|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco-Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco-Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 31, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
If you like air combat games, Ace Combat has always been the standard bearer of the genre. With a long history of quality titles originating on the PS one, the franchise has built up a reputation for recreating the thrill of arcadey flight combat simulations with a certain level of finesse, even when saddled with technical limitations.
When the series first hit the PSP with Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, fans of the series worried the lack of two analog sticks on the PSP would make it too hard to accurately pilot advanced fighter jets, let alone pull off some of the more technical maneuvers Ace Combat inevitably asks of its players. X actually felt close to its console brethren, though, and was well-received. Naturally, then, the games sequel, Joint Assault, should only improve on the formula, right? Yes and no.
On the technical side, Joint Assault makes some improvements over X. The games visuals are an improvement on its predecessors (if only just), with cleaner textures and more detailed planes. There are more planes to use throughout the game. Multiplayer numbers have been expanded to include eight players. You can also play the entire single-player campaign in co-op with up to three wingmen, which, if you have the requisite PSP-owning friends, might be a cool prospect. True to the series pedigree, Joint Assault is at least moderately entertaining, offering a decent amount of difference between aerial environs (cities, deserts, mountainous regions, etc).
Much of the other elements in Joint Assault feel like a misfire, however. One of the big new features is the story actually takes place in real life locations, as compared to the sci-fi tinged fictional future war universe Ace Combat has traditionally taken place in. But considering the games processing power focuses on rendering planes, bogeys, and effects for things like explosions, theyre the same blobs of land weve been seeing for years, only now you might happen to fly past the Tokyo Tower or Golden Gate Bridge. Thats all well and good, I guess, but doesnt affect the gameplay in a meaningful way (or in any way at all, really).
Then theres the story. Not that I really expect top-notch literary work from a game that involves flying jets and blowing things up, but with elements involving international terrorism and, uh, dirty dealings with the insurance industry, it seems like Project Aces could have created a more compelling narrative that at least attempted relevancy. Instead, its a silly, forgettable story about insurance. Has there ever been a localized game about insurance? The idea is more than a little ridiculous, or at least hard to take seriously. Frankly, I miss the anime-inspired storylines of previous games, which gave the series some of its Japanese charm; Joint Assault kind of feels like a western game, at least from a narrative standpoint. Finally, Joint Assault also seems to repeat a lot of what X did. Theres a flying fortress you have to fight, but instead of being a menacing enemy, its marginalized by the number of times you have to fight it. Along with the forgettable story, it makes for a single-player campaign that feels like so much re-treaded ground.