(Namco Bandai for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, the latest entry in the long-running airborne action series, is a spectacle. That’s no mean feat in the gaming world of today, where the phrase “over the top” is redefined on a weekly basis, but the game is all the better for its explosion-every-minute mindset, one that is evident in both its cutscenes and gameplay. Weaving your fighter jet through skyscrapers in Dubai in order to prevent enemies from bombing the city; using buildings for cover as you rain death in an attack helicopter; providing protective fire from a mounted gun onto a ship that your fellow soldiers are raiding: There are so many high-octane scenarios that you’ll never be bored, except by the inane chatter between the soldiers, which never rises above stuff like “let’s take out the trash!” The new Dog Fight Mode that allows you to lock onto enemy aircraft and zoom in for a (seemingly) close-quarters cinematic battle is a perfect fit for the game’s bombastic style, although it must be noted that the series’ new direction will likely not please everyone, especially those who seek a more measured, tactical experience. Assault Horizon nonetheless feels like the kind of game that could introduce a whole new audience to the thrills of air combat, those who may’ve been intimidated by the complexity of the genre in the past. A few missions in the clouds with this game should definitely do the trick.