Stepping into the Bandai Namco booth at E3 in Los Angeles, I got a hands-on with Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s PSVR mode. Far from being just a single mission, the VR mode is apparently going to offer “several hours of VR gameplay” according to David Bonacci, Brand Manager at Bandai Namco Entertainment America.
Announced back in 2015 as a PSVR exclusive, Ace Combat 7 has seen several delays, the latest of which has pushed the release of the iconic dogfighter back to sometime in 2018. Delays notwithstanding, Bonacci maintains that Ace Combat 7’s PSVR mode will have “100 percent the same mobility” as the non-VR campaign, meaning every bit of speed and topsy-turvy fun of the flat screen game will be available on PSVR.
Going hands-on with the demo using a dualshock 4 controller, I launched off the aircraft carrier at high-speed, raising the nose of the fighter at the steepest pitch it would allow me. Prompted by an authoritative voice over the radio telling me to watch out for the game’s vaguely slavic-sounding enemy, I start a 10-minute bout of acrobatic stunts that would have likely emptied my brain of its precious bodily fluids and left me blacked-out and on the floor had it been real life. If you’ve ever played the arcade dogfighter, you know what I mean.
The vista was graphically impressive, with the sun glinting off the ocean and lighting everything with a warm hue. Clouds obscured the green islands below at points―the sort of weather for a pleasure cruise. Condensation formed on my glass canopy as I sped through the middle of a grey-ish rain cloud―all at mach ‘whatever’.
Despite tons of high-flying twists, the experience was exceedingly comfortable. As a fast-paced flight filled with some serious potential for Top Gun (1986) moments, the demo threw a couple of types of baddies at me, ranging from normal fighters to smaller, more agile drones. Winding like a corkscrew, I never once felt the dreaded flop sweat and nausea of simulator-induced sickness.
Spoiling some of the fun, enemies seemed like an eternal jumble of tiny pixels in front of me, fuzzing into a blueish background. This issue can be blamed on two main factors: PSVR’s limited resolution, and the unavoidable problem of being literal miles away from enemy fighters. You can’t really knock Ace Combat for being Ace Combat in that department, as you almost always rely on the plane’s targeting system to keep an eye on distant baddies, VR headset or traditional monitor. While lower perceived resolution doesn’t effect the gameplay at all, highlighting a singular, low-resolution object that you’re constantly straining to see is a bit of turn-off visually.
Bandai Namco is playing it pretty close to the vest on exactly what “several hours of VR gameplay” really means too, so we can’t say for sure yet. Rest assured, we’ll at very least know by the time we publish the review (in 2018) to find out if PSVR owners should drop the big bucks on a game that may or may not offer value specifically to the VR-conscious buyers out there.