Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies
If there is any specific gaming genre that has been historically underexposed on the PlayStation it would definitely be the flight combat/simulator category. This gaming group has been so neglected that during a gaming magazine’s retrospective on the best 10 PSOne games in each category a few years ago, they had a footnote under the flight-sim group that noted why there were only 7 games listed. You have to remember that there have been literally thousands of games released for the PlayStation and there weren’t enough games released to fill a top 10.
The PS2 seems to have followed the same path of it’s older sibling. With so few flight games available for the system, it would be easy to release a substandard product onto a starving public. However, Namco has always taken pride in it’s games and usually gives it’s consumers a quality title. Ace Combat 4 (AC 4) is the introduction of a series to the PS2 that has been on the PlayStation since it’s beginnings in 1995 and has been known to the public as the premier flight game on the Sony Family. AC 4 continues to carry the torch for the next generation of hardware.
AC 4 brings you the evolution of the game through the eyes of a young boy. The storyline begins with the boy’s family being killed by a plane crashing into their home while he is on the way to school. The local town, along with most of the country, is occupied by the enemy and you are forced to retake what has been lost. The presentation of the CG cut-scenes is brought to you in the form of a story-board comic book approach with the child narrating his story. Eventually, the gameplay and the storyline meet in the middle and it all meshes together nicely. Namco gives you a solid desire to find out what happens next without forcing the player to flounder through hours of non-gaming game time. Bravo for someone finally getting the mix right.
The main aspect that the true professional gamer worries about is control. Eye-candy is great to have as an extra, however if the game is unpalatable because of shoddy controls, it really is a waste of time. Namco understands this and gives solid and responsive control to AC 4. They have also utilized the pressure sensitive buttons on the DualShock 2 to their fullest extent. The right stick can even be used to look around your surroundings without changing your direction. Playing this version with the analog controls is a major improvement over the earlier digital-only games on the PSOne.