The makers of "Assault Horizon" have taken my favorite aerial combat franchise and made it into a Michael Bay film. And I don't like it.
Years of narratives built around the stresses of being a fighter pilot and the struggles of nations going to war, rebuilding and expanding through aerial domination have given way to game that is all about explosions, and not nearly enough about tense dogfights.
Oh, sure, "Assault Horizon" has a new "dogfight" mode that is one of the game's selling points. Trigger this mode on, and the camera angles are more cinematic, the explosions fill the screen and symphonies signal your epic triumph for the 10 seconds before another dogfight begins. The dogfights are cheapened this way. It doesn't take long for this new mode to wear out its welcome, but playing without it makes the missions a total bore.
The game does attempt to mix things up by leaving the cockpit of nimble fighter jets and instead doing battle in a helicopter or lumbering bomber. The chopper missions are better executed, but they're still too easy -- like the rest of the game. Some online modes at least allow you to test your skills against human competitors. The AI is lackluster otherwise.
It's a shame that, after stellar releases like "The Belkan War" and "Fires of Liberation," gamers are now forced to play a game that is all about big cinematic explosions with blaringly loud music and little substance or plot. Bay would be proud, but true fans of this series wouldn't.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Grade: 2 stars
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