At a preview event before PSX 2016, I had the chance to play Bandai Namco’s upcoming title Ace Combat 7. Not only that, I played the game with PlayStation VR. As you could guess, playing in VR completely changes the experience of Ace Combat, but I think it does so for the better.
The demo began as I was rolled onto an aircraft carrier and prepped for launch. After a countdown sequence, my jet was launched forward off of the edge of the carrier and I began my ascent into the sky. The first thing that I noticed about playing the game in VR was the sense of speed that I felt while flying. The game really does move quickly and I often felt butterflies in my stomach when making sharp turns or performing barrel rolls. While I don’t know what it actually feels like to fly a jet, the experience I had using PSVR was about like I imagined flying would really feel like.
As far as gameplay goes, it’s about like you would expect. In this demo I fought two different waves of opposing enemies and used my missiles to shoot all of them out of the sky. There was a time limit to complete the mission and I luckily finished just before time ran out. Keeping track of enemy fighters in VR is quite crazy since you have to constantly turn and rotate your head to find where they are at.
I think that the best thing about playing this demo in VR was that it finally made first-person flying viable for me. Typically when I play games like Ace Combat 7, I would opt to play from the third-person perspective because it gave me a wider range of view to locate enemies. I find that first-person views flying games have a limited view and it makes it harder to dogfight. With PSVR though, I could turn my head in any direction that I needed. Turning and spinning my head in all directions to find opposing fighters was incredibly engaging while also being really helpful. I really think that virtual reality was needed to finally make first-person games like this more easily playable.
The one thing that I found to be really poor in my time with this demo was the graphics. While I know that most games in PSVR aren’t as graphically intense as normal due to the limitations of the headset, Ace Combat 7 seemed particularly ugly to me. The sky was the same bland shade of blueish-grey everywhere I looked. The ocean and islands that I flew past also looked flat and lacking of any detail. I don’t know if this will be indicative of the full product or maybe it was just this demo, but it wasn’t aesthetically appealing.
In addition to the poor graphics, I found the draw distances to be incredibly shallow. When approaching enemy jet fighters, you can’t see the actual outlines of the jets themselves until you are very close to them. Instead, the game opts to outline where the fighters will be approaching with different reticles that appear on your screen. These reticles will identify where the jets are at even though you can’t see them yet in the distance. Again, this may be more of a complaint about the limitations of the PSVR headset and less about what Ace Combat 7 should be at fault for but still, it was a bit disappointing.
My biggest concern coming into this demo was that playing the game in VR would make me sick. I’ve been prone to VR sickness in the past with certain games and I didn’t want to feel that way with this game. Happily, I came away from the demo feeling fine. I think that with many of these cockpit based VR games, being able to look down at your own “body” in the cockpit helps stabilize your brain and keep you from feeling nauseous.
In short, I liked what I played of Ace Combat 7. While it may not have been the prettiest game ever, I really feel like this is a game that was meant to be played using PlayStation VR. If you have a PSVR headset and you’ve been looking for a game to get excited about, Ace Combat 7 should be that game.