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My name is Jason. I'm an avid lifelong gamer, and somewhat longish reader of Destructoid. Currently unemployed, my usual occupations are fixing PCs for people, replacing broken phone screens, and embarrassingly often, working behind a retail counter.

I tend to game on PC these days. Favorites of the last year were Cave Story+, Bastion, Portal 2, and E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy.

You can usually find me in Destructoid group chat on Steam as Morcant, or frequently in Tribes: Ascend as Jahok.
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I picked up Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation today. Aside from the usual
EB/Gamestop shenanigans re: "the strategy guide," it was a pretty painless
process. And it wasn't a decision I had to think very hard about. I bought a 360
in part because I read months ago that Ace Combat 6 would be a 360 exclusive.

Ace Combat is to me what Dynasty Warriors is to Mr. Jim Sterling. If you've
played one, you've pretty much played them all. But these games just do
something for me that nothing else does. So I apologize if I begin gibbering a
bit and getting overexcited about things that may seem mundane to you. That's
not the purpose of this, I'm trying to be informative, but bear with me.

The idea goes like this. You, a pilot in the Emmerian military, are scrambled in
response to an aerial attack on your nation's capitol city. Some things happen,
and you and your wingmen are forced to flee. To the farthest reaches of the
opposite coastline, apparently. Then the remainder of the game is spent retaking
your homeland.

Like I said, if you've played one, you pretty much know what to expect.

Similar to Ace Combat Zero (which I adore as the best game in the series), you
can collect short biographies of the enemy fighters you shoot down. The medals
have also returned, awarded for exceptional performance. I've played through the
first 9 missions, and it feels pretty much like the other Ace Combat games, with
one little exception: The enemies are much, much better at aiming their missiles
now. I had evasion down to an art in Ace 4 and 5, but Zero ramped up the
challenge, and now it's even greater.

You still issue commands to your wingman with the d-pad as before. It works
well, although he isn't as vigilant as I would like. This is especially
noticable and bothersome when three of those smarter enemies I was talking about
are firing missiles at you. By holding down one of the d-pad directions, you can
also call in an allied attack, which swarms all friendly planes to attack
whatever targets are within your view. This also works for requesting allied
cover, where everyone flocks to kill whatever is chasing you.

And I think that is the biggest reason your actual assigned wingman is not very
effective. You're supposed to use this instead, which burns up a meter at the
bottom of the screen. I don't really know what fills it, but it's basically a
super combo meter for a flight combat game. Go figure.

Now, I need to talk about the big thing, the reason this is better than the
other Ace Combat titles. Online multiplayer!! You can join or create multiplayer
games in one of four game types. Team Battle splits the players in the lobby
into Alpha and Bravo teams, who then go head up for the highest score. Battle
Royale is basically airborne deathmatch - every man for himself. It's also CRAZY
HARD, because humans are exceptionally good at dodging, and they love abusing
the long-range air-to-air missiles that go faster than light, I swear.

Ahem. There's also Siege Battle, where two teams take turns attacking and
defending a stronghold. Whoever scores more in their attack wins. And the last
mode is Co-Op, which I didn't know would be included, but damn if it doesn't
make me giddy. It appears there are only two co-op missions, however, which is a
little disappointing. Hopefully we'll see some DLC in this area, instead of just
new plane skins for Halloween.

Speaking of those, I'll touch on it really quickly. The special paint jobs are
not just cosmetic, I believe. For example, one of the skins you can purchase
recreates the squadron colors from Ace Combat 2.. before there were SP Weapons.
Appropriately, then, this model has no SP Weapons, but gains much enhanced
durability in exchange. Someone more affluent than I will have to buy them all
and let the rest of us know what their effect on performance is.

All of these modes can be restricted to different tiers of planes and special
weapon loadouts, types of planes (fighters, mulirole, etc.), and the host can
toggle NPC enemies, alltalk/team chat, time limit, and weapon handicap. There
isn't as much customization as I'd like to see, personally, but I've been a bit
spoiled by the options available to Forza 2 multiplayer races.

I can't really recommend the game on the merit of the single player, unless
you're like me and this series in some way nourishes you. But if you have
any interest whatsoever in flying really fast planes and shooting at other human
beings, this could still be the game for you. I have a feeling this game will
have to split my time with Call of Duty 4 for some time into the future.