again to earn enough currency to unlock the Strike Wyvern.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash- Applicable lessons for DICE and the Future of Battlefield V

“Let’s start from where we left off.” –Yumi, Peach Beach Splash menu

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is an unusual instalment in Senran Kagura series, being a third-person shooter where ranged combat with water weapons replaces the traditional hack-and-slash gameplay of previous titles. The titular Peach Beach Splash (PBS for brevity, not related in any way to the Public Broadcasting Service) is an ancient tradition where female ninjas engage one another using water weapons, and fight for the top spot that guarantees the winners anything their hearts desire. Each of the characters from Hanzō, Gessen, Hebijo and Crimson Squad participate in the tournament for their own reasons, whether it be for their friends’ sake, to ascertain their futures or simply prove their worth. As players progress through the game, they unlock various cards that bolster their characters’ abilities, as well as earn in-game currency that can be used to purchase character customisations. Mechanically, Peach Beach Splash is a reasonably solid title that features highly colourful settings, an unexpectedly engaging story that allows even newcomers like myself to gain a modicum of insight into what the characters are like, respectable shooting mechanics and above all, a progression system that encourages replay. The features available in Peach Beach Splash indicate a game where the core mechanics are well-defined, sufficiently to the extent that other Triple-A developers could stand to adopt a thing or two from Peach Beach Splash. One such title is DICE’s Battlefield V, which has proven to be a disappointment of late for its relative lack of content. While I appreciate that DICE has invested considerable efforts into improving gameplay mechanics, and for having introduced the Tides of War, which encouraged me to return weekly, the lack of maps has been put a dampener on my excitement. Further to this, the customisation system, originally touted as being an integral part of the experience, has been remarkably lacklustre.

Peach Beach Splash offers a customisation system that puts Battlefield to shame once a day and twice on Sundays. Players have access to an impressive collection of clothing options right out of the gate and can customise their characters to some extent even before they start the game, and as in-game currency is earned, more options become available. Moreover, clothing in Peach Beach Splash reacts to water effects properly. By comparison, one could swim through a river in Battlefield V and come out as dry as they’d been sitting by a roaring fire for a few hours. From a Triple-A title powered by one of the most advanced game engines known to mankind, this is disappointing: I expect more realistic visuals. The cosmetics system in Peach Beach Splash is sufficiently versatile such that the combination of choices is nearly limitless, and players can precisely tune their character’s appearance prior to setting foot on the battlefield. Besides a deep cosmetics system, Peach Beach Splash also outdoes Battlefield V in terms of its map count. Battlefield V launched with a measly eight maps, and in December, Panzerstorm was introduced, bringing the total to nine. Peach Beach Splash has a total of eighteen maps, bringing additional variety into the base game. DICE could take a leaf from Peach Beach Splash: maps are the core of the Battlefield experience, and a part of what makes Battlefield so appealing is being able to learn the ins and outs of each map over time. Greater map diversity keeps the game fresh, and Peach Beach Splash already nails this. Between the superior map variety and customisation system, Peach Beach Splash‘s developers have evidently gone the lengths to make sure that, even without a live service model, their title remains serviceable. DICE could certainly stand to look at games elsewhere for inspiration on what Battlefield V requires to be a long-lived, successful title in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open by mentioning that I’ve got no familiarity with any of the characters of Senran Kagura: I started the game with Yumi, a third year of the Gessen Academy who is said to be cool as ice, but underneath a rigid exterior, is someone who cares for her friends to a great extent. Unlike the main games, all of the characters handle the same, and the choice of character is purely a cosmetic one.

  • Swimsuits, water parks and blue skies are classic summer settings: it is therefore a bit of irony that I played through Peach Beach Splash during the Christmas season. Having bought this on the spur of the moment while I was picking up Valkyria Chronicles 4, I felt that this game would offer simple and frivolous fun, far removed from the more demanding nature of titles like Battlefield V. For one, Battlefield V does not provide players with aesthetically pleasing characters to look at.

  • If I had to be truthful, Peach Beach Splash has unresponsive, slow controls unseeming of a shooter – this is offset by an automatic lock-on system. In the end, while a third-person shooter, Peach Beach Splash lacks the mechanics that most demand skillful aiming, and instead, places more emphasis on cooldown management, which requires a different set of skills.

  • The weapon selection in Peach Beach Splash is basic but sufficiently diverse. The assault rifle-type water gun that is good for medium and close ranges, striking a balance between reload speed and damage output. The water pistol handles like a hand cannon, dealing high damage at the expense of firing rate, while dual pistols allow for a higher capacity in exchange for damage output. There’s a slow-firing rocket launcher that does ranged area-of-effect damage, a water-balloon launcher with limited range but area-of-effect impact, a sniper rifle for precision shots at range and a shotgun that excels in close quarters.

  • More outrageous weapons include a Gatling-gun that has a long reload time but is unparalleled in damage output and a portable hose that handles like a flame thrower. Like Battlefield 4, the assault rifle is more than adequate for most missions. A player’s ammunition reserves is shared with their jump packs, which propel players forward or up. It’s a fun way of getting around quickly and brings to mind the jump packs of Titanfall, even if wall-running is not a feature in Peach Beach Splash.

  • For the main campaign, I ended up playing with a variety of characters, and here, square off against one of the machinations that PBS’ hosts bring to bear. The boss fights were quite ludicrous, being a world apart from the deadly-serious bosses that were seen in The Division. While I’m wielding a rocket launcher here, there’s more than one way to beat a boss – provided one doesn’t pick the close quarters weapons like the hose or shotgun, bosses will go down with enough patience.

  • Some of the characters in Senran Kagura have troubled pasts: Murasaki here is a gloomy, pessimistic character who wields a terrifying power causing her to black out and enter a berserker rage when angered or cornered. She’s normally quiet and soft-spoken, and in Peach Beach Splash, wields none of her usual powers.

  • While Peach Beach Splash might have simple mechanics, the voice acting is on-point and brings the characters to life. I was particularly fond of the different stories each of the characters for the different groups had, and this gave a bit more reason to be rooting for each team as they progressed through the tournament.

  • With a boisterous personality, Homura leads the Crimson Squad, who in Peach Beach Splash, is desperate for work following their departure from Hebijō, and since then, have scratched a living off rocks. While this is more serious in the series proper, Peach Beach Splash has them attempt various money-making schemes, such as comedy skits and the like; the PBS tournament represents a chance to become famous and earn some hard currency for Homura and her team.

  • I rather disliked the missions where an accident results in fires being spread around a map: there’s no indicator on the minimap as to where the fires actually are, and finding them can be tricky, if they’re hidden behind other objects. These missions tested my patience more than any other part of Peach Beach Splash, and I elected to roll with the pistol, which has the smallest profile of any weapon and would also allow me to use my jump pack more liberally.

  • The inability to aim means that boss fights are trickier than they would in other games: in The Division, for instance, I have very fine control over where my character is shooting and therefore, I can always flank a named elite, using my skills to distract them if necessary, and then getting a good flank off, allowing me to target their weak points. This simply isn’t viable in Peach Beach Splash, but I suppose that having superior clothing-water interactions does make up for this to an extent.

  • Besides fights against swarms of weak enemies, Peach Beach Splash also gives players a chance to square off against characters from the other schools. Enemy characters are more durable and will project a shield if their health drops below a certain point, and once they are vanquished, can be finished off by means of glory kills: while not quite as visceral as the glory kills of DOOM, it’s still entertaining to take aim and blast their enemies into humiliation. While body shots are technically possible, having played shooters for a nontrivial period of time, I always go for the head.

  • As I progress further into Peach Beach Splash, I developed my own set of favourite characters to fight with. Murakumo is my current favourite – one of the Gessen students, she hides behind a mask the same way Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal does, assuming the veneer of a terrifying warrior. This belies a shy, insecure personality prone to speaking with a squeaky stutter. Her time at Gessen and with Yumi helps her improve, and I roll Murakumo without her mask for most.

  • Most of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign missions focus on the schools, but once all of the schools and Crimson Squad’s stories are completed, players gain access to additional missions that showcase other characters. These additional missions are a pleasant surprise and also expose the fact that the PBS Tournament is not all that it appears. The campaign is a bit corny, but all the more entertaining for it.

  • Besides the campaign, there’s also a series of side stories, plus the option to mess with the characters in what Peach Beach Splash refers to as the locker room. I’ve begun customising my preferred characters here, and while I don’t think I’ll ever use the locker room’s more unnecessary (for me) functions, it remains an option for the folks who might have use for such faculties. I have no objection to such features, although it appears that not everyone shares this particular perspective.

  • I’ve heard that Kenichiro Takaki, Senran Kagura‘s main producer, left Marvelous for Cygames after Sony imposed restrictions on the content that is permissible within PlayStation games. Feeling that Senran Kagura would be diminished, Takaki decided to work with a company that would not be subject to the same constraints. These restrictions come from the North American branch of Sony, and sets a worrying precedence for future developers in that North American values, particularly those of the United States, could be used to force overseas developers to comply to arbitrary demands.

  • I personally feel that it is definitely not the place of North Americans to influence decisions that affect organisations abroad, least of all from individuals who have no interest in the game – there is such a thing is not playing what one doesn’t like, after all. It is unfortunate that those who would seek to deprive others of their preferred entertainment exist. It is beyond the scope of my understanding as to why some would do this, and also beyond the scope of this discussion.

  • Over the course of Peach Beach Splash, I’ve been slowly upgrading all of my weapon cards: like The Division, I rarely use the card abilities for skills, instead, placing faith in my choice of weapons and a sure aim. As the end of the game draws nearer, I field Yumi again, and invite readers to take a gander at her profile at the Senran Kagura wiki, which has a rather…interesting description of her physical attributes.

  • The final boss of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign is a massive entertainment system that shoots lasers. My computer-controlled allies were next to useless in this and were promptly melted. It took me a few attempts to beat this monstrosity, whose attacks, while predictable, are powerful and whose biggest asset is a deep health pool that puts even the Black Tusks’ named elites to shame.

  • I ended up winning by retreating to reload and hammering the mobile entertainment system with the water that I had. Eventually, I’d worn down its health enough, got to the bottom of what was keeping the girls on the island and ended the campaign. My skills from The Division far exceeded what was necessary to do well in this game, and having beat the game, there is the matter of whether or not there I may give other Senran Kagura games a spin. The answer to this is that only time will tell.

I imagine that, were the DICE team to take a leaf from Tamsoft and focus on creating a solid experience for players, Battlefield V could yet be salvaged; Peach Beach Splash represents a polished, smooth product designed with the players in mind. A Battlefield title with more elements inspired by Peach Beach Splash would certainly make a splash, and…I think that’s about as far as I can take this year’s April Fool’s joke. In actuality, while I am quite disappointed with the lack of maps in Battlefield V, the mechanics have seen substantial improvement, and I’ve been having fun with the Tides of War, scored an 18-streak and found Rush to be a welcome game mode. It is the case that I wish DICE would focus on creating new maps and exploring new theatres rather than divert efforts towards minor game modes, but the reality is that I’m not terribly worried about the cosmetics system. The new Firestorm mode has also been a welcome addition: I was hesitant about it until trying it out, and overall, Battlefield V isn’t terrible: it is true that I am bored with the lack of maps, but there’s plenty of other games to go through while I wait for the new maps, which are slated to arrive in May. With this in mind, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash was something I got during the winter holidays as a bit of a joke. The gameplay is a bit wooden, and somewhat uninspired – aiming takes no skill. With this in mind, I was impressed with the movement system, and extent of customisations available to players in Peach Beach Splash. As well, the character stories did give the game additional depth that I was not expecting: Peach Beach Splash is intended to tie the different schools together, and while I’m not too familiar with the Senran Kagura lore, it is clear that each character has their own story and goals. The main games go much more deeply into the world that is Senran Kagura, but having a bit of story in Peach Beach Splash did much to liven up what is ultimately a fanservice game with no aim beyond showcasing a visually-pleasing cast in swimsuits. It’s certainly not a match for something like Battlefield V, but as far as providing some laughs go, Peach Beach Splash does deliver.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown- Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

“Stick with Trigger and you’ll make it.” ―Tabloid

Impressed with Trigger’s performance, the General Staff Office reopen the case on his involvement with Harling’s death, and Trigger is transferred into the Long Range Strategic Strike Group. Taking on the call-sign Strider 1 and adapting the sin lines on his aircraft into claw marks, Trigger’s first operation is to engage the Erusean fleet. He then participates in the defense of Stonehenge, allowing the Osean forces to reactivate one of there derelict rail guns at the Stonehenge installation and destroy the Arsenal Bird Liberty. With the Erusean military growing desperate, Strider Squadron is sent to destroy Erusean ICBM silos, before taking on a night mission to capture a Erusean air base and free prisoners of war. Osean forces prepare to capture Farbanti, the Erusean capital. After aiding ground forces in the operation, Sol Squadron and Mihaly appear. As Trigger dogfights with Mihaly and Sol Squadron, his aircraft’s electronic systems malfunction, and Mihaly orders his forces to withdraw, citing the dangers of flying in unknown conditions. It turns out that the Eruseans destroyed the Osean communications satellites in retaliation for the destruction of their own satellites, creating a debris field in orbit that have since damaged other satellites, causing surface communications to become unreliable. While ground forces successfully capture Farbanti, the loss of communications forces the Oseans to regroup and consider their next action. Pushing through Ace Combat 7‘s third quarter, the intensity and urgency of each mission has increased, creating momentum that compels players to keep going to see what happens next. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Ace Combat 7 thus far, but the later missions are in a league of their own, allowing players to test their skills as they unlock more aircraft and upgrade components.

Ace Combat 7 has succeeded in putting the “ace” back in Ace Combat; previous titles similarly had rookie pilots ascend to fame as their exploits become the stuff of legends. In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Blaze of Razgriz began as a green pilot assigned to Sand Island, but becomes increasingly well-known after participating in various operations. This feeling was largely absent in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. While William Bishop was a capable pilot in his own right, players never feel as though Bishop has advanced through the ranks to become a legend because he already entered the story as a capable pilot. Instead, his doubts and fears are a part of the narrative; while not the worst thing to experience, Assault Horizon’s story was also far removed from the more introspective and engaging approach older Ace Combat games had. However, in Ace Combat 7, the design elements from earlier titles make a triumphant return, and for me, nothing was comparable to watching Trigger become a fearsome legend that struck fear into those who saw the Three Strikes. I’ve long known that Mister-X, Mihaly, was a pilot of legendary skill, so to hear other pilots speak of Trigger as though he were a saviour (for allies) or dæmon (for enemies) was a clear sign that Trigger was fast advancing as a pilot. From taking down experimental drones to fighting Sol Squadron and Mihaly to a standstill on his own, players feel very much a part of the Ace Combat universe, immersing them into the game and making every successful mission a rewarding experience that encourages players to continue onto later levels with a sense of excitement.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While the F/A-18F is on an alternative branch to unlocking the F-22, I figured that its payload of anti-ship missiles (the AGM-84 Harpoon) would make the aircraft a potent choice against the ships encountered in the tenth mission. As the mission begins, the new AWACS operator, Longcaster, remarks that he’s going to be eating lunch while operating. The pilots have their hands full and an irate Count wonders why Longcaster’s mind is on sandwiches while they’re in the middle of battle.

  • The eleventh mission is an annihilation mission, and the name of the game will be to destroy as much stuff as possible before the timer drops to zero. There are two platforms in the mission area, and they are covered with targets. Some missions in Ace Combat 7 are total and utter chaos, making them immensely fun to go through. Attacking ground targets without Assault Horizon‘s air strike mode means that one must determine their own angle of attack to maximise damage dealt per run.

  • The worth of having the LASM as a special weapon mean that most frigates and destroyers can be wiped in one shot. These missiles are exceptionally effective against ships, but lack splash damage, making them less effective in other functions. Their flight path is also limited, so the ships protected between concrete walls are much harder to hit with the LASMs – I typically used them against ships that were in open water, and instead, used a combination of guns and missiles to engage the ships that were protected.

  • Being a direct upgrade to the F/A-18, the F/A-18F Super Hornet has a longer flight range, improved handling and better electronics. The Canadian government is struggling to replace its aging inventory of Hornets, and the Super Hornet has been one aircraft up for consideration, going up against the F-35. While the F-35 is considerably more expensive than a Super Hornet, its performance is superior overall. This subject has been the point of contention, and at this point in time, we ended up picking up F/A-18s from Australia as an interim solution, although personally, I’m not sure if this was the best decision.

  • The platforms have a central support structure within that is designated as a core, and these will cause entire platforms to crumble once they sustain enough damage. I suspect that experienced players with a mastery over their aircraft will be able to hit these targets with relative ease, although for me, I ended up taking more than a few passes to hit the cores and destroy the entire platform.

  • A large platform off the coast has a small segment that players can fly into, and with the right skills, one can make short work of the cores here to bring the platform down. I’ve found that my scores for Annihilation missions are weaker than standard missions, but on the whole, Ace Combat 7‘s scoring system has been much more consistent than Assault Horizon‘s. I know that there are coveted S-ranks to gun for, but scoring A-ranks on missions I’m seeing for the first time isn’t too shabby.

  • Being able to fight at Stonehenge and defend the facility is the ultimate form of fanservice in Ace Combat 7: Stonehenge was a railgun system that first appeared in Ace Combat 4 and returned in Infinity. With Unreal Engine 4 driving things, Stonehenge looks as good as it ever has, and it is a thrill to finally fly here for the first time on PC. I felt that, since I would be in a mission involving railguns, I wanted a railgun of my own. I thus equipped the F/A-18F’s Electromagnetic Launcher (EML), a highly powerful single-shot weapon that accelerates heavy slugs at hypersonic velocities towards their targets for massive damage.

  • This twelfth mission involves fending off ground and air targets from Stonehenge while Osean technicians work towards restoring the eighth railgun’s functionality. There are three sites to defend from ground assault, and occasionally, bombers will appear. The mission can seem daunting, but fortunately, it can be thought of as a highly visceral tower defense mission – bombers are the first priority, and when the AWACs announces bombers are approaching, one should drop whatever they’re doing and take them out first.

  • When there are no bombers in the skies, ground targets should be dealt with. There are three groups, each attacking a support site; each group consists of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, anti-air guns and surface-to-air missile launchers. Tanks should be destroyed first (there are both standard and AD Tanks that deal massive damage to ground facilities), followed by APCs. Anti-air weapons can be engaged last. In this manner, players can effectively take down forces engaging Stonehenge. Once all targets are eliminated, rocket artillery and helicopters carrying soldiers will appear.

  • I ended up taking on the helicopters, leaving the other aircraft to deal with the rocket artillery. The radio chatter in Ace Combat should not be ignored, as it offers insights on which areas are sustaining more damage and when enemies are incoming. As players clear the ground and skies, the Osean crews prepare Stonehenge for firing, but encounter issues with using a decades-old weapon. When it was first constructed, Stonehenge was an incredibly sophisticated weapon – chatter on the ground shows that disrepair has fallen upon the weapon. As the weapon reaches full charge, the Arsenal Bird appears.

  • Using the EML is typically reserved for hitting slow-moving or distant targets for massive damage: the EML can one-shot almost anything, and bombers go down with ease. However, I ended up saving my slugs for the Arsenal Bird’s propellers. Ignoring the MQ-101 drones in the air, I made a beeline for the Arsenal Bird, lowered my airspeed and positioned myself behind it to fire. Using what is essentially a miniature Stonehedge bolted onto my aircraft, I blasted at the propellers to slow this leviathan down.

  • On the ground, the crew operating the automated targetting systems for Stonehenge have been destroyed, forcing the ground crews to aim manually using range tables. Major Deanna McOnie is in charge of this operation, and while a calm, collected leader throughout, traces of desperation can be heard in her voice. Despite the lack of faces during gameplay, the voice acting in Ace Combat 7 is solid, and for me, marks the first time in a Strangereal Ace Combat game where the English dialogue sounds appropriate, without being too corny in nature.

  • Once both propellers are destroyed (made easy by the EML’s sheer damage per shot), the Arsenal Bird will slow down, and the mission comes to an end. Even after the Arsenal Bird deploys its active protection system, an energy shield that can repel conventional weaponry with ease, the shot from Stonehenge cuts through the shield and tears the Arsenal Bird in half. The burning remains land in the desert below, and the Eruseans are suddenly down a powerful air-denial weapon.

  • Mission thirteen has Strider Squadron attacking Erusean ICBM sites to prevent them from using these as a response to the loss of an Arsenal Bird. Players must switch out their special weapons for a laser targetting pod that designates ground targets for bunker-buster bombs. After a target is painted with a laser, players must keep their aircraft on their intended target until the bomb strikes. There are five real silos, but a large number of fake ones. The first silo is always guaranteed to be real.

  • It is worth locating a silo and softening its defenses up before attempting to laser a target for the bombs: silos are often placed in unwieldy locations, and placing too much faith in the HUD can result in a bomb missing its mark. By flying over a suspected silo, one can ascertain where it is located, and then designate the target with enough certainty that a bomb will strike it. If one misses, there is a bit of a reloading time while players must wait for the allied bomber to prepare its next bomb.

  • Using a targetting pod to designate targets is Ace Combat 7‘s answer to Assault Horizon‘s Launch mission, which allowed players to fly a B-1B Lancer or B2 Spirit through a radar-covered valley before using air strike mode to pound ground targets to pieces. While players cannot pilot bombers, using a targetting pod gives players plenty of freedom, showing that even without the scripted cinematics of Assault HorizonAce Combat 7‘s traditional gameplay mechanics are superior in terms of player choice and correspondingly, enjoyment.

  • Having only played the mission once so far, I’m not too sure if the ICBM sites are fixed, or if the genuine ones will rotate around at random to truly test player skills. An experienced pilot will likely determine an optimal flight path that will allow them to hit each site in the minimum time, so that knowing which sites house real ICBMs is irrelevant. Once all of the silos are destroyed, players are given a new challenge: intercept the ICBMs launched from a dam below before they accelerate enough to move out of firing range.

  • Successful destruction of an ICBM thankfully only requires good missile hits, unlike the Trinity bomb of Assault Horizon‘s final mission, and results in a spectacular detonation that fills the screen with light. The further I push through Ace Combat 7, the more obvious it is that many of the mechanics in Assault Horizon were unnecessary: the old mechanics seen in Fires of Liberation and earlier have evidently worked, so going back to these roots results in an improved experience. One thing I would very much like to see is properly remastered versions of Shattered Skies and The Unsung War for PC in the Unreal Engine.

  • Whereas Assault Horizon utilised the night mission setting for a bomber mission, Ace Combat 7 has players flying through a narrow valley while avoiding searchlights en route to a Erusean base. In Assault Horizon, I would not have had the confidence to perform such manoeuvres, but the controls in Ace Combat 7 have been flawless. I’ve been playing with a keyboard-only setup, using WASD for acceleration and yaw, arrow keys for pitching and rolling, and then the spacebar for firing missiles. The only thing I can’t effectively do is turn the camera, but I do have enough precision to do most everything else in game.

  • The canyon players must fly through for mission fourteen narrows, and to add a further challenge, players cannot exceed a height of six hundred metres lest they be picked up by enemy radars. It’s another test of patience for players, but those who can make it through the canyon can be assured that they now have a sufficiently strong command over the controls for the remaining challenges left in Ace Combat 7.

  • By the fourteenth mission, I’ve unlocked the F-15E Strike Eagle. An upgrade to the F-15C, the F-15E is superior all around and comes with six-target air-to-air missiles (6AAM), which excel for hitting scores of slower air targets. Highly manoeuvrable targets will evade these multi-target missiles, but for slower targets, they’re fairly effective. The F-15E also comes with self-forging munitions for anti-ground capabilities, as well as the legendary tactical laser system. For now, I’ve not chosen to unlock the other special weapons on the F-15E.

  • After coming out of the valley, I clear out air and ground forces while Osean ground teams move to capture the base. The Erusean base stands no chance, and when the operation is complete, Erusean forces are taken as prisoners of war, although the Oseans seem to be in high spirits and declare to their POWs that they’ve even brought in pizza. While some game journalists count this as clichéd, remarks like these do much to enhance the humour of the game, reminding players that Ace Combat is at the end of the day, a game meant for entertainment.

  • Gaming journalists tend to take themselves too seriously in this day and age, and it suddenly strikes me that we’re nearing on the five-year mark since a rather major incident involving alleged favouritism in a “game” for being an important contribution to gaming (despite said “game”‘s exceptionally poor production values and messages). The resulting fallout sparked flame wars on social media sites, and also diminished the relevance of gaming journalism, a field that is shrinking from the advent of YouTube channels that allow prospective players to see gameplay in greater detail.

  • While I still find value in gaming articles that deal with release dates, mechanics and other developer insights, I’m increasingly finding myself taking to YouTube to assess how a game plays before making a decision. This is how I came to pick up Ace Combat 7 with conviction after its launch, and I’ve been loving every second of it. I’m strongly considering purchasing The Division 2, as well: the game looks to have taken all feedback from The Division to produce a superior game overall. My only constraint is time: I would very much like to finish Valkyria Chronicles 4 first. Back in Ace Combat, after strafing the base repeatedly, I complete the fourteenth mission in good time, and fly over the base in a victory lap.

  • The fifteenth mission is set over the Erusean capital of Farbanti, a sprawling city with a portion of its central financial district underwater from the Ulysses 1994XF04 impact. The first part of the mission is an annihilation mission, but despite the plethora of ground targets to attack suggesting a multi-role aircraft would be suited for the task ahead, I felt that equipping the F-15C and its pulse lasers for the first time would be more effective, as the pulse lasers would allow me to deal with air and ground targets alike.

  • It turns out that even in their base form, the pulse lasers are incredibly effective: only a few shots are needed to destroy aircraft, and even from a distance of five kilometers, shots from the pulse laser can still reach an enemy aircraft. I upgraded my lasers with an increased hit-box size, allowing them to hit targets with greater certainty, and was superbly impressed with how they made short work of enemy aircraft outside of missile range.

  • One thing that I did need to be mindful of was that there’s actually more after players have reached the scoring requirements for the annihilation mission. I’ve expended much of my ammunition destroying ground targets, and flying to the return line in some missions can take some time. My solution was that at check points, I would simply restart at the checkpoint, allowing me to fully replenish all stores and return my damage to zero.

  • Ace Combat games have come a very long way in visuals: even Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation looks dated compared to Ace Combat 7. Urban settings have been greatly improved; rather than flat texture maps denoting low rises seen in earlier titles, smaller 3D assets are present to give even individual cargo containers and storage sheds three dimensions, adding much to the game from a graphics perspective.

  • Once players hit the time limit, Sol Squadron and Mihaly appear. While the goal is supposedly to shoot down Mihaly, this strictly isn’t possible, and players should instead focusing on whittling down Sol Squadron. The pulse lasers make short work of anyone who isn’t Mihaly, and the wisdom of having returned to the ever-reliable F-15C becomes clear here. The mission ends when Sol Squadron sustains enough damage; as players turn their attention to the remaining bogey, their HUD suddenly flickers.

  • I will be returning in early April to conclude my thoughts on Ace Combat 7, where I will explore thematic elements and my final thoughts on the first true Ace Combat title for PC. Patient readers will have noticed that after a few anime posts this month, I’ve slowed down and reverted to writing about games. Things have been busy on my end, and admittedly, I’ve been watching much less anime than I have in previous seasons. With this in mind, I am actively watching Endro! and have every intention to write about what turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

At the three-quarters mark, I’ve unlocked both the F-15C and F-15E models: the F-15C is the ultimate air superiority aircraft whose performance makes it well suited for air engagements, while the F-15E has better all around performance and can be outfitted to be effective against ground targets, an upgraded F-15C is no slouch in performance. Possessing pulse lasers, the F-15C is a solid contender in aerial battles, with the lasers’ range and damage making them a powerful choice against enemy planes. Against Sol Squadron in Farbanti, I engaged my opponents with confidence. Besides improved aircraft, I also greatly enjoyed the alternative perspectives that Ace Combat 7‘s third quarter has to offer. Fighting to defend the Stonehenge superweapon from Erusean forces, players find themselves at the opposite side of the fence; Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies had players mounting an assault on Stonehenge to prevent occupying Erusean forces from using the weapon. Stonehenge was originally constructed to intercept Ulysses 1994XF04, an asteroid measuring 1600 kilometres across. While the weapon managed to reduce casualties, it was not a silver bullet. The weapon has become an iconic part of the Ace Combat lore, and seeing the complex in Unreal Engine 4 was a breath of fresh air. It was an honour to finally fly over the superweapon that is a major piece of the Strangereal universe, and this time, rather than attacking its rail guns, players must defend it long enough so that the decades-old complex could be used to down an Arsenal Bird. With one Arsenal Bird down, and Farbanti captured, Ace Combat 7 is shifting into high gear for its final quarter.