Tony Wilkins continues his reviews of the Ace Combat franchise with a review of Ace Combat 2 on the Playstation.
Ace Combat 2 followed hot on the heels of its predecessor being released less than two years after the original Air Combat in 1997. As I said in my review of that title the game had lots of promise and to a large extent that promise was realized in this follow-up. So let’s dive in to Ace Combat 2.
Firstly the plot remains almost the same as in the first game in that you are a member of an elite mercenary group who have been called upon to help turn the tide against a well organized and equipped rebel force. When I played this back in my youth I will be honest and say that I rarely paid any attention to the story. These early games in the series were more about the action than the cinematic elements that came later. Another thing as well is that Namco has done a lot of retconing in recent years adding more detailed information to the story of Ace Combat 2 that didn’t actually feature in the game itself such as details over the Ulysses asteroid that makes its game appearance in Ace Combat 4. So in this case the story is just there to give you a reason to be fighting as in the first game.
It is from here however that Ace Combat 2 becomes unrecognizable from the first installment. Almost every aspect of the game has been improved upon. The aircraft look sleeker and more detailed and have additional animation such as air brakes and moving wings for those aircraft like the F-14 Tomcat and Tornado F.3. The scenery is also a vast improvement on Air Combat being far more textured and detailed. The controls have been left virtually untouched so if you have mastered the fully three dimensional EXPERT setting of Air Combat then you will have no trouble playing this. The biggest change seems to be in the gameplay itself with the environment feeling much bigger and your aircraft can finally pull up without stalling at ninety degrees which was the biggest pain in the rear in the first game. Sadly two features remain the same and that is you still have only one type of missile which can be used against air and ground targets and the camera view remains fixed to the forward position.
This was the first game to introduce several features that would continue in to future installments. It introduced the concept of Ace enemy pilots that you have to shoot down to gain medals. It also introduced the series’ first playable super fighter in the form of the XFA-27 which has the unique feature of firing four missiles before reloading as opposed to two in all the other aircraft. It was also the first to offer the player a choice in mission route by joining one of two advances on the enemy each with their own mission path. Sadly however this would be the last time we got to see the Ace Combat Phoenix logo. I liked it.
One complaint Namco took seriously was that Air Combat seemed to be rather short and so Ace Combat 2 comes with an abundance of missions. This is a good and bad thing however. If I was honest a few of the missions do feel a bit samey after a while and you start to wonder if there was any point to them other than to make the game feel longer. Some missions are really involving however and perhaps the most memorable is the shooting down of the cruise missile which you have to close in on and hit with guns. Tricky at first but once you have done it a couple of times you get the knack of it and it doesn’t become a problem. When you do fail though you are treated to a beautiful FMV of the missile with its multiple warheads destroying a city.
In conclusion Ace Combat 2 was the game Air Combat wanted to be. It is far superior to it’s predecessor but it would be Ace Combat 3 that would fully realize the franchise’s potential on the first generation Playstation but that has its own sad story which I will be going in to in my next review. If you do find this in a car boot sale or flea market somewhere I would highly recommend picking it up.