If you’re looking for fast paced fighter combat then the Ace Combat franchise has been it. With Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation Namco Bandai Games keeps their hit franchise steaming ahead full speed. Ace Combat 6’s story is basic enough, it follows the invasion of the peaceful nation of Gracemeria by its neighbor Estovakia, a country that was devastated years ago when it was bombarded by meteorites. The game focuses on a few characters who are caught in the war, from soldiers to a mother who has been separated from her daughter during the conflict. The problem is that these stories don’t have anything to do with your missions, they’re just tales told in brief cut scenes. Granted all the storylines come together in the end, but it’s a bit too predictable and doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.

The Ace Combat series is known for being a flight simulator that anyone can pick up and instantly play, and AC6 is no different. Getting into battle is as easy as selecting a mission, picking a plane and taking control of the skies. The controls are simple, with a lot of on-screen indicators to help out new players. Unfortunately the controls aren’t as easy as dealing with the rest of the plane. The flight controls are good, but the targeting mechanism leaves something to be desired. You have to manually toggle through multiple targets when trying to target the closes enemy, making it frustrating when there are a large number of bogies on screen. The biggest change to AC6 is the introduction of a living battlefield. In essence a giant battle that occurs on top of your own actions, and the objectives you opt to complete can influence the overall path of battle. In reality though it doesn’t really impact the game. At the start of every mission, you’re given your obligatory series of objectives to complete and once you’ve completed them the mission ends.

One thing noticeable is the games short single-player campaign. The campaign can be completed in less than six to seven hours. Just when you start really perfecting your flying moves the game ends. It’s a bit of a downer, but the good news is that you can take the game online for the first time. Play on Xbox Live gives you a more challenging experience because this time your enemies are real players at the other end and not the lackluster AI. There’s a number of different game modes available, from co-op to Deathmatches to Base Defense. Bringing the game online adds an entirely new experience to the game.

Graphics wise, AC6 looks great. The planes are all modeled in fantastic detail, from the heat exhaust from the engines to the smoke spewing from a rapidly firing Gatling gun. The levels also look great; it’s darn impressive to watch your plane speed slightly above the ground and buzz past a farmhouse, kicking up dust the entire way. The animation from the cut scenes are very reminiscent of other Japanese games, it’s as if they’ve got a style that they all adhere to. That’s not to say it was bad looking, quite the contrary. They did a remarkable job on the animation, it’s just that it feels like the characters are interchangeable with other games. The games sound effects are top notch as well, but the combat chatter is a bit lackluster and repetitive. One noticeable thing that I’ve got to nitpick is the Estovakian soldiers, some have accents while others don’t. This can get a bit can’t confusing when listening to the chatter because you can hear everything they say as well as your own forces.

Overall though, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation is a fun game. It looks great and offers a lot of fast paced action. It’s exclusivity on the XBox 360 is another feather in the consoles cap, offering gamers a fun title that was previously only available on Playstation systems. If you’re looking for a fast paced game to hold your attention for a little while then this is it. Unfortunately it only holds your attention for a few hours, and that ultimately hurts the game a little.