It’s been close to five years since the disastrous Ace Combat Infinity launched on the PlayStation 3. Given that the seventh generation of consoles were the most difficult period for most gaming IPs, a new Ace Combat seemed like a distant dream. However, the latest game in the series, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown takes the series back to its roots by delivering one of the best games in the series, although it doesn’t really topple Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies as the best game in the franchise. Regardless, the end product provides an extremely satisfying Ace Combat experience that should make fans of the series happy.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, unlike previous games in the series doesn’t run on Project Aces’ proprietary engine but instead utilizes Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 and the results are pretty satisfying. The very first thing we want to talk about the cloud technology in the game. Clouds are no longer just there for artistic reasons but they also serve as a gameplay mechanics. The clouds have physics parameters which affect the drag and acceleration of the aircraft thereby creating air pressure difference resulting into turbulence. Besides your visibility getting limited and the formation of water vapours on glass surfaces, the aircraft’s missile tracking system will also get affected. So, the clouds act as physical barriers in the game and tech implemented here is definitely something that excites us for future Ace Combat games. Furthermore, it’s great to see cloud tech treated with utmost care in some recent games. We had some bright examples from last year in the form of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey which pushed cloud rendering in different ways and it’s great to see Ace Combat 7 pushing it by giving its own unique spin.
The power of Unreal Engine 4 has also allowed developers to render some incredible looking weather systems. Lightning, rain along with various volumetric effects like wind and alpha effects like fire all look great. Seeing enemy aircrafts getting blown to bits is as satisfying as seeing the smoke trail formed by incoming or outgoing missiles. Aircrafts, too, have been meticulously crafted with detailed interiors and material shaders, giving them an authentic look and feel. Thanks to physical based rendering and advancements in lighting tech, Ace Combat 7 can be look beautiful at times.
However, there are a couple of areas where Ace Combat 7 falters technically. First of all, an intensive AA solution is completely lacking across all three versions of the game. What we have in place is a higher quality FXAA solution in place and to be honest it don’t do a great job at smoothening the edges. This results into inconsistent image quality at times as one can clearly see jaggies on nearby objects like the aircraft’s wings. Next up is the pop in issue, which also affects all three versions. The map size in Ace Combat 7 is huge and the various objects in them are pretty detailed but given that this is a game that is not really pushing the hardware, we were not expecting pop in issues.
Now, let’s take a look at how the game runs on the PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. As always, let’s take a look at the PC version first. The developers recommend an Intel Core i5-7500, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 and 8GB of memory. We used our usual test PC which includes a GTX 1080Ti, 16GB of GDDR4 memory and Ryzen 1700 CPU. The graphical settings include v-sync, frame rate limit, bloom, motion blur, scaling of resolution up to 200%, anti-aliasing, shadow quality, texture quality, effects quality, post processing and screen space reflection quality. As expected, we had no issues running the game on our test PC at a rock solid 60 frames per second.
On the console front, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have no 4K checkerboard or a dynamic resolution in place. Instead, the game is locked at 1080p resolution. Both versions target 60fps and for the most part manage to run at that standard. However, we are quite disappointed that the Xbox One X manages only a mere 1080p resolution. The console is definitely more powerful to run a game like Ace Combat 7 in full native 4K resolution and 60fps. Regardless, this is the current situation on the Xbox One X and to be honest, the overall situation on Microsoft’s console is rather underwhelming. Both versions are largely similar in terms of core assets and other parameters, so we are not sure what went wrong with the Xbox One X build.
In comparison with the PC build, both versions suffer from reduced texture filtering and shadow quality. Furthermore, the ability to scale the resolution up to 200% on PC manages to reduce the aliasing issues by a bit. In conclusion, the PC version of Ace Combat 7 is clearly the best version to play. With its superior rendering resolution and better visual parameters, it’s a cut above the console versions. The PS4 Pro version on the other hand does what it’s expected to do. A solid 1080p and 60fps experience coupled with great visual parameters. The Xbox One X version is not bad by any means but it clearly lacks the focus that was given to the other two platforms. Perhaps, Project Aces invested much of their time into the PS4 version due to additional VR support. Whatever the reason, the Xbox One X is a much more capable machine but it clearly wasn’t put to full use in this game.