The free-to-play model in games has always been something that gamers have 50-50 feelings with. The best ones tend to be those like League of Legends and Dota 2, which has taken the world by storm. Then there are those F2P mobile games with the microtransactions that are all about testing your patience and begging for your money. So when a classic franchise like Ace Combat gets a free-to-play game, it’s likely that you’d be scratching your head and thinking twice.
Ace Combat Infinity is a free-to-play combat flight game developed by Project Aces, which is Namco’s design team in charge of the Ace Combat series. While free, it’s a PS3 exclusive title, so its safe to say that those who get this game are either big Ace Combat fans or just came across it in the PSN Store and/or got curious about the series. As a Bandai Namco product that does its best to offer the whole Ace Combat series into one package, it takes certain elements from previous games, so those who have played them would most likely recognize them throughout this game.
As with a lot of free-to-play games of this nature, there is a limited number of plays that you can do in one sitting, with “fuel” being restocked after a certain period of time. If you want to play an unlimited number of times all the way through, then you could buy Unlimited Campaign Play. Before you think that this is an indication of the game being bad due to its F2P model, the truth is actually to the contrary as it actually is pretty good, both as an Ace Combat game and as an arcade combat flight game in general. If you’re an fan of the series, you’ll actually appreciate how the developers preserved the look and feel of the series.
The most important thing to consider here is the gameplay, whether it is an authentic Ace Combat game that is all about the flying around and shooting down bogeys or not. Ace Combat Infinity looks pretty good with its user interface and presentation in the menus, and it lets you to take the tutorial if you’re not familiar with Ace Combat games. Once you see the gameplay itself, new players can find the controls to be simple and the longtime fans should be satisfied with how much it looks like a real Ace Combat game.
While it’s free-to-play and has that free fuel capacity limited to 3 with a long refresh time, it’s still pretty good in getting your feet wet. Unfortunately, it does also have high costs for unlocking more campaign missions, which puts a real damper on the experience for those who want to stick with singleplayer. It does give players a chance to try out online co-op mode, which plays pretty well and lets you fly with lots of different aircraft and gear. Getting from sortie to sortie takes no time at all with short load times that show just how well made the game is.
In between sorties, you can look at the planes you can fly and customize them to your liking. It’s not really super extensive customization that lets you change their flight characteristics to the finest detail, but there are stats that you can tweak here and there for your preference and convenience. You can purchase new planes and equipment with credits that you earn from missions, challenges, and drops. You go through a tech tree to acquire better planes and equipment, kind of like a variation of how World of Tanks does it.
It does start to become grindy and impeded after a while, so it doesn’t fully live up to its “Infinity” label. But for what you’re getting for free, this game does a good service to the name of the Ace Combat franchise. For those who haven’t played an Ace Combat game, or any kind of combat flight game to begin with, then this is a pretty good introduction to the genre. If you are an Ace Combat fan, then you can download this onto your console and play it for nostalgia’s sake and feel good about it afterwards.
Tested in PS3. Final Score: 7.5/10