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  • 8.8: IGN's 7.0 score review of the game caught quite a lot of flak from the fans as well as from game director Kono himself. The leading criticisms are the reviewer complaining about the game's apparent difficulty as well as the fact that the reviewer only played using the "Normal" control scheme. note  Kono publicly chastised IGN for basing their entire review on playing with Normal controls.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Four in-universe cases:
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    • Why did Harling turn his aircraft back to the space elevator, right in the middle of an intense air battle? Princess Cossette believes that he was trying to destroy the space elevator for all the chaos it caused, but Avril and most Oseans believe that he was trying to protect it from an incoming missile. The ending of the game seems to lean towards the latter, as it's revealed that the space elevator is where Captain Kei Nagase is supposed to dock her spacecraft, Pilgrim One, after returning from a seven-year mission into outer space, a mission Harling himself pushed for, as revealed in Aces at War 2019.
    • Was Full Band's death a genuine accident or was that what the AWACS Bandog wanted others to believe? Everyone in Spare Squadron accuses Bandog of tagging Full Band as an enemy in order to trick someone into shooting him down along with the enemy fighters, which is supported by the fact that throughout the mission, Full Band and Bandog don't seem eye-to-eye in a lot of things, Full Band has been bragging about hacking into classified, sensitive information (and seems inclined to spread it around, as he offers to give Bandog a look when they RTB), and Bandog specifically asking for Full Band's location after Spare Squadron forms up around Trigger. Worse, it's implied Full Band sells the intel he gathers for a good price, and what he digs up, judging by his comments in Missions 7-9, is most likely Osea's plans to repair the last functional Stonehenge turret—a strategy that marks a turning point in the war in Osea's favor. With Avril's narration establishing that many members of the penal unit agreed with Cossette's anti-Osea speeches, it's not impossible that Full Band would consider giving away this information to Erusea. Even still, Full Band was flying a F/A-18, which is also what the enemy planes are flying, and it's suggested Bandog had to manually punch in the new IFF data for each Spare individually, so it still could have been an accident as well.
      • It was almost certainly intentional. Bandog warns Full Band that he's on two strikes "and there won't be a third one" right after Full Band brags about stealing more military intelligence. Later, when Full Band says intel is a matter of life and death, Bandog pauses and says in an uncharacteristic serious tone, "I think you might be right." Finally, after Bandog asks for Full Band's position, he "confirms it" and does a quick chuckle.
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    • Was Captain Karl an enemy agent? Partway through Mission 16, an Osean AWACS operator identifying himself as "Argus" broadcasts an order to assassinate General Labarthe, claiming that the Osean Army officer with him is an imposter. This then ties into the ending of the mission, when Labarthe and Karl are killed when their helicopter is shot down. It's not even clear who shot down the chopper, as it could have been an Osean pilot following Argus's order, an Erusean radical, or even a rogue drone fighter. Keep in mind that it's already been demonstrated by that point in the story that IFF data can be hacked and spoofed, which raises the possibility that Argus isn't actually Osean but instead an Erusean radical giving a fabricated radio transmission to take out Labarthe during the chaos of the Erusean civil war. The mission debriefing sheds no light on it, as the only thing that is clear is that Labarthe is dead.
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    • From the DLC missions, is Howard Clemens actually a traitor and deliberately trying to sabotage the LRSSG efforts to assist Torres and his Alicorn crew? Or was he just played for fools by the false intel provided by one of Torres's agents? Moreover, his goal to remove Trigger from the picture by siccing Mimic Squadron on him. Was it motivated by jealously that Trigger's extraordinary skills outshined the rest of the Osean Military? Or was it an attempt to prevent Trigger from potentially turning out to be another dangerous threat like Torres? Was it even his own idea or was it orchestrated by his superior Lieutenant General Shepherd, who disavowed all of Clemens' actions once things went south to avoid taking any responsibility?
  • Award Snub: The Ace Combat fandom was utterly incensed when it was announced that 7's phenomenal soundtrack wouldn't even be among the nominees for best music for the 2019 edition of The Game Awards, being passed over by less outstanding choices like Death Stranding. Some even declared that they wouldn't watch the show because it's become nothing more than a popularity contest with no quality control on it. The game managed to nab two prizes at the PlayStation Awards 2019, though
  • Awesome Music: Once again, Keiki Kobayashi and his team are given a chance to show off their musical chops. As expected, they do not disappoint.
  • Best Level Ever:
    • Mission 11 - Fleet Destruction. It's another Annihilation battle, but unlike the last two you're given more than enough time to both hit the quota, allowing for massive amounts of destruction with the proper loadout, and more than enough airspace to maneuver and dodge. Compared to the last series of missions, this is around when you start unlocking much better planes like the Gripen E (unless you repeat missions through Free Mission or play Multiplayer) and other Multirole planes that make missions like this considerably easier, and the elbow room this mission gives perfectly shows it.
    • Mission 12 - Stonehenge Defensive. As the title says, you're tasked with defending the last operational Stonehenge turret, which the Oseans are attempting to restore in an effort to shoot down one of the Arsenal Birds, from a massive Erusean assault. After fighting off scores of enemies including the Arsenal Bird itself, Stonehenge manages to score a direct hit past the Arsenal Bird's shield, bringing it down and turning the tide of the war in Osea's favor.
    • Mission 19 - Lighthouse. It's the signature large-scale aerial battle stage of the series, where you team up with the Osean and Erusean alliance to deal with the radical faction of the Erusean government and military that instigated the war, culminating in an epic battle against the Airborne Aircraft Carrier Arsenal Bird. All while accompanied by some truly phenomenal and uplifting music.
    • Mission 20 - Dark Blue. The final mission in the game, where you need to take down the two super UCAVs Hugin and Munin that have the abilities of the top ace Mihaly and none of the human restrictions in an attempt to stop them from mass-producing the drone army to take over the entire planet. It culminates in you chasing down the last drone into a long tunnel beneath the ocean, taking it down, and flying upward and escaping through the space elevator itself. This mission is truly the definitive Ace Combat experience.
  • Breather Level: The aforementioned Mission 11. You've just broken out of your six missions in Spare Squadron, that Army of Thieves and Whores where nobody likes each other, you can't count on your Lazy Backup, and you often have to One-Man Army your way to victory; plus, every mission has some sort of gimmick that complicates (or, in the case of Mission 7, dominates) your tactics, forcing you to adjust your approach on the fly (or engage in some Forced Level-Grinding to unlock planes you don't have). Mission 11 has you back in a real squadron of True Companions, pardoned of malfeasanse, is when you naturally start hitting your stride re: MRP, and lets you go ham on a target-rich environment.
  • Catharsis Factor:
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Go ahead. Try to find any high-cost multiplayer match without the X-02S Strike Wyvern in it. Bonus points if it's equipped with the EML. Or, just like in Ace Combat 6, people spamming QAAM, especially flying the F-22A Raptor.
  • Complete Monster: Matias Torres, described by Kono himself as the most evil character in the Ace Combat franchise, is the Captain of the super-submarine Alicorn, going rogue along with his crew during the events of the three DLC missions in order to seemingly put an end to the Lighthouse War with the nuclear massacre of a million lives, thus terrifying the world into putting down their weapons. That seemingly extreme-but-noble motive is eventually proven false when Torres, at the command of an absurdly powerful boat and a fanatically loyal crew, reveals that for all of his posturing, he actually revels in the "elegance" of hitting a difficult target—in this case, the million lives he's about to butcher from 5,000 kilometers away—and has an almost fetishistic obsession with death. In fact, he'll even violate wartime conventions by feigning surrender just to gain time to fire his nukes, and if he's successful, he'll keep laughing maniacally and describe the act as "beautiful". On all accounts, Torres is a madman who put a veil to the world on his true, murderous intentions, and leads the people under his command to their dooms; the devil incarnate, as one character would put it.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: If this is someone's first Ace Combat game set in Strangereal note , there are a number of plot points they might not fully grasp.
    • Harling is a major player in the events of both AC5 and AC7, so unless players pre-ordered the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which comes with a download code for The Unsung War, they won’t fully understand why his death in the mission Rescue is so tragic.
    • The significance of Belkan nationalists and how "they love to stir shit up." To them, Belka is just a random country that was suddenly mentioned in dialogue during Mission 16 and cutscenes before Missions 18 and 19.
    • Similarly, they might not understand the significance of Stonehenge, one of the most famous superweapons in the series that first appeared in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies as an Erusean superweapon, which was mostly destroyed by Mobius One during his assault. They might wonder why there is a random system of broken cannons out in a desert and why are the Oseans so interested in it.
    • In the mission briefing for Homeward, the cursor briefly hovers over Megalith before moving to Tyler Island. Veteran fans would recognize the island from the events of 04, and would know why it would be considered as a possible location to look for supplies or use as a base, while newcomers would be wondering why some random island would be considered to move to.
    • If one were to look very closely at Dr. Schroeder's name badge, the ADFX-10, and the ADF-11 Raven, they would spot the Z.O.E. logo on them. Veterans would know what Z.O.E. means, while newcomers would be scratching their heads over the significance of those letters, including any future implications.
    • The emotional impact of Kei Nagase's cameo in the game's final mission is likely to be lost on newcomers.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • The AD Tank ground unit. Not only these function as SAMs, but they can also shoot up any missiles, bombs, or rockets launched towards it. Rendering those shots on one useless.
    • Even worse are the Aegis cruisers. They pack a ton of health and are armed to the teeth with SAMs and CIWS that can shoot your missiles down in mid-air and most likely ruin your No-Damage Run.
      • Together with VLS units, the CIWS are out in force in the two platform facilities in Mission 11, making getting close to take out the cores a real pain... Unless you have the PLSL, TLS, or EML, allowing you to snipe out the cores without even having to tangle with the cannons.
    • At least to missiles and rockets, AD Tanks and Aegis Cruisers are demonic spiders. Against cannons (internal and external pods), lasers, and railguns, you would have the best chances of destroying one of those accursed things.
  • Epileptic Trees: Many fans were utterly convinced that the aged Erusean pilot Mihaly is actually Yellow 13 having survived from his fight with Mobius 1, even though the only thing allowing them to theorize that is that Yellow 13's body was never recovered after getting shot down, and the narrative poetically stating that his body "vanished into the blue skies, never to return to earth." Then Aces At War: A History 2019 came along and shot down that theory by revealing that Mihaly and Yellow 13 are two different people, with the former having been the latter's mentor.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Princess Rosa's dog, of all characters, is pretty beloved in the fandom thanks to the Special Effect Failure of the dog's model that allows for people to make memetic pictures starring it, as well as the surprisingly tragic circumstances behind the dog's appearance in the game as detailed below.
    • AWACS Long Caster is shaping up to be a fan favourite among AWACS due to a perfect balance between his professionalism and his tendency to make food-based jokes. He's also a breath of fresh air after having Bandog as your AWACS for the entire second act.
    • Out of all named pilots, Wiseman — the flight lead of Cyclops Squadron — seems to be the most popular for being a cool-headed Reasonable Authority Figure Ace Pilot who is almost as good as Trigger. Wiseman's humorous methods of dealing with Count are also liable to bring a smile to one's face, especially for those who find Count to be insufferable pre-Character Development. His tragic death at the hands of Mihaly during the Battle of Farbanti left many players upset.
    • Brownie, the sole female pilot of Golem Squadron, also gets some love as well because of her surprisingly tragic death at the hands of Mihaly in Mission 3, showcasing how Anyone Can Die in the game. Her voice actresses also do a pretty good job channeling Brownie's fear and resultant Freak Out.
  • Fountain of Memes: Captain Torres. For starters, his profile picture looks like he's stoned, leading to a never-ending cascade of wacky edits that turn him into a New-Age Retro Hippie. Then there's his deliciously hammy speeches about salvation, the imagination of a million lives gone, and Trigger walking over his crisp white sheets with his dirty boots.
    PICTURE IT! [Cackles maniacally]
  • Friendly Fandoms: With the release of SP Mission 2 "Anchorhead Raid" DLC, there has been a surge of crossovers with the Modern Warfare series due to the presence of one Lieutenant General Shepherd - with numerous theories flaring up about which role he would play in the next SP Mission and combining events in the MW series with that of Ace Combat. It helps that not long after the mission was released, Kazutoki Kono has posted on Twitter saying that he intends to play the reboot Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) as well.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: That Golden Retriever dog that's a static image in a cutscene with 3D characters, which sparked a mass outbreak of memes? Turns out that's Kono's tribute to a fellow developer's dog who passed away during the game's development. It also probably doesn't help that in the game itself, the dog was gunned down by Erusean radicals while trying to protect Cossette.
  • Game-Breaker: has its own page.
  • Goddamn Bats:
    • UAVs. Frustratingly agile and never alone, it can be a right pain to get a lock on one while three more are tailing you, and they can easily ruin what was up to that point in the mission, a sure-fire S-Rank. Weapons like Burst Missiles (SASM) are available just to make dealing with them easier.
    • AA guns. They're easy to kill and no real threat to you since they do so little damage, but they shoot much faster and more accurately than in previous games and are absolutely dedicated to making sure you don't manage to get the bonus points for taking no damage or get the medal for doing a No-Damage Run of the entire campaign.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • When being hit by machine gun fire, MQ-101 drones will twitch and spin erratically, which can be a little disconcerting when seen up close. However, with how machine guns work in-game (the game gives you a sphere around the enemy where it will register hits), it very rarely actually affects your aim.
    • During Mission 15, Mihaly needs to shoot down Fencer for the entire sequence leading to Wiseman's death and the end of the mission to happen, but once in a blue moon, Fencer will end up engaging Mihaly in a dogfight, evade the latter's missiles, and even straight up go on the offensive. Since the story progression is tied to that particular trigger, Fencer not getting shot down inevitably leads to the mission being unwinnable. While it is a legitimate Game-Breaking Bug, it also sparked a hilarious meme which pegs Fencer as the next Ace Combat protagonist.
    • Similarly, if the player returns to resupply in Mission 6 right as the MQ-99s shoot High Roller out of the sky, there's a chance that the game will not properly register his Plotline Death, meaning he'll still be around after most of Spare Squadron deserts Roca Roja, engaging in his usual mid-mission chatter as if nothing happened. This can lead to the incredibly surreal moment of Full Band mocking High Roller's gambling habits post-mortem even though the latter's F-16C is right there.
  • It's Hard, So It Sucks!: This is the main complaint about the game among those who are newcomers to the series or flight combat games in general. Some players simply aren't used to the frantic pace of air combat, or pay attention to mission briefings and in-game dialogue to clue them in to what to do next.
  • Love to Hate:
    • AWACS Bandog. The guy's a Jerkass who doesn't care at all whether the convicts in Spare Squadron live or die and insult them every chance he gets, and is even implied to be not above killing convicts who pushed it too far. Yet Bandog still has some fans because he has enough memorable lines in his insults and some of his banter with the convicts is genuinely funny to listen to. (For example, his constant threat to put the convicts into SOLITARY!) Plus, as much of a Jerkass that he is, he's at least miles better than the Hate Sink that is Col. McKinsey.
    • Matias Torres. Despite the fact that he plans on killing a million people to save ten million more, fans have found him to be quite endearing, thanks to his profile picture looking like a stoner, the fact that he and a large portion of his men survived being stuck underwater for two years, his ranting about how Trigger stepped over the Crisp! White! Sheets! of the bed he hist made with his dirty boots, his shouting of ‘Salvation!’ during "Anchorhead Raid" whenever an air burst bomb hits, and his VA, Armen Taylor, giving a bombastic performance during the "Ten Million Relief Plan".
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The game's title was sometimes referred to as "Ace Combat 7: Date Unknown", as no official release date was announced for over two and a half years after the game's unveiling near the end of 2015. It took until Gamescom in August 2018 to set the date as January 18, 2019, with a Steam release on February 1, 2019.
    • Related to the above, the words "Please understand" accompanied by a particular picture of series producer Kazutoki Kono became a minor meme among the fandom after Kono apologized in advance for Ace Combat 7 being a no-show at E3 2016.
    • Fans have taken a liking to juxtaposing Mihaly's rhetorical "Yet, what is a nation?" with Detlef "Red Swallow" Fleisher's description of what constitutes a country.
    • It's also common to make macros with screenshots of Rosa Cossette D'Elise, especially one that presents her as prim and proper at the start of the Osea-Erusea conflict, then looking disheveled in the next while the text claims it's been three days into the war, even though there was no clear timeline of the events pre-release. note 
    • The repeated use of the phrase "Can you hear me?" from the Gamescom 2018 trailer has been seen as this game's equivalent to "Go dance with the angels." Thankfully, said Arc Words are only sporadically used within the story, and nowhere as obnoxious as 6's Catchphrase.
    • Mihaly's absurdly long real name has become a source of amusement. It's Mihaly Dumitru Margareta Corneliu Leopold Blanca Karol Aeon Ignatius Raphael Maria Niketas Archange Shilage.
    • Pedophile Schroeder Explanation 
    • Anyone who has been up to date with the series' plot will point out that someone of Belkan background probably manipulated Osean and Erusean leaders to go to war. Amusingly enough, this turned out to be the case in the game, with the Eruseans using Belkan A.I. technology to develop their drone squadrons and then employing them to regain their lost glory, with Dr. Schroeder — a Belkan and the person who's tasked with gathering flight data from the top ace Mihaly — being the one who spearheaded the project.
    • One cutscene features a happy-looking Golden Retriever alongside a couple of main characters. Doesn't sound like anything noteworthy aside from the fact that said dog isn't actually a 3D model, but a static image of a dog with a heat haze barely masking the fact that it's just an image juxtaposed onto the scene. Twitter had a field day with this.
    • The use of Col. McKinsey's Catchphrase "Solitary" (or something that has "Solitary" included in a dialogue, both of which are also used by Bandog), especially if said person is using it to respond to a snarky question/comment.
    • Bandog did nothing wrong. Explanation (Spoilers!) 
      • Related to above:'Blank' wants to know 'blank' location.Explanation (Spoilers!) 
    • "Missile Missile Missile Missile Missile Missile Missile Missile" as a result of incredibly persistent multiplayer missiles resulting in nearly non-stop missile warnings. Even the single-player campaign contributes, as the A.I. enemies are much more aggressive than in past games, but without the Level 2 multiplayer-only parts, it's easier to get a break from all the missile warnings.
    • Due to the nature of how Anyone Can Die in this game, with a total of at least ten named character deaths, the game has earned the nickname "Ace Combat: Game of Thrones Edition" from some fans.
    • Post Stall Maneuver challenge. Explanation 
    • TRIGGERED. Explanation 
    • Gamers arguing who's the better waifu: Cossette, Avril, Brownie, Húxiān, McOnie, or Scream. Occasionally, people will instead name their favorite planes, like so.
    • Jaeger frequently mentioning that he has a good story to tell his son after the war is over.
    • Lanza and his big maze Explanation 
    • With Alex mentioning "Define crazy" when David asks the A.I. while watching an OBC breaking news story in the DLC trailers, viewers began to spout off anything that's crazy for a pilot to do, even by Ace Combat standards.
    • Because the three DLC missions of the Seasonal Pass focus on a renegade super-submarine captain who intends to start a nuclear war, fans were quick to make a poster parodying The Hunt for Red October's own promotional poster.
    • Matias Torres and his CRISP! WHITE! SHEETS!! Explanation 
    • "Do it with a bang!" Explanation 
    • Fans have noticed that Rage & Scream, the two rival aces for the DLC missions, bear a resemblance to the Calypso Twins. It helps that they are both villainous Brother-Sister Teams that showcase violent and psychotic tendencies.
    • Listen to the briefings! Explanation 
    • Thanks to the Grundergram posts found on r/acecombat, fans have latched on to the headcanon that Trigger has a harem of women and he smashes them.
    • Z.O.E and Nemo Explaination 
    • "Shit, my cola..." Explanation 
    • AVE BELKA Explanation 
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Major Deanna McOnie is pretty popular in the fandom despite only appearing in one mission. Probably something to do with her cool attitude, design, and the fact that she's the one who fires the Stonehenge cannon that breaks the first Arsenal Bird in half.
    • Glamrock Squadron only appears in the first DLC mission, "Unexpected Visitor", but they milk the entirety of their screentime, being "cowboy" veteran pilots that stubbornly fly the heavily outdated F-4E Phantom II, believing that their skills make up for their technological disadvantage. Their likeable and gung-ho nature instantly struck a chord with the fandom.
    • Vice-Chairman Edwards so far only appears in the mission debriefing for Anchorhead Raid, but he’s already made a big impression on fans for being a Reasonable Authority Figure, and putting Clemens in his place after its revealed that he’s a traitor.
  • Player Punch:
    • The campaign features several moments where a friendly the player probably has at least some affinity for gets downed mid-mission and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Players usually turn to the very first instance of this as the hardest gut punch: Brownie, a good-natured, friendly rival to Trigger, is hounded by Mister X after retreating from the failed offensive against the Arsenal Bird in Mission 3 and is mercilessly toyed with by the Erusean ace before being gunned down, her final words being a chilling plea for support from Mage 2 (that's you, buddy) or anyone who's available. Several players have actually followed Brownie in an attempt to save her from Mihaly, all to no avail. This makes the player's ability to avert a similar moment in the final mission by splashing both ADF-11F Ravens before one of them gets the jump on Wit/Sol 2 all the more unexpected.
    • For anyone who's a veteran of the Circum-Pacific War, the death of Mr. Harling in Mission 4. At what appears to be your own hands, no less! It's later revealed Harling's death was actually caused by an Erusean drone disguised as an Osean fighter, but that doesn't make the moment any more somber for AC5 players, especially with a mournful rendition of that game's main theme playing in the background. This isn't even getting into Trigger's resulting court martial which kicks off the campaign's second arc.
  • Polished Port: The PC port looks as pretty as the console counterparts and isn't very demanding; it runs very well even in older dual-core configurations.
  • Porting Disaster: Downplayed Trope. The game exists on PC in finished form, with excellent graphics and all content available. However, it doesn't support many controllers: it makes use of X-Input configurations, meaning some older controllers and converted controllers (both of which include HOTAS) won't work. This includes the DualShock 2. It also supports an extremely small roster of PC flight sticks, all of which are made by Thrustmaster and cost at least as much as the game itself does. While hacks allow you to use your ten-year-old but still-working USB joystick, the PC version still isn't playable conveniently.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Full Band is voiced by Joe Zieja, who would later go on to hit it big by voicing main character Claude from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
  • Shipping Goggles: Once Count is transfered to Cyclops Squadron, his dynamic with squadmate Húxiān slowly goes from mutual dislike (ex. Húxiān calling out Count for his Glory Hound tendencies in Mission 12) to more friendly banter (ex. Húxiān jokingly calling Count an asshole when he "miraculously" seems to disable the Arsenal Bird's microwave shields in Mission 19), though there's no indication their relationship is anything more than platonic. Even so, because of their interactions, Húxiān having a rather personal confession about her thieving days during Mission 18 that startles Count, and Húxiān being the one to express relief when Count confirms a successful belly landing after his plane takes damage in the final skirmish with the ADF-11 beneath the Lighthouse, several fans were quick to pair them up.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: In the final third of the campaign, the world's satellites are destroyed when anti-satellite technology, and the debris they produce, remain trapped in orbit, destroying the the Strangereal world's satellite communication systems. Anti-satellite technology and space debris are a modern threat to global communication systems in the real world.
  • Special Effect Failure: One of the cutscenes from the pre-release included a dog who was clearly just a static image among all the 3D-modeled and animated people. Kono himself later revealed that it was a tribute to his real life friend.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
  • That One Achievement: One of the medals in the game requires you to do a No-Damage Run through the entire campaign. Doesn't help that the AA guns are more accurate and fire much faster than in previous titles so it's more likely that they will hit you when you try to destroy them.
  • That One Boss:
    • The prototype drone that appears in Mission 10 and Mission 20 as the Final Boss. It's extremely nimble, fast, and can pull turns in such a way your plane could never catch up before raining down hails of bullets at you. Even a very skilled pilot will have a hard time shooting it down without wasting several missiles and/or keeping a No-Damage Run record. Its bullets also count as CIWS fire, meaning you can't "joust" with them to score easy missile hits, since the missile will just get shot before even coming close.
    • Mihaly (aka Sol 1 or Mister X) also counts, especially during your first encounter with him in Mission 7. He does, thankfully, have a habit that can exploited (there's a short period of time where he'll fly in a straight line at low speed after avoiding a missile), but players might not even notice it until Jaeger points it out in the final battle. Getting accustomed to his flight patterns and being better prepared for skirmishes with more efficient aircraft and/or situation-specific loadouts bumps down the difficulty during later dogfights, but the "King of the Skies" can still prove a troublesome foe. It's little wonder the capabilities of the aforementioned drones, plus Hugin and Munin, are based on this guy's flight data.
      • Mission 7 - You suddenly find yourself up against an ace in an inhumanly manueverable Su-30SM (a plane that will outperform anything you're expected to fly in at that point in the game, never mind that the player may not have had the foresight to bring in A2A special weapons given the mission briefing) who has a tendency of rapidly accelerating and swerving out of the way right as your missiles look like they're about to connect, and the rock formations of the Yinshi Valley are hard enough to navigate without a thunderstorm in the area.
      • Mission 15 - Mihaly is accompanied by all of Sol Squadron, who are nearly as agile as their flight leader, and he has a habit of meandering through Farbanti's waterfront as the battle rages on, leading the player through tight spaces. He is somewhat easier to tag during the scripted sequence where he tails and eventually shoots down Wiseman, however, to the point that it's possible to immediately trigger everyone's HUDs and comm systems going offline once Wiseman is killed.
      • Mission 18 - Mihaly shows up in his shiny new X-02S Strike Wyvern, complete with a EML that will hurt if it makes contact. As in, a single hit will take your plane from 0% damage to 99% instantly (meaning you're at risk of suffering a One-Hit Kill if you couldn't avoid taking damage up to that point). While this is extremely telegraphed (especially if you check radar), Mihaly also tends to turn on a dime to face you right before he fires.
  • That One Level: As soon as you fly for 444th Fighter Squadron, expect a long chain of these. In addition, if you're trying to spawn the bonus ace in each mission, after doing so, if the player dies and restarts from checkpoint, the ace will not spawn again, necessitating a restart of the mission:
    • Mission 6 - Long Day. It's an Annihilation mission, meaning that players must cause enough damage to enemies to exceed a certain score threshold within a time limit for the mission to be successful. The actual opposition in that mission isn't terribly challenging, but the threshold for points is high and the time is low, and causing enough damage to pass that threshold using only the options available to a player early in the story is quite difficult, especially if they are playing through on Hard difficulty. However, the mission becomes much less arduous (and far more enjoyable) on subsequent playthroughs with better planes, and even a sizable number of first-time players have expressed similar opinions while flying in A-10Cs (or higher-tier aircraft like the Su-34, provided the player has enough MRP at the time).
    • Mission 7 - First Contact. You're destroying enemy SAMs and radar sites in a twisted maze of canyons under extreme weather conditions, which only get worse in the latter part of the mission, where you're fighting the fast UCAVs and enemy aces in a lightning storm with barely any visibility.
    • Mission 8 - Pipeline Destruction. Your mission is to destroy the Erusean fuel factory. The objective itself is simple (and fun), but the latter half of the mission involves tracking down fuel trucks, which are fleeing under the cover of an absolutely brutal sandstorm that can send your plane into the ground and completely hides the trucks from radar unless there's a gap in the storm or you get within about one kilometer/half a mile or so of them, meaning you're basically flying blind while feeling around for them. Further complicating matters, during the sandstorm, Erusea looses a swarm of MQ-99 drones to hunt you down. And just to complicate the No-Damage Run medal, some of the fuel trucks are actually carrying strange blue high explosive devices that hurt you if you're caught in the blast, something that the player may have only noticed in passing during Mission 2.
    • Mission 9 - Faceless Soldier. In the first half of the mission, you must fly below the clouds in the narrow canyon. Stay above it for too long, and you'll get shot down by invisible SAM sites that launch high-speed projectiles that can't be dodged or spoofed. It doesn't help that the mission targets you're required to destroy are often located above the clouds, forcing you to fly up in order to strike and hurry back down, where you could crash into the ground because you never know what's waiting below the clouds. The real kicker is that the topographic map in the radar can be deceptive, a player might be forced into a cul-de-sac valley, try to quickly rise over the mountains at the end to dive into the clouds on the other side, only to find that there is no cloud cover on the opposite side and no time to turn back. Fortunately, the second half of the mission is a glorious turnaround. It is also very hard to S-Rank, compared to other levels. The situation only worsens on Ace difficulty, where the missile alerts become nigh-instantaneous the moment you fly above the clouds.
    • Mission 12 - Stonehenge Defensive. While it is an excellent mission, it can be frustrating to S-Rank, mainly because it initially starts as a ground attack mission, with heavy amounts of ground targets (favoring an Attacker-type plane such as the A-10C)... only to swing heavily towards being primarily based around aerial combat halfway through, with heavy amounts of bombers, enemy attackers and fighters, topped off with the Arsenal Bird and its 80 MQ-101 UAVs, meaning going into the mission with a plane geared towards one or the other will make it difficult to destroy all of the enemies. Additionally, the mission requires frequently jumping from one side of the map to the other, as enemy groups spawn in various locations far from each other, necessitating a fast aircraft. This also makes the mission far less fun to replay, since the number of aircraft success is even feasible with is highly limited, discouraging experimentation with anything other than certain multirole planes... or the F-22A Raptor, as usual.

    • Mission 13 - Bunker Buster. The main gimmick is the bunker buster's laser targeting system, which replaces the SP weapon slot. It is rather difficult to aim the laser and there is a delay between calling in the bomb and having it land on the bunker. Factoring in the presence from the enemy planes and gun encampments, the presence of fake silos and the strict time limit before the ballistic missiles start launching (which will result in having to chase down more than three missiles if you can't destroy the five bunkers in time), this mission can be quite the headache.

    • Mission 14 - Cape Rainy Assault. The first part of the mission involves a somewhat lengthy canyon flight that involves dodging searchlights. Then comes the assault on the airbase, which can be surprisingly difficult as there are many airborne and ground targets that need to be destroyed within an extremely strict time limit that is much shorter than the official mission timer would have you believe, or else the allied ground tropes will be overrun, with very little room for error.

    • Mission 15 - Battle for Farbanti. The threshold for points is quite high, the time limit can be somewhat restrictive, there are lots and lots of enemies spread out across the whole map, and it is difficult to S-Rank, partly because the dogfight with Sol Squadron and Mister X in the second half can drag on for a while.
    • Mission 17 - Homeward. The LRSSG are attempting to re-locate to Tyler Island, and to do so they must wipe any Eruseans off the map. Simple Annihilation mission, right? LOL. There is no IFF support (Kessler Syndrome and all that), so, as with Mission 16, you have to ID everything before you shoot it. IDing a target takes significantly longer than just shooting it, which limits your DPS. You are then interrupted by a Timed Mission in which enemy bombers approach the island to commit a saturation attack; there is heavy cloud cover from the east, complicating any sort of interception. You still have to ID all your targets, meaning you have to move fast and shoot straight while fighter cover tries to stop you and without TGT tags (which only get added after you ID something, at which point you might as well just take an extra few moments and shoot it down). If any of them pass the threshold, it's a Non-Standard Game Over. And remember, this is an Annihilation mission, so we're talking Checkpoint Starvation: if you mess up, you start over. Then it's back to the island, until a Cut Scene and a checkpoint. After this is another Timed Mission where you have about 90 seconds in which to destroy certain enemy units that are besieging an allied position; the game doesn't mark the relevant units with TGT tags. (At least AWACS Long Caster IDs everything for you.) Finally, there's another checkpoint followed by a high-speed interception mission as you chase Single-Stage-To-Orbit spaceplanes that, depending on your mount, could possibly outrun you. Through thunderclouds. None of these tasks are particularly difficult by themselves, but the fact that you have to do them together, all in a row, without a return line, with additional fail states in every segment of the mission beyond the standard hazards of crashing or getting shot down, takes it over the top.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: For balancing purposes, certain SP weapons carried by DLC planes were severely nerfed in gameplay when compared to their game-breaking power in previous games, a change that was not well-received by more than a few veterans of the series who had an affinity for these planes. The most contentious example seems to be the power of the TLS shared by all three Season 1 DLC planes, which is horribly underpowered (even with the damage mod installed) to the point that one needs to fire multiple shots to take down a hard target. Contrast this performance with its capabilities in Ace Combat 5 and Ace Combat Zero where, in the right hands, it could wipe out all enemies on the screen with ease. The same applies to the Falken's FAEB and the Morgan's MPBM. While they look flashy on the surface, they're not really useful to take down anything other than clustered weak targets, as even with the customization parts that increase special weapon damage, those weapons will still fail to take down most hard targets (any ship bigger than a Destroyer, the Arsenal Bird's propellers, etc.) in one shot. This is all made even worse by the fact that values for special weapons are stored separately for each mode, meaning the nerfs were completely unnecessary in single-player. While PC players can get around this with mods, console players are left with underwhelming versions of their favorite superweapons.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • While Avril Mead does play a large role in the story and has her own character arc, she doesn’t actually get to become a pilot and fly alongside Trigger. Despite the game establishing her as having a passion for the sky and shows that she has potential as a pilot, she's instead be relegated to a conscripted mechanic and a frontline soldier. She even lampshades in a cutscene by complaining that pilots like her are instead being put into ground soldier roles.
    • Tabloid is set up to be the Token Good Teammate of Spare Squadron. He's the one who came up with the idea of having Trigger leading the squadron, allowing the convicts to fight as a united force at last. Afterward he's instead shipped to the frontlines while Trigger and Count go on to join other squadrons, and they never fly together again. He later reveals himself as a Belkan to Avril, but this also never gets brought up again, even when he confronts another Belkan, Dr. Schroeder, later in the game. Finally, he gets Killed Offscreen while trying to rescue a girl from the fallen debris, leaving any character development he had moot.
    • A major complaint regarding the game's story is that Spare Squadron is only relevant for one act of the campaign despite them being the focus of the game's marketing. It doesn't help that most of them die over the course of the game, with only Count receiving any real character focus and development.
    • The same goes to the IUN-PKF as a whole, which ceased to be relevant to the plot as soon as you got thrown into Spare Squadron. Aside from Brownie and her tragic fate at the hands of Mister X, none of your other wingmen in Mage and Golem Squadrons get much development before they disappeared from the story entirely. Many players have expressed disappointment that they don't even come Back for the Finale when the Coalition Force joined together in the final battle at the Lighthouse, which could have served as the perfect Book-Ends as well considering that this place was where you last flew with them before you got thrown into the 444th and there could've been an opportunity for them to note how far Trigger had come since he was a fledgling under their wing.
    • From the DLC missions, we have the Mimic Squadron. An Ax-Crazy Sibling Team Wild Card who's out for Trigger's blood personally could have set up a potentially interesting development about their motivations and why they hate Trigger so much, along with the fact that they worked for General Resource Limited. Too bad they got killed off in only their second encounter with players barely knowing anything about them except for the fact that Clemens was their commanding officer and the aforementioned connection with a mega corporation from Electrosphere.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • With the amount of emphasis Knocker puts on Golem and Mage Squadrons maintaining element at all times both before and after Brownie's death, one might think this game would've been the one to reintroduce the squad order mechanics from AC5, ACZ, and AC6 (gameplay elements that several fans would've liked to see return) and give the player more direct control over their various wingmen throughout the campaign or even allow for allied strikes a la 6. Sadly, this doesn't come to pass. While this is a bit more understandable while you're flying for the 444th Squadron note , Missions 11 and onward see Trigger placed in command of his own squadron, with several of those missions also involving Cyclops Squadron (and other friendlies) as allied units while being on a scale similar to operations seen in 6.
    • Despite the large variety of Callbacks throughout the plot — including the Inciting Incident involving Trigger becoming framed for the death of a major character from AC 5 (to wit, Harling himself) — there is no mention of the Ghosts of Razgriz wanting to avenge the death of their friend.note 
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Project Aces made full usage of the Unreal Engine 4 and current-gen technology in order to create some absolutely stunning visuals. A few examples to note:
    • The cloud system. You can see the clouds swirling and moving around from strong winds as you approach and enter into them.
    • As ice begins to form inside the clouds, the ice slowly encroaches your cockpit's canopy from the outside, not unlike your car windows icing over in the winter. It gets thicker the longer you stay in the clouds, until your vision is completely obscured.
    • The amount of detail cockpits of the fighters, especially the canopy itself. You can see faintly see scratches and wiping streaks on the glass of nearly every fighter, especially at night when the moon is shining down. You have to actually look to notice them, but the fact that it's there is incredible.
  • Win Back the Crowd: After the last major title in the series, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, split the fanbase over its real-world setting and gameplay changes, this game appears to be Revisiting the Roots. It explicitly takes place in Strangereal, does away with the divisive "Close Range Assault" mechanic from Assault Horizon, and pre-release material contains several nods to Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, which is highly regarded and one of the most successful titles in the series.
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