It's not just opponents in the air you'll fight either, you'll frequently be required to take out ground troops, assisting little dot-like allies from above. During these sections, you can initiate ASM runs (by pressing both bumpers when green diamonds on the HUD are within range), where you'll take a slower route through a set path lower to the ground. It's all about accuracy here, and you don't want to miss any targets as you'll have to do the whole run again should you miss any.
Variety is something the game manages fairly well. Even if you've played something similar in the countless war-based FPS games out there, Assault Horizon certainly benefits from the frequent changes in pace. When you're not darting about the heavens in fighter jets, you might find yourself perched behind the turret of a helicopter, or raining hell down from above in the equivalent of Modern Warfare's AC-130 levels. While the latter is enjoyable enough, the helicopter levels are quite the opposite, plagued with awkward camera angles and unwieldy controls.
Despite mixing things up quite successfully, it doesn't stop the game being a right old slog at times. Missions are slightly too long - some approaching an hour with the repetition of more challenging checkpoints. For the majority of this time, you'll be taking down the same enemies and repeating the same manoeuvres. Just when you've cleared your radar, it bubbles over with red blotches again, and you'll have to repeat the whole process again. Bad checkpointing doesn't help the problem, so when you die you'll have to repeat large sections of a level. While the game as a whole is pleasantly diverse, individual levels can become monotonous.
The campaign lasts around ten hours, with an appropriately epic sky brawl to round things off. Once done, there is of course multiplayer to give the game some legs. This takes the form of four separate modes: Capital Conquest (a team affair involving attacking a ground-based enemy HQ), Domination (again, team based, but capturing bases instead), Deathmatch (which needs no explanation), and co-op Mission mode. It's a well rounded selection, with a familiar ranking system tying everything together. As you score kills, collect points and rank up, you'll unlock new crafts and call signs. Deathmatch is particularly good fun; dogfighting with real players is far more entertaining than AI foes, requiring a cool head and well thought out escape plans. Impressively, the cinematic quality isn't lost in the transition from single-player to online, either.
Assault Horizon can be a frustrating experience at times, but when things are going to plan - when you've waited to the very last second to pull off an evasive manoeuvre or taken out two bogeys at once with a few well placed missiles - you'll be left with an intense feeling of satisfaction. It's simply a very cool game, and Namco Bandai should be praised for taking a series that some would have considered unapproachable a few years back, and making it relevant again.