We recently attended a showing of a lot of Bandai Namco's games at their offices in London, and among those on display was Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, or rather the VR version of the game, as that was the only version available to play (one Bandai Namco were pretty secretive about).
So we sat down, geared up with the PSVR headset, and started the short demo they had available for us. It starts with you sitting in your plane and taxiing around an aircraft carrier (as we write this, we can't get the Top Gun theme out of our head) before launching off into the skies, with a typical mission laid out ahead of us: there are enemies, go and destroy them.
The controls, first of all, were as you'd expect, and therefore easy to pick up. If you're not a veteran of previous Ace Combat campaigns, even if you've only ever flown a plane on Grand Theft Auto V, for example, you'll know how to fly this one. Down on the left stick pulls the plane up, up pulls it down, R2 is accelerate, and L2 is to decelerate, with other buttons assigned to different weapons. Also, to turn, you can turn slowly to keep it level using L1/R1, or for faster turning you can tilt the plane and pull up.
Weapons were smooth to use too, but not too easy. You really do need to line up your shots just right to hit enemies, especially with the machine guns, and you can't rely too much on your missiles either, because although they lock-on, the fact you have only a limited number of them means every shot counts; you can't waste them.
So now we come to the VR aspect, and we'll start off with a positive - it makes tracking enemies a lot easier. If you fly past someone, for example, you don't have to turn your whole plane around to know where they are, as you can now look around the cockpit to see where they've gone, and the great thing about this is that you find yourself instinctively moving the plane without thinking to get to that direction while keeping your eyes on the enemy.
Another positive about VR is the detail that has been put into it. The cockpit looks incredibly good, with all the dials lit up and a huge number of switches, and the environments you fly over also look really good, from the little islands and even the clouds. In terms of feeling like you're really in a fighter jet, the level of immersion that VR so often seeks, Ace Combat 7 hits that nail pretty much on the head.
The bad thing about VR is, as you might expect from being in the cockpit of a fighter jet: motion sickness. Within ten minutes of playing the demo we were feeling pretty queasy, and this particular pilot doesn't usually feel sick with VR games. What's worse is that sickness followed us into the evening, long after putting the controller down. We weren't the only ones either, as various people stopped playing before the end of the demo because of the intensity it offered.
There's not really a satisfactory way to get around this when you're playing either, as you can't avoid doing tight twists, turns, and stomach-churning maneuvers when enemies are whizzing past you at high speeds or locking their missiles onto you. Ace Combat 7 is designed to be fast, so for many that may be the downfall of the VR mode.
So, in brief, if it wasn't for the motion sickness, we'd say that Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown in VR is a great experience with a lot of promising aspects, including a new level of immersion that's fun to toy around with, however, with the intensity of a game revolving around fighter jets, motion sickness will, we expect, be an issue for many players, some of whom may not be able to go five minutes in the cockpit.
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