Apr 29 2022

Late Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War Review

Now this is a trip down memory lane. My first ever game on the PS2, rereleased on the PS4. Back on the PS2, I didn’t originally have a memory card, so remember having to leave the PS2 on overnight to save my progress in the campaign. Thank god I’m no longer poor.

This was one of the first games I had, bundled with a black second hand PS2 slim received for Christmas. Playing this originally on a second hand silver framed, widescreen Sony Trinitron CRT in the spare room (I don’t think we realised how high end Trinitron’s were at the time that we were sat on one, but game picture quality was immense from composite signal), this looked to be one of the most realistic games at the time, watching back the replays of dog fighting with Jets making hard bank turns, trailing water vortices behind in twirling baton motions.

I enjoyed this game for both the arcade fighter jet 1st person gameplay and for the cutscenes and story interspersed in and between missions. The campaign of an unprovoked attack from a hostile nation supposed to be dormant, two nations at war, with evolving threats of technology and fighter pilots, was fun and engaging enough to want to play the next mission. One of the missions I most enjoyed was Final Option, were your squadron Wardog has been accused of being national spies, even after all the heroic acts you’ve done, and so have to escape the airbase on unarmed training jets, flying low and through narrow caves, avoiding obstacles and radar.

The story has that Japanese written with European roots and background feel, similar to how Full Metal Alchemist and Attack on Titan are styled, which means the Japanese are more aware of our own historic background than Europeans are, so it’s got some fun clashes of culture in this fictional world with anime tropes. You’ve got the reassuring, grizzled veteran character, shouty bold male character, the sweet rowdy female, and the bashful what-am-I-doing-here person.

There is a prequal Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War on PS2, which I’ve never had a chance to play, and there are also other Ace Combat PS2 games that are still awaiting a remaster that will probably never see the light of day. But considering I’ve never gotten these games to work in an emulator and the PS2 hardware graphics look garbage these days, I don’t think I’ll ever get to play those. This version of Ace Combat 5 on PS4 is only obtainable if you purchase the Deluxe Edition of Ace Combat 7, which is still supported by Namco with updates, I just didn’t like 7 campaign wise due to my expectations compared to 5. I even completed 6 recently on Xbox compatibility, and that really didn’t hold a candle to 5, which is why it’s only getting a mention in this review rather than its own standalone late review that would just be me ranting.

15 years later and the game still looks just as great on PS4 as it did PS2. It has widescreen support, no emulation issues as I’ve had when trying to render PS2 on PC. Controls are still just as snappy depending on the plane your flying. I’m not sure whether this is the PS2 being emulated on the PS4 or if they’ve been able to port it across, but it plays fine at 60fps 1080p regard.

There are many jet models from 2004 that you can unlock and purchase throughout the campaign. Once you complete the campaign, you can revisit the timeline and play alternative missions that took place during the campaign. Again, helping to unlock planes and medals whilst allowing you to achieve additional S gradings if you’re happy to replay missions over again for the high score. There is also an additional arcade mode which lets you span various routes of a mini campaign as a lone pilot. Again, extends the fun if you don’t have a multiplayer mode available.

Music soundtrack is great throughout when it isn’t just the hum of afterburners in the background or squad members screaming for mommy when they’re supposed to be holding radio silence.

The feel of speed, agility and badass-ness from shooting enemies down with a well-placed machine-gun round is what these games are about. Ultimately 5 is where it’s at, even 15 years it stands up perfectly well. The missions are varied enough, there’s a focus on giving commands to your wingmen, and you need to balance your teams’ stats with correct fire power for the mission ahead with the funds you have. For 20 hours, it’s more than engaging enough, with each mission about 20 minutes so that you can pickup whenever you’ve got time to spare to game. At least now with the PS4 edition, PS2 memory cards are no an longer optional requirement.


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