We were recently invited to check out the latest build of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown and chat with David Bonacci, Brand Manager for Bandai Namco and former Navy Pilot (thank you for your service, sir). Before I sat down and took my turn at the controller, I was able to not only pick his brain about this upcoming release, but talk about his time in the service as a pilot and how that segued into a career in video games.
Flight Sims Make Better Pilots
It turns out that learning to be a better pilot requires many hours of actually playing video games. Well, Flight simulators aren’t exactly considered video games at that level, but I think you get the point. David enjoyed the aspects of these simulators enough that, when he left the service, video game marketing was a step in the right direction for him. It seems like a no brainer that Bandai Namco would make sure he was the Brand Manager for a game about military aircraft.
The game will have a full, 12 hour campaign plus another several hours of VR campaign material that is exclusive to the PlayStation platform. This was recently revealed and recorded at E3 2017, and looked incredible. The setup I was invited to use in San Francisco didn’t include the PSVR, so I just played through part of the Gamescom 2017 demo using a controller and an HDTV. While this was fun, Thrustmaster has recently released their T.Flight HOTAS 4 joystick for the PS4, and there are whispers that it will be compatible with the game at launch (other joysticks might be as well). This is a must if the game is going to really immerse the player in the world of fighter jets. Couple that with VR and you may actually believe you could fly a real fighter jet after a couple hours of flight time. You might not stick the landing, but hey, that’s what parachutes are for, right?
As I sat in the cockpit waiting my turn to take-off from the aircraft carrier, I realized that with this many knobs and switches, jet pilots must have some serious brain power in order to remember which button did what and which switches needed flipped in order to not crash in the middle of the ocean upon being slung off the deck of this massive ship. Luckily for me, all I had to do was press R2 and pull back on the left analog stick in order to not go swimming in a seventy million dollar or so jet. Once airborne, the heads-up display kept me abreast of my air speed and altitude, and as long as I didn’t stay in the clouds too long, gave me a crisp and clear view of the world. Flying through cloud cover has a tendency to cause moisture buildup on the canopy and can limit your field of vision.
The demo had me taking on enemy aircraft in an F/A 18F Super Hornet, over an area called Chopinburg in an attempt to recover control of a space elevator. Not all of the enemy aircraft were manned, though, as some fighter drones were also in the area. This is an interesting concept as the drones could pull off maneuvers that are humanly impossible. They could go from being in front of you, to being on your ass in a matter of seconds using a move that creates more G’s than a space shuttle launch. These aircraft add a new dimension to dog fighting, and ups the difficulty level to a new standard.
An exact release date for the game hasn’t been announced, but Ace Combat 7 is set to be out sometime in 2018. Incredible graphics and some seriously fun dog fights should put this game on your radar.