Review by p1r4t8r

Reviewed: 12/15/02 | Updated: 12/15/02

Have you got what it takes?

'Ace Combat 3' is the third game in Namco's highly successful 'Ace Combat' series. Having never played any of the previous games I can only speculate as to their quality, therefore when I picked up 'Ace Combat 3' I had no expectations of it, I was just hoping for a great flight simulator. And great it is!
Let it just be said before hand that I have no clue about planes, so please forgive my ignorance in this area.

The story was extremely hard to follow, although from what I could gather it involved a war in a not to distant future, fought mostly in the air. There was talk of a few different factions, all vying for power. The games story was poorly conveyed; leaving you with next to no idea what is going on around you. It's hard to lose yourself in a game when you don't even know who you are or why you’re doing what you are.
Story: 1

The graphics in 'Ace Combat 3' are some of the best seen on PlayStation, and are so good you could almost be fooled into thinking it's a PC game, the graphics are just that good!
The plane models are all highly detailed, and even feature wind flaps that fold out when you brake.
The weapon effects are amazing; smoke trails behind rockets as they curl through the air, creating dazzling effects. The maps are huge, some of them taking quite a few minutes to fly at full speed from one side to the other. The water effects are especially cool, the sun setting left realistic patterns on the water, and your jet engine kicks up waves behind it when it gets close to the water. The cities you fly through are well detailed, and feature numerous buildings and even bridges. The games frame rate remains at a smooth pace throughout the game, and I did not notice it slow down at all even in more detailed areas with multiple enemies onscreen. Speaking of which, the game can handle a large number of opponents, both friendly and hostile on screen at once, and at one stage I counted over ten craft on screen! Truly an achievement, and one Namco should be applauded for. The only real downside as far as graphics are concerned was that the textures were extremely pixelated up close, but considering that by the time your up close to something your usually DEAD this is not such a problem.
Almost all the cut-scenes were rendered using in game graphics, which depending on how you look at it is both good and bad. Good in that it keeps the flow of the game going, and bad in that at times the cut-scenes are overly pixelated and don't really have the same impact on the viewer as computer generated ones. There is only one computer generated video clip within the game, and it is truly amazing. It shows a city being destroyed by missiles and then smashed with a huge tidal wave. The water looks rather realistic, something that is very hard to do with CG rendering.
The camera angle posed a slight problem, only offering you two views, inside the cockpit and outside the plane. I found the outside view to be the coolest, but also rather hard to see at time, as the camera was mounted perhaps just a little to close to the aircraft for my liking. Still, it never became too much of a problem.
There is a fair bit of fogging in 'Ace Combat 3' although it's kept at a good distance so you can still see things well ahead of you, and you won't crash into any unseen buildings that pop-up at the last minute.
Graphics: 10

While I have never heard a real jet engine from the inside let alone one firing a missile, I believe the sound effects were spot on for the most part.
The roar of a plane as it thunders overhead is truly something to behold, as is the sound of dodging a missile at the last possible second and hearing it scream past you. When you accelerate in your jet there is a real feeling of power as the rumble of the engine grows, and the explosions are amazing too.
As for the music, I cannot really comment on this area as I put on one of my own music CD's during the game. That's not to say the music is bad, it's just that Japanese techno is not my style of music. The beats were fairly good though, and they suited the game rather well.
My only complaint in the audio section is the warning voice. This voice comes on to alert you of what is going on around you, but I found it rather annoying as it kept playing the 'warning; pull up!' message over and over again to the point of it becoming rather annoying. It's not all bad though; the voice is rather helpful alerting you of things that you may not notice.
Sound: 8

'Ace Combat 3' features some rather interesting and innovative missions, from search and rescue to escort, seek and destroy, surveillance and off course all out dog-fights. The settings are kept imaginative and varied, from your standard cityscapes to underground cities, deep sweeping ravines, and even the Earth's stratosphere where you must shoot down rogue satellites. The variety in the missions is great, and will keep you interested right up to the final mission.
The control set-up for 'Ace Combat 3' is a pure dream to use. The shoulder buttons control the throttle, while the left stick is for movement and the right is to look around. This makes even the most difficult of maneuvers easy to do, and coupled with the smooth graphics engine the game is a pure dream to play. However those expecting a serious flight simulator best look elsewhere, this is a pure arcade experience.
As for the combat engine, it's just great! Your aircraft is equipped with both a machine gun and missiles. Shooting down an enemy craft is rather easy to do, you just have to lock-on with a missile and then let it loose. Watching the missile curve to follow your target and then finally hitting them, sending them flaming back down to the ground is very cool.
'Ace Combat 3' will truly get your adrenaline flowing, and have you saying 'Wow!' afterwards. Zooming down to the ground and firing a few missiles at a ground target then narrowly avoiding a building is an adrenaline rush to say the least, and the game will have you glued to your screen till the very end.
As for the aircraft available in 'Ace Combat 3' there are some big names in here. Extra planes are given upon successful completion of a mission, and you can even choose which plane you'd like to do a mission in. As was said before there is a wide variety of planes available including the SU-27 Flanker, F/A18 Hornet, MiG 33 and many more. While I'm not sure whether all the planes are real; there are enough here to keep even the most critical aircraft fanatic amused.
Sadly 'Ace Combat 3' does have a few problems. None of them are too serious, but do detract slightly from the game overall. While 'Ace Combat 3' is great fun, it is also rather short, as are some of the missions. While there are quite a few missions on offer one of them only lasts 25 seconds, and the average time is around 4-10 minutes, which isn't very long when you think about it.
Another problem lies with the mission briefings and the translation. The text on the mission briefings is not only small and hard to read, but flashes up so quickly you barely have time to read it, quite often missing out on a key detail of the upcoming mission. As for the translation of the text, it's terrible! Sentences quite often don't make sense, and read more like notes than actual sentences.
The last problem is that 'Ace Combat 3' is also rather easy, regardless of the difficulty it is on. Enemy pilots rarely try to shoot you down, and when they do finally have a missile locked onto you it's so easy to shake it's not even funny. The only time you really fail a mission is if you crash or don't take out a target in time.
'Ace Combat 3' also has a great replay feature, which shows the last few minutes of a mission. This is very cool to watch, and shows the action from more then just one perspective. Sadly, the replays can't be saved.
Gameplay: 9
Life Span: 7

Pros
+ Graphics
+ Speed
+ Sound
+ Varied missions
+ Aircraft
+ Controls

Cons
- Too short
- Voiced warnings
- Mission briefings
- Music

'Ace Combat 3' is a solid and enjoyable game that takes away all the complexity of most flight simulators and offers you an intense arcade experience. Even if you're not a fan of the genre, 'Ace Combat 3' is still highly recommended, and well worth its price.
Overall: 9

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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