The Ace Combat series has always been known for quality. Regardless of what platform the game released on you can always expect a solid outing. In the latest game Namco Bandai has delivered yet another engrossing experience, but with a catch. Joint Assault is truly a remarkable game when played in the right context. Co-op and competitive modes are the highlight here so if you ware picking up the game to fly it solo, you may want to reconsider. With that said as long as you know what you are diving in for, there is much fun to be had.
The problem with the campaign when flying solo is that the mission structure is just genuinely boring. Each outing has you fighting waves of enemies while trying to take down targets. Occasionally the game mixes it up with an escort mission, but most of the time you are stuck performing the same mundane tasks over and over ad nauseam. Now anyone who is accustomed to the series probably expects this, and if you can stomach it more power to you, but midway through the game I was ready to throw in the towel.
Now if this was all the game had to offer I would have easily found myself tearing down Ace Combat for the first time. Thankfully Joint Assault shines when you pair up with friends in either co-op or competitive modes. Joint Assault supports both Ad-hoc and Infrastructure gameplay so you are never without an option to hop into a game. The co-op missions are basically the campaign with a few twists. You can now directly affect the other players’ experiences when playing together. The missions somehow become infinitely more fun when you are tearing across the skies with three of your pals.
The competitive mode fairs just as well with up to eight players engaging in some seriously addictive dogfighting. In my play tests the lag was literally non-existent making online play a blast. Unfortunately matches were of the same caliber as there is just not a ton of support in the states to find games in. I suggest searching globally when hopping online or just wrangling up some friends and playing locally.
There is plenty to see and do in Joint Assault with unlocking new planes, emblems and skins for your plane, but you will have to sink quite a bit of time to unlock them all. I did like that each mission had branching paths that advocate replay, but most of the missions are so drab that making a second run at it might feel more like a chore if you are going it alone.
As far as controls are concerned Joint Assault suffers the same fate as most portable games based on a console idea. The lack of a second analog stick makes the more dynamic flying and maneuvers much more complex than need be. Still I have to commend the team for creating a scheme that works as well as it does. You control speed with the triggers while targets get an auto-lock for easier combat. The face buttons launch your attacks as well as switching targets and weapons. It makes the game a little too simple in some cases as trying to chase down a bogey is half the fun of a game of this type. When you are limited to the amount of acrobatics you can perform, it feels a bit confined.
Ace Combat: Joint Assault is great if you are playing with friends either competitively or cooperatively, but if you choose to go solo you will likely grow tired of the trite mission structure far too quickly. Still if you love the Ace Combat series and are dying to get your flight on portably there really isn’t a better option out there. The mechanics, addictive nature and just overall polish of the series remains intact, and that makes it worth picking up for the fans.
Review copy provided by publisher.