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Opinion

Flight School: A Weekend With Ace Combat Infinity

Reach for the sky.

Namco Bandai’s Ace Combat series is now 18 titles deep, offering arcade style flight simulation and plenty of action along the way. Infinity is the series first foray into the ‘free to play’ market and is currently exclusive to the Playstation 3.

I don’t tend to have much luck piloting vehicles in other games (see basically any Battlefield game) so Infinity seemed like a great, and free, opportunity to give the genre a try. When you load up you’re peppered with hint boxes and advice on how to get started – the writing on these is tiny for some strange reason but it’s definitely worth reading them all and make sure you always check the Notification section for bonuses/unlocks – you’ll thank me later!

So I settled in and got started on the tutorial mission, which would show me the basics and let me get airborne. In Infinity you view your plane from a third person viewpoint, just behind it, and for a quick moment I was whisked back to my Master System days with After Burner! Thankfully this game is almost as easy to control, the majority of the work is done on the left stick (the right stick controls the camera so you can look to the side/behind) with R1 accelerating and L1 slowing you down. You can add speed to turns by also using L2 and R2 to ‘Yaw’, or in layman’s terms, move side to side.

Your initial weapons are a machine gun (fired with X) and missiles (which can lock on to targets and are dispatched with O). You have a radar on the bottom left of the screen but I found I rarely needed to use that because you have an extensive overlay on your HUD. You can press triangle over an enemy to set it as your ‘objective’, which means an arrow will appear on your screen if the enemy moves out of sight. I found this really helpful as it very quickly allows you to get your bearings and relocate whichever plane or ground troops you were tracking previously.

I actually died during the basic tutorial, which didn’t bode well for entering full combat. Thankfully there is a mix of single player campaign missions and online action so I was eased in with a solo campaign mission to start.

Now seems like the best time to discuss the mechanic that makes Infinity a ‘free to play’ title: Fuel. To do any mission you need to use at least one unit of fuel (you can use more to increase your points multiplier) and there are two kinds of fuel; Supplied and Stocked. Supplied fuel is time based, you get 1 unit every four hours, with a maximum of 3 units allowed. Stocked fuel is awarded for in-game feats or completing the challenges you can select to accompany missions.

You can also buy Stocked fuel at £0.79 per unit with other deals available on PSN. As I mentioned in my opening, do check your notifications – when you start the game you are gifted 10 units of Stocked fuel but you won’t get it unless you read the notification.

Ace Combat Infinity 1

Once I had done some Campaign missions it was time to hit the online arena. Thankfully for me, Infinity sees two teams of up of 4 players each both fighting not each other but a series of computer controlled planes and objectives. There are plenty of people playing the game, which is great and it was never difficult to find a room but if the room is set up for 8 players (and most are) you could sometimes be sitting there for 3 or 4 minutes waiting to get a full contingent so that you could start.

As you don’t play directly against other people it means even us less skilled players can have success, and fun, against the enemy AI. I was often last but still had an enjoyable time, although I did sometimes feel I’d dragged my team to a defeat being the only one with such a low score. I preferred it when I got matched with a room full of new players! During both campaign and online missions your point score is transferred into Credits. As well as buying new planes or upgrades with Credits, they are also required to unlock the single player campaign missions.

As someone who is not very good at these types of games my initial fuel load of 3 Supplied and 10 Stocked lasted me 2 1/2 hours, which I think is a pretty good length of time to decide whether you want to invest further time or money in the game. Other, more skilled, players may get further into it without hitting a wall.

With the Credits also needed to unlock campaign missions it meant, without spending money, that I had to wait at least 4 hours to have another crack at anything other than the Test Flight (which earns you no Credit or Fuel). Most of the free to play stuff I’ve experienced (Blacklight Retribution for example) limited your weapons/abilities rather than your time, something that I vastly prefer to what Infinity does.

However, I fully understand that the game needs to be supported and there are plenty of options here if you exhaust your initial free Fuel and can’t wait to play more. Ace Combat Infinity is definitely a fun game but I feel the 2-3 hours I spent with it was enough for me.

7 Comments
  1. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    What a fascinating system they’re putting in place to monetise the game. Really, when it comes down to it, people who enjoy a game will usually spend money on it. God knows I’m loving Elder Scrolls Online so £8.99 a month is utterly awesome value for money (although I appreciate I bought the title in the beginning). However, the game needs maintaining and it’s a small price to pay for some top entertainment.

    Will definitely keep an eye on this. Cheers, Greg. :-)

    Comment posted on 03/06/2014 at 17:19.
    • Greg Turner
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Yeah I think if you’re into it then there is definitely a case to invest more cash and support the game. Another factor for me personally is that I’m mainly playing PS4 now so I’d need to specifically hook up the PS3 to keep playing.

      Comment posted on 03/06/2014 at 17:43.
  2. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    i ran out of everything very quickly…
    thought i was Goose from Top Gun..
    oh well will have to wait till my recharges..

    Comment posted on 03/06/2014 at 18:00.
  3. Avenger
    Member
    Since: Oct 2012

    Nice to see this got some focus. I was wondering about how the game worked and what the game modes were like. I’ll likely download it tomorrow.

    Comment posted on 03/06/2014 at 21:45.
  4. lambchop
    Member
    Since: Aug 2013

    lol, I forgot that I’d set this to download. sounds on for a little blast on an evening

    Comment posted on 04/06/2014 at 08:11.
  5. mugsybalone
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Aside from the unfortunately timed server downtime yesterday, I’ve had a lot of fun with Ace Combat Infinity, with my focus mainly being on the multiplayer side at the moment, which is unusual for me as I tend to avoid having to play games with real people, so I guess it’s testament to how much fun it is! The fuel re-stock timing hasn’t been too much of an issue, with work and other commitments I’m limited to playing in short bursts anyway, and the game’s challenge system means additional fuel units can be obtained reasonably easily.

    I avoided the issue of having to earn the credits to unlock the single player campaign missions by purchasing the “Unlimited Campaign Play Ticket”, as a fan of the Ace Combat series I couldn’t complain too much over £11.99 when I wasn’t being charged for anything else, it’s pretty much the going rate for a PSN download title.

    Comment posted on 04/06/2014 at 13:49.
  6. crayharris
    Member
    Since: Jun 2014

    I am new too this game but love it I would love help from any one is playing my email is curtish74@ Yahoo .com thanks see u in the sky

    Comment posted on 15/06/2014 at 18:13.