Aces High is a Massively Multiplayer air-combat simulator by Hitech Creations. Similar in style to (and in fact partly descended from) the earlier Air Warrior and Warbirds series, the game features aircraft, vehicles and surface craft from World War II covering the armies, navies and air forces of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Finland, Japan and the Soviet Union, along with four World War I fighter aircraft (two each from Great Britain and Imperial Germany). The main part of the game are the Main Arenas (divided into Early, Mid and Late War periods, as well as WWI) where players are divided into three teams and can fly any aircraft against each other regardless of their nationality. Other aspects of the game include a dueling arena, and an arena focusing on historical aircraft match-ups. In addition, there are frequent special events including Friday Night Squad Ops, a series of campaigns with historical matchups and defined objectives, as well as snapshots and scenarios focusing on historical events. Commemorative events for historical engagements such as the Battle of Midway are also frequently run on the anniversaries of these engagements.
There is also an officially-hosted yearly gathering of Aces High players, where the traditional "Evil Con Mission" enables a joke plane available to fly by attendees. This has included flying PT Boats and even alien starfighters. Recent versions have also added an offline mission mode, allowing players to fly offline against AI-controlled opponents.
Unlike many other MMO air-combat simulators, Aces High lacks a "relaxed realism" flight model option, so even beginning players are subject to the full physics and flight modeling, giving the game a much steeper learning curve than others. The detail of the flight modeling is also aided by the fact that the main developer, Hitech, is actually a licensed pilot himself: A plane available in only offline mode is the RV-8, the plane Hitech flies in Real Life and uses to test the physics model for accuracy.
The title has been active since the early-2000s and has gone through multiple continuous versions and updates to its flight model and graphics, as well as the addition of new aircraft and vehicles, having begun with fewer than a dozen in the original version until now there are now over 100 covering both sides of the conflict. New content is added regularly, and the community itself is encouraged to submit skins depicting historical aircraft and terrains for rotation in the main arenas. Aces High is subscription-based, ($14.95/mo) and unlike the similar but Free-to-Play War Thunder, almost all content is available to a new player from the beginning. Aces High does have "perk" aircraft, which require earning "points" from scoring kills to fly, but this is for balancing purposes as the affected aircraft (advanced machines like the Me-262, B-29 and F4U-4) would greatly unbalance arena play.
Aces High's homepage can be found here.
The game features, among others, the following tropes:
- Acceptable Break from Reality: Although the flight model is very detailed and all effort is made to ensure the aircraft perform as accurately as they can be made, the game still takes a few things to appeal to a wider audience:
- Engine management has been greatly simplified, guns don't jam, and aircraft that were known to experience crippling quality-control or manufacturing problems (such as the Ki-84) will not have to worry about them in the game.
- Wind is relatively simply modeled, at fixed directions and altitudes, and blowing at a steady speed.
- Bombsights in level bombers are greatly simplified in the Main Arenas. A more complex system is in place for special events, but it still simplified.
- Most multi-crewed aircraft can set the camera to an external view.
- Ace Pilot: Duh.
- Awesome, but Impractical:
- The Arado Ar-234 is a jet-powered bomber that will outrun most fighters. It also has a short range, small bomb load, and its defensive gun is incredibly difficult to use.
- The Me-262 jet and Me-163 rocket fighters. Very fast and with big guns (30mm cannon). However the 262 has rather poor maneuverability for a fighter, and the difficult to aim guns make hitting small, maneuvering targets a challenge. The 163 has a very short range and the same difficult-to-aim cannon with a very light ammunition load.
- BFG: The B-25H Mitchell medium bomber mounts a massive 75mm cannon in the nose, the largest gun of any aircraft in the game.
- The Me-410 as well, capable of mounting a 50mm cannon in its ventral bay.
- Also the Tiger tank's 88mm main gun, and the 85mm on the Soviet T-34/85.
- Bowdlerize: A self-imposed example: The depiction of Nazi iconography is very tightly controlled by German law, and video games are not on the list of media where its use is considered acceptable. As a result, the Nazi swastika has been removed from all aircraft skins to avoid the issue and needing separate skin sets for players in Germany. This even applies to skins of Allied aircraft where the swastika was used to denote kills of enemy aircraft.
- Camera Screw: Hits to the engine splatters oil across the windscreen, restricting vision. The same thing occurs when the pilot is wounded, only with blood instead. Wounded pilots will also periodically black out, causing the camera to shake and the screen to go black as his head "drops." Hits to the cockpit will also cause cracks and bullet holes to appear in the canopy. In addition to these effects, pulling Gs will cause the pilot to move in his seat a bit during maneuvers. Pull excessive positive Gs and the pilot's vision will tunnel, eventually moving to full blackout. Excessive negative Gs will cause a similar effect, only with a redout.
- Cheat Code: Sort of. There are options that make flying a bit easier for inexperienced players, such as a stall limiter, while the World War I arena also has an option to prevent over-revving the engine. However while it does make flying the aircraft easier, it also reduces their combat effectiveness. The stall limiter does just that: Helps prevent the player from putting an aircraft into a stall. However it does this by preventing the aircraft from even pushing the edge of a stall. A player in the same aircraft with the limiter off can approach and ride the edge of a stall, giving him a little bit extra manoeuvrability which may be the difference between making the kill or being shot down.
- Cool Plane: To be expected. Many of the most famous aircraft of the war are present, including the P-51 Mustang, and multiple variants of the Bf-109 and Fw-190, F4U Corsair, P-47 Thunderbolt and Supermarine Spitfire.
- Cool Versus Awesome: It's a game where P-51s can mix it up with Spitfires, Zeros tangle with Bf-109s, and almost everything is a Cool Plane.
- Critical Existence Failure: Zig-Zagged. Aircraft have components that can be damaged which will negatively impact handling: Control surfaces, stabilizers and parts of the wings can be blown off, and the pilot outright killed. Additionally, the severity of radiator, engine oil and fuel leaks will also vary depending on the amount of damage inflicted, and if the pilot is wounded he will begin blacking out in-flight and eventually die. That said, pilot wounds don't affect the pilot's overall ability to actually fly the plane, and aircraft components don't degrade as they're damaged: They're either present or not. Additionally, airframe damage doesn't affect the amount of stress the aircraft can sustain before parts fall off.
- Averted by aircraft in the WWI arenas, which utilize a more detail damage model. Wings can lose lift through damage to the surface skin without requiring structural failure.
- Disk One Nuke: The P-51D, Spitfire Mk.XVI and La-7 are very easy for new and inexperienced players to begin making kills in very quickly even without a great deal of skill. The Spitfire is a relatively forgiving aircraft with good guns, very good rate of climb and acceleration, and excellent maneuverability, and very few vices (durability and speed being its main weaknesses). The La-7 and P-51D are among the fastest planes in the game at typical altitudes, allowing inexperienced pilots to blow through fights and escape without risk of being run down and forced to engage.
- Fragile Speedster:
- The Spitfire is a quite fast and maneuverable aircraft, but it's also not particularly tough.
- On the ground, the Jeep and M-8 Greyhound, are fast and maneuverable, but only lightly-armored at best.
- Japanese aircraft in general tend to be very maneuverable, but fall apart even with light hits and rely heavily on using their maneuverability.
- Guy in Back: Planes such as the B-17, Ju-88, G4M, SBD and D3A which possessed multiple crewed positions allow players not currently in-flight to join and man the various gun positions. Unlike Aces High's spiritual predecessor, Air Warrior, players can join a plane already in flight, and the game also only allows one crewman to join the plane at a time rather than allowing one player for each gun position. Single-crewed aircraft like fighters can also be joined as well, however the "passenger" only gets to watch.
- Hitscan: Thoroughly averted. All guns have differing muzzle velocities and ballistics properties. The Browning M2 .50cal heavy machine gun is about as close to this trope as it gets.
- Interface Screw: Damage to certain parts of the aircraft will make controlling it much more difficult. Losing an aileron, the rudder or an elevator will reduce the effectiveness of that control's respective axis of motion (IE, losing an aileron will reduce the aircraft's ability to roll). Loss of actual flight surfaces will impact flyability even more severely. Losing part of a wing will greatly decrease the lift on that side and cause the aircraft to want to enter a spin, while loss of the vertical stabilizer will strip the aircraft of directional stability. To a point the player can fight against these effects, but the aircraft's response to the flight controls will remain degraded until the end of the sortie.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Late-model P-47s, P-38s, F4Us and the F6F are all highly versatile aircraft that can not only hold their own against most opponents in air-to-air combat, but are also very capable ground attack craft. This is really the hat to varying degrees of nearly all of the late-war American fighters, most of which can carry a heavy load of bombs and rockets.
- The Mosquito is an extremely fast fighter-bomber that can often hold its own against smaller fighters.
- Although not as fast as he Mosquito, the story is much the same for the A-20 Havoc.
- Both the Typhoon Mk.I and Tempest Mk.V are fast, well-armed fighters that are capable in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground role.
- Lightning Bruiser: Late-war American fighters are built for speed, firepower, and to soak up a ton of damage. The F4U in particular is noted for its speed, maneuverability, and ability to sustain and dish out a beating.
- The Fw-190D is also very fast and heavily armed, and has one of the best rates of roll in the game.
- The Hawker Tempest fits this trope as well.
- The Ki-84 is very fast, highly maneuverable, packs a good punch, and unlike most Japanese aircraft can sustain a good amount of damage before going down.
- The B-29 fits this trope for bombers: At altitude she can outrun some fighters, carries a ton of guns and a large bomb load, and typical of American heavy bombers can take a hell of a beating and keep flying.
- Macross Missile Massacre: The M4 Sherman is capable of doing this against ground targets when equipped with the T34 Calliope multiple rocket launcher.
- Made of Explodium: True to their historical counterparts, the A6M Zero and G4M have a noted tendency to burst into flames with even seemingly minor hits.
- The forthcoming Ki-43 "Oscar" will fit as well.
- Made of Iron: Pretty much the design philosophy of American aircraft, which are all able to take significant amounts of damage before going down. The F4F is particularly noted for this. There's a reason its manufacturer was called the Grumman Iron Works.
- German aircraft as well tend to be fairly tough.
- Mighty Glacier: Heavy bombers in general: Big, slow, (except the B-29, which can outrun some fighters at critical altitude) tough and very heavily armed.
- The P-47 Thunderbolt is a big and heavy aircraft. She's fast, (among the fastest propeller-driven fighters at high altitudes) but not as maneuverable as other single-engine fighters. However the "Jug" is without debate one of the toughest fighters in the game, and very heavily-armed.
- The Tiger I and Panther tanks
- The Il-2 is slow, not particularly maneuverable, and highly vulnerable to enemy fighters. It also may as well be a tank with wings.
- More Dakka: American aircraft rely primarily on larger numbers of smaller guns than the predominantly cannon-armed German, Japanese and British fighters. Four to six Browning M2 .50cal heavy machine guns are the standard armament package on most American fighters. This is also the main defense of the B-17, B-24 and B-29 heavy bombers, which mount upwards of twelve or more machine guns.
- No Swastikas: See Bowlderize above.
- Subsystem Damage: A significant part of the flight and damage models. Guns, landing gear, control surfaces, engines and other systems can be damaged, impacting the flying abilities of the aircraft.
- Tank Goodness: Although the focus of the game is on the air war, there is a fairly good selection of tanks available: M4 Sherman, (75 and 76mm guns) Sherman VC Firefly, Panzer IV, Tiger I, Panther, T-34, and T-34/85.
- Too Awesome to Use: Some of the most unbalanced aircraft in the game are restricted by "perk" points. If a player is shot down while flying one of these aircraft they lose the perks, which acts as a deterrent to using them.
- The Me-163 Komet is available only from one airfield for each of the three teams, located near the HQ. It's the fastest and one of the most maneuverable fighters in the game, and incredibly hard to hit because of its small size. It also costs quite a few perks to fly so is only rarely seen even if the fight reaches an opponent's HQ. The Me-262 is less restricted (it can operate from all airfields) but is still rare due to its high perk cost.
- UltimateGamer386: Because of the nature of the game's community and arenas, both squadrons and even individual players have developed reputations for their skill in particular aircraft (don't fly in the gun arcs of any bomber formation piloted by 999000. Just don't) or other aspects of the game, or their extensive knowledge on the subject of air-combat in general and World War II aircraft in particular.
- Because of the game's strong continuity with Kesmai's Air Warrior, players who developed their reputation in that title still get frequent mention on the forums, even 15-20 years later!