What’s more, Ace Combat 6 also throws in the idea of electronic support planes which enhance the tracking capabilities of your guided weapons within a certain radius while diminishing the same powers of your foes. Sticking close gives you a real boost, particularly against multiple opponents, but you have to balance that against the need to get to specific objectives. In other words, beneath its superficial arcade game surface, Ace Combat 6 isn’t actually that short on depth.
This is good, because the air-to-air and air-to-ground combat is pretty simple. In most cases you’ll use guided missiles, smart bombs and cluster bombs to destroy airbound foes or soften up the ground forces, and neither offers a great deal of resistance unless you’re dumb enough to engage huge numbers with a direct full-frontal attack. Individual fighters put up more of a fight, which is where those dogfighting skills come in handy, but even here there are weapons and fairly simple tricks you can use to gain advantage.
You have ludicrous supplies of ammunition, and a rapid refill is rarely further than a few minutes travel from the frontlines away. Things only change when you meet opponents from the crack Estovakian Strigon squadron or when you encounter the game’s most fantastic elements: its fortress-like cruisers or super-weapons. Facing the former, you’ll need a few more flying ace tricks at your disposal. Facing the latter, you’ll find the game takes on a more sci-fi/anime feel than you might be used to, but arguably it’s none the worse for that.
The plus side of all this simplification is that the game maintains a strong pace and dishes out a pretty consistent supply of thrills. The makers of TFX and Strike Commander understood that there was something exciting in hugging the terrain in a supersonic aircraft and dispatching a squad of tanks before they even knew it was coming, and Ace Combat 6 only takes this to its logical extreme. Sweeping through some gorgeous alpine valley laying waste to whole armoured regiments never gets old. Nor does scrambling desperately from one bomber squadron to the next to prevent your city getting laid to waste, or spearheading a dramatic beachhead assault on the enemy’s sea defences. You get all the action, without any of the stuff non propeller-heads find dull.