The twelfth game in the Ace Combat series, intended as a Continuity Reboot for the series. Like Ace Combat: Joint Assault, it is set in the real world. Released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011. A PC version (the first one in the series) was released in January 2013.It's the year 2015, and an unusually large rebellion named 'SRN' surges in East Africa. The governments of the region are quickly overwhelmed, and decide to request the United Nations for help, who in turn call upon NATO. Given the situation, NATO decides to commission the 108th Task Force, a special unit comprised of fighter pilots & military commanders from several nations, including America and Russia. However, things get worse as the rebels are revealed to be in command of a weapon of mass destruction named "Trinity". Enter main character and 108th Task Force leader William Bishop, who sees himself and his friends involved in an escalating conflict over control of Trinity, which quickly spreads from the deserts of East Africa to the entire planet.The game now has a character sheet. Please add all character-specific tropes there.
Ace Pilot: Yeah, you should have seen this one coming. Goes especially for Bishop and Markov.
Action Commands: Invoked with the new "Close Range Assault" mechanic: when chased by an enemy, pressing both shoulder buttons at the right moment will have the player perform a maneuver with which to turn the tables.
You also push a button at certain points to start a cutscene in-mission.
Real-life aircraft have many damage control systems and back-ups allowing damaged aircraft to continue on their mission despite taking direct hits from ground fire. These measures include things like self-sealing fuel tanks, fire suppression systems, back-up hydraulics, the list goes on. And yet people tend to think that aircraft hit by a missile should go down with just one or two hits despite the stories of modern fighters being able to return to base after receiving horrendous damage.
Although the developers were right to remove Bishop's once-prominent facial hair, Air Force regulations do allow for trimmed mustaches.
American bombers actually have equipment that show them the radar coverage they're coming into, allowing them to minimize the danger of detection. Remember, while a B-1B can out pace a pursuing fighter (it can hug the terrain while holding its Afterburners for much longer than a fighter could), a B-2A is basically a Big Black Doritos chip, and an easy gun kill if spotted.
Always over the Shoulder: The new dynamic third-person camera system. Especially during the helicopter missions or gunning during fighter Close Range Assault sequences. During fighter sequences in DFM and ground attack, the camera will switch to the location of the plane's currently active (or firing) weapon.
America Saves the Day: While the playable characters are Americans, 108th Task Force is quite clearly a multinational NATO unit; a French general is in charge of the task force, allied pilots from many other nations often participate in the same missions, and you can still fly planes from other countries.
The Russian loyalists also shoulder quite a bit of the burden on the ground when the time comes to take back Moscow.
Artificial Brilliance: Enemy flights occasionally show good tactical sense for screwing you out of objectives. For instance, on the mission "Siege", if one of the fighters attacking the transports realizes you're too focused on it, they'll break away and lead you into the middle of nowhere to give his buddies free shots. In "Akula", some planes will wait for you to enter DFM before going kamikaze on your allies' ships, so that you would ram into the water alongside them.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Nosferatu's ADMM weapon is back, but it's taken a little bit of a Nerf. It takes a little longer for all 12 of its missiles to target enemies, and there's a good chance enemy planes will deflect them by releasing flares anyway. On the plus side though, it does reload fairly fast.
The Sukhoi PAK FA's EW1 Trinity is this trope in spades. Yay, it's a fictionalized variant of the Russian's Father Of All Bombs, and it kills ground targets instantly. Too bad the weapon in question is only good for two missions, and you only have three shots (just one in multiplayer). At least the ADMM can be used in all missions and online even if it was weakened, and you also don't have to worry about your alliesor yourself getting killed by it.
On top of all of the above, the Trinity is only available after shooting down 8 enemy planes (whether AI or player-controlled) without in turn being shot down. Whilst this isn't too challenging in smaller matches with only a small number of pilots on each side (AI pilots are easier to shoot down than players, generally), it's a lot more challenging when the enemy roster is full of actual pilots. Top this off with the fact it only does ~10-15% damage to the enemy HQ makes it impractical to obtain, difficult to deploy, and only really useful for desperation attacks; an A-10 can easily do almost as much damage with a solid ground-attack pass and quad-AGMs without the risk of friendly fire or self damage.
Bilingual Bonus: Several cutscenes and in-game dialogues are voiced fully in Russian, though English subtitles are provided.
Some of the non-American and Russian aircraft speak in other languages, too. The F-2 and ASF-X Shinden II, for example, speak Japanese.
Bloodier and Gorier: Well, Oilier and...Partsier. Also applied to ground combat, which marks Assault Horizon as the first game of the series to include blood.
Boring, but Practical: The special weapons in this game have very little variety beyond your standard assortment of multi-target missiles and bombs. The good majority of fighter planes will have Quick-Aim-Air-Missiles and either a 4 or 6 multi-target missile. Most ground attack types have a 4-target ground missile or precision bomb. Unlike previous games, more exotic weapons like Napalm, Fuel Air Explosive Bombs, Self Forging Fragment Submunitions, and Stand-Off Dispenser, among others, are not present to help destroy your enemies. Just the basic weapons needed to get the job done. One plane does have the Bomblet Dispenser though, and the Nosferatu still has its ADMM and EML. SFFS and SOD are still available, but only for certain multirole strike aircraft.
Casual Danger Dialogue: "Hey, did any of you guys catch that game yesterday? Was Fitzgibbons really in-bounds when he made that catch?"note Said while in the middle of a massive dogfight above Miami.
Character Blog: The unnamed door gunner with the skull balaclava maintained a Twitter feed for awhile under the name "Hawkgunner". Additionally the devblog, Project Nagase, is written under Kei's name and features a picture of her with a facial expression relevant to the post's topic.
Comeback Mechanic: In the Capital Conquest multiplayer mode, if either team has less than 25% of their base's health left, they get option to use heavy bombers in a last-ditch attempt to turn the match around, but only if that side can destroy the radar and open up a chance to use them.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The final boss has the ability to fire off 3 QAAMs at you, even when you're chasing behind him in DFM. If you dodge them, they will immediately turn around to try again, and again after that. If you don't have any flares, all you can hope to do is avoid them until they run out of fuel. Think of how impossibly accurate they were in Ace Combat 04, then crank that Up to Eleven.
You can cheat the cheating computer in that mission, though, just through either exiting and entering Dog-Fight Mode again and again or using an aircraft with ECM, or if you really want to cheat the computer, both.
Cool Plane: "He's even got a shark's mouth on the nose of his plane!!"
You can also customize your plane's colors for use in Free Mission and Multiplayer.
Dreaming of Things to Come: Mission One has radio chatter and events foreshadowing a lot of things, including a very elaborate scenario that actually happens. Bishop realizes this, but quickly dismisses it to focus on the mission.
Eagleland: In-universe, Markov views Americans through a strong Flavor #2 lens, and never misses a chance to call Americans arrogant. Later it's revealed that he doesn't just hate Americans just because, but because a botched U.S. air raid in Bosnia killed his wife.
Easy Logistics: Surprisingly averted. In the final series of missions in which Russian planes attack the continental US, while there are a lot of them, they're also shown using unconventional tactics and supply, like refueling from the under-wing fuel tank of another fighter. It's increasingly obvious that none of them have any real intention of surviving their stated mission, and their tactics are intended to get them to their target and no further.
Escort Mission: A couple, though they're generally pretty tolerable, involving short escort distances, resilient escortees, or both. Also inverted in one mission, where Warwolf flight is assigned anti-naval roles and fly dedicated bomber aircraft that (literally) cannot dogfight it their lives depend on it, forcing the player to rely on their (fortunately quite dependable) allies for air superiority.
Fantastic Nuke: Trinity is explicitly stated to be non-nuclear, but it is capable of doing damage greater than the Hiroshima bomb. There are specifically five in the game, and only two actually explode: at the end of the first mission (devastating a North African town), and during the assault on Moscow, almost ripping the city suburb district apart. The other three are prematurely detonated, and still go off with so much force that they're more powerful than a 2,000 pound bombnote Unlike actual bombs, which, if not armed or fused, generally don't go off at all.
Follow the Leader: Some fans believe that the change in the game's setting is a result of the creators trying to cash in on the Modern Warfare craze, despite the fact that Assault Horizon is not the first Ace Combat game to take place in a modern setting, it's just the first one on the consoles to do it.
Subverted by the devs' true motivations - Word of God has said that during the development there was an unspoken agreement that they wanted to have as many high-tech fighter jets on the front lines as possible. Most of these are American and Russian.
Of course, the mission where you're the gunner in an AC-130 is very similar to one in the original Modern Warfare.
Forced Tutorial: Enemies in the tutorial level are practically invulnerable until they reach an area where effects or cut-scenes can be shown off.
During the first dogfight, even if you shoot down the enemy before the cinematic action is over, another target will immediately jump into your reticule courtesy of We Are Team Cannon Fodder.
There's no way to disable the game from pausing and telling you how to perform certain functions when they're first introduced into the game. Even in Free Mission mode, you'll still be interrupted and told how to activate Air Strike Mode or how to drop bombs on targets with the bomber.
Guest Fighter Plane: Although you have to buy it as DLC, the CFA-44 Nosferatu from Ace Combat 6 is available to use in free mission and multiplayer online. It has all it's weapon's available from it's own game, but both weapons have had their damage and accuracies toned down so the plane doesn't become a Game Breaker.
There's also the ASF-X Shinden II, designed by the co-creator of the Macross series, Shoji Kawamori. The first fictional plane in the series designed by an outside source other than Project ACES themselves.
Hammer Space: True to Ace Combat form, jets come stocked with an enormous plethora of missiles, special weapons, chaff, and fuel.
It's Up to You: Varying degrees of this throughout the game. For possibly the first time in an Ace Combat game, your allies and wingmen are competent and will shoot down non-essential enemies and normal mission critical targets. They will also actively attack any plane that's currently got you in the crosshairs. However, Lead Targets, which are much more capable and skilled than other pilots, can only be shot down by you, and ultimately, when the chips are down and time is a factor, you're better off not relying on your allies for those objectives.
Hammer 1: "Yo, Ivan. You got an open mike. You're broadcasting to the world! Kill it." Illich: You really should change channels more frequently, Colonel. Your encryption protocols stink. (Said while speaking on the supposedly encrypted squadron frequency)
Lethal Joke Plane: The MiG-21bis. It's an outdated craft from The Vietnam War that lacks radar and is used by the rebels in the game and is also a playable aircraft, but thanks to the CRA mechanics of the game, it is possible to take on modern day advanced stealth fighters like the F-22 or the PAK FA and come out on top. This video has the player playing on Ace in the mission Hurricane and beating out Su-33s and the PAK FA in the Fishbed. Oh, and it also comes with the SAAM missiles, which while not as powerful as the QAAM, are still an effective missile nonetheless.
Leitmotif: The series's leitmotif (listen here) sneaks its way into almost every major piece of ambient.
Macross Missile Massacre: Even more blatant in this one than in previous games, because multi-target air-to-air missiles always release their full volley even if you only have one target in front of you.
The Nosferatu's ADMM still fires 12 missiles off at once.
Used as a strategy in "Hostile Fleet," where the NATO group needs to overwhelm a couple of ships' point defense systems.
Made of Iron: The Bombers are this. They can take upwards of three multishot secondary weapons to kill. Note, each individual secondary missile is twice as powerful as a regular one.
The propellers on the bombers in Dubai, however... Take out any two of them with your machine guns and the plane goes down.
Meaningful Echo: "I saw my death in my dreams, many times." The first line of the opening and closing monologues by Bishop. The first time describing his nightmare, the second time him overcoming his nightmare.
Disaffected Americans and non-Americans alike frothing at the mouth over Assault Horizon's' announcement trailer, furious that Americans are implied to be the protagonists, especially at the implication that the enemies are Russians (regardless of whether they are roguesor not).
Flame Wars over the announcement trailer depicting an American F-22 shooting down multiple Su-35s (then getting shot down by Akula himself). Much Cultural Posturing and arguing about whether the United States or Russia has the better military followed in the trailer's wake, with inevitable Demonizationof Americans over The War on Terror mixed in.
The trailers occasionally come with Easter eggs alluding to the Ace Combat series of old, the most notable of which is the E3 trailer, which features the series' recurring character, Kei Nagase.
In-game, Kei also appears in several briefing scenes as a mute background character. More specifically, she is sitting to the right in the row ahead of Bishop during a mission briefing scene.
In the mission "Home Front", there is a point where you must fire a missile at Akula head-on. After this, a cutscene plays where both planes turn on their sides and do a Slow Motion Pass By within a few feet of colliding with each other. Both aspects (the missile head-on attack and the cutscene's camera work) are identical to the final mission of Ace Combat Zero. Not to mention that immediately before that, your wingman takes the bullet for you and goes down (though Guts survives, unlike PJ). Two missions before, "Launch" bears a resemblance to the penultimate mission of Zero, "Valley of the Kings," with the player flying through a narrow passage to bomb targets and ending in an ICBM launch. Unlike the V2 rocket fired by A World With No Boundaries, however, Bishop gets to chase down the ICBM directly.
"Task Force 108" and the four-man Warwolf Squadron are call-backs to the Osean 108th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Wardog".
Then there's the mission "Blue on Blue", which is reminiscent of "8492".
The cockpit of the ASF-X Shinden II is the exact same as the recurring X-02 Wyvern.
And awesomely subverted by the Counter-Counter-Maneuver if you are that much faster, giving you the opportunity to obliterate the target with guns mid-maneuver.
No Name Given: Warwolf Squadron's Warwolf 3 and Warwolf 4 aren't important enough to be given names, even though they have some speaking lines in the dialogue. Elsewhere, there's the Skullfaced gunner with the hornet insignia on the back of his helmet in the 2nd mission. Even the gunner you play as in the Canal mission (who has a spider on the back of his helmet) at least has his name revealed simply as "Guns" according to the radio chatter.
Shooter 1: I guess I owe Guns a six pack.
Nose Art: Markov's plane always has a shark mouth on it, which is why he's called Akula.
As an added bonus, there's the aircraft painter to paint up your plane in all sorts of tasteful/garish ways, and a few bonus paint jobs with special designs that you can unlock along the way.
NTSC/J Bonus: The Japanese versions of the game have the option of Japanese voicework. They also get some DLC that is not available in other regions.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Trinity is, for all intents and purposes, a tactical nuke, yet the game carefully avoids calling it such and the topic of nuclear fallout is never brought up.
Which would indicate that it's not nuclear, just a conventional explosive with a similar blast radius.
The fact that a Trinity missile causes a mushroom cloudnote even though any sufficiently large explosion will create a mushroom cloud, and a single one is capable of leveling half of a city, instantly causes people to jump to the nuclear conclusion. Trinity is more accurately described as a nuke without the radiation or EMP wave. The story writer for the game claims on his website that such a weapon is the subject of intense research in real-life militaries.
Ominous Latin Chanting: "Release", the theme that plays during the last mission in Washington D.C., uses both this and Ominous English Chanting. The lyrics in the later part are from "Dies Irae".
It continues to happen irregularly at various points if you fail to press the button to trigger the in-flight cinematic, which it interprets in such ways as failing to notice certain important things like Trinity missiles, thus resulting in mission failure. The game will reload if you fail, but not let you fail a second time. Most of the time (25 out of 29), nothing significant will happen.
Private Military Contractors: Averted. You're part of both the United States Air Force and a NATO task force. This is the first game in the series that doesn't assign point values to targets or require you to earn money to buy new planes. The planes are given to you before each mission. Mobius 1, Wardog Squadon, and Garuda Squadron all worked for their governments, and even they still had to buy their own weapons.
Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage: The European Limited Edition and Gamestop pre-orders came with a free DLC plane — the F-4E Phantom II, which has a long tradition of being a weak starting plane in many of the earlier games. Yeah, compared to other DLC planes, like the iconic Su-37 and the Nosferatu super-fighter, the collectors' reward was rather lame.
Qurac: Mogadiyu, complete with a mission focused on special forces rescuing a downed pilot.
Remixed Level: Mission 14, "Home Front" is 50% identical to mission 01 "Nightmare", except that, of course, Bishop doesn't die in it.
Rock Beats Laser: Many of the higher level enemies and bosses begin using flares to shake off your missiles, but even the best countermeasures can't outsmart bullets. One special case is the MiG-21, which is by far the weakest plane in the game but the only fighter that can take an extra gun pod as its special weapon, giving it More Dakka.
Rule of Cool: Word of God pretty much confirms that this was the reasoning behind the new "Close Range Assault" and "Steel Carnage" mechanics in Assault Horizon.
The story writer for Assault Horizon, Jim DeFelice, outright admits on his blog that the only reason for having a mission set in Dubai was because the city has a lot of cool buildings to fly through.
Also defines the game/series in general. Firing dozens of missiles per mission? Sure. Unlimited gun ammo? Of course. Constant dogfights between supersonic aircraft...at less than a dozen feet apart? Air battles consisting of over a hundred aircraft, despite that number being larger than most countries' entire air forces? Ridiculous G forces have no effect on the pilots? Etc...not that this makes for a bad game, just an unrealistic one.
Interestingly, the game's overall storyline is somewhat plausible and the almost every mission is one you could see occurring in real life... well, except for the dogfight in the eyewall of a goddamn category-5 HURRICANE!
Also, beautifully subverted in mission 03: it seems that the rebels have treated captured Major Illich really badly but it is later revealed that he was a traitor all along and got himself captured on purpose, not expecting the Americans to free him. When they do, he has to pretend that he was mistreated. Of course, you don't learn that until much later.
For added frustration, the game never tells you when it's doing this, leaving the player guessing as to when he's supposed to actually shoot the enemy and cursing at enemies that just won't die no matter how many times they're hit.
Namco Bandai has done some serious work to make the game realistic: for example, early media featured Bishop sporting a beard, which was later removed (as the USAF does not allow facial hair.) Also of note is how each US aircraft sports tail codes from real life air force bases (ie. the F-22A Raptor has Langley AFB markings.)
There's still a few goofs, such as with the uniforms, though really you'd actually have to be in the Air Force to notice: 1. The ranks that the enlisted airmen (not the pilots) have on their sleeves are the colors used for "blues" uniforms. Normal ABU ranks have black stripes with an urban grey background. 2. The ABUs are using the wrong color undershirt; Air Force regulations state that it must be sand-colored. 3. ABU boots are sage green, not black. 4. The pilots' jumpsuits are missing their ranks on their shoulders. ... The list could go on.
They spared no details on the plane cockpits either. The Frogfoot, for example, is a considerably outdated plane, containing a basic readout gauge that measures speed, altitude, and also functions as a clock. The clock keeps on ticking over the course of the mission.
Even though it's been done in previous games, cutscenes that involve whatever plane that Bishop is flying, including when he crashes on the runway and in the ending, all show the plane he was flying during that mission. Extra attention to detail especially paid in the example behind the spoiler tag there.
One nice little bit of detail is that whenever you're flying a foreign plane (French, Japanese, Russian, etc), the computer will warn you of dangers in it's appropriate language - even the fictional ones. The Shinden speaks to you in Japanese and the Nosferatu is Russian.
Another one that's been around for a while: When launching special weapons, Bishop will call out "Fox One", "Fox Two" or "Fox Three" as appropriate to the weapon's guidance system, again including fictional weapons.
A Taste of Power: In the first level, you fly an F-22 Raptor against hordes of Su-35s. And then it turns out to be All Just a Dream and you go right back to the starter planes like the F-16 and equivalents.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Forgetting to switch your special weapons to regular missiles will result in shooting four Advanced Long-ranged Air-to-Air Missiles at a single target, when any standard single missile would have done nicely.
In the tutorial level Markov tries to ram the already-defeated Bishop with his Flanker.
Violation of Common Sense: In Dubai, it is possible to engage a DFM on an enemy that will lead you through the arch of the Atlantis The Palm hotel. Guts calls you out on it.