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Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War Review

Tom Orry Updated on by

The Ace Combat series has been doing the rounds for over ten years now, and hit the PlayStation 2 with a bang with the critically acclaimed Ace Combat 04 way back in 2001. Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War marks the franchise’s third PlayStation 2 outing, and once again combines slick presentation with exhilarating arcade-style dog fighting, but the formula doesn’t seem as fresh as it once was – not that it’s lost all of its charm.

A strong story has been part of the Ace Combat experience for quite some time, especially on the PlayStation 2, and Zero is no exception. This time around the story is focussed on two pilots, Pixy and Cypher, and is told from the perspective of a journalist looking into the relationship between the two men. These interludes link missions together well enough, but aren’t all that exciting and don’t particularly make you care about the pilots any more than you would have had they been nameless faces.

Combat is as you’d expect from an Ace Combat game, with the focus centred squarely on action – mainly of the aerial dog fighting variety. Getting into missions requires little in the way of preparation, with plane and weapon choice taking a few seconds at most. As you progress you’ll earn enough points to purchase better planes and special weapons, but other than being a little more agile in the air or packing a deadlier punch, things don’t change all that much.

The vast majority of missions feature air-to-air combat, with you and your squadron going up against enemy fighters. It’s typical lock-on stuff, with you fighting with your plane to get enemy planes within your lock-on range, and the endless struggle to evade enemy radar lock-on. It’s about as simple as aerial combat can get, but it’s no less thrilling because of it. Thankfully, your plane can take more damage than those of your enemies, although not a whole lot more; a series of missiles to the plane’s chassis will result in your mission being over.


For the most part missions aren’t overly difficult, but the more elite squadrons can pose a few problems. These fights often come late on in missions, and because there are no mid-mission checkpoints, death means replaying the whole mission. The twenty or so missions the game offers will take a fair amount of time to get through, and are never anything but action packed. There are also a few missions that give the impression of being larger battles, with you having to choose which part of the battle to fight in.

Air-to-air dog fighting is joined by air-to-ground and air-to-sea combat, and there is a smattering of escort missions, but nothing that reaches the level of annoyance as seen in many other arcade-style aerial combat games. The game always seems fair, and assuming you spend your points wisely, purchasing the best aircraft, later missions shouldn’t prove to be too difficult. A radar can be viewed to give you an overall view of where the enemy planes are coming from, and this, combined with the simple to use targeting system, makes for a rather painless experience, no matter what your flying experience.

Combat is always intense

The various alternate missions and new aircraft give you some reason to come back to the campaign once you’ve finished, but the lack of online support is what hurts the game’s replay value. Given how aerial dog fighting lends itself to multiplayer action, and in particular online play, the inclusion of only a simple two-player mode in Ace Combat Zero is more than a little disappointing. You get to dog fight with a friend, and even take part in races, but support for four or more players online would have been a huge bonus.

Considering PC flight sims struggle to look great on hardware that costs ten times more than the aged PlayStation 2, Ace Combat Zero looks very impressive. The terrain looks solid and plane models look great, while explosions never fail to excite. It moves at a nice pace too, and other than a draw distance masked by some hazy fog, it’s hard to see the PlayStation 2 pumping out much more. Audio is equally as impressive, with radio chatter bringing a sense of life to your squadron and a soundtrack that is never out of place.

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War suffers slightly due to its similarities to previous games in the series, but the package is as slick as ever. A more feature packed multiplayer mode would have given Zero a real reason to exist alongside the previous games, but fans will get just what they’ve been waiting for, and newcomers will find the intense aerial combat hard to resist.


A more feature packed multiplayer mode would have given Zero a real reason to exist alongside the previous games, but fans will get just what they've been waiting for.
7 No annoying missions Looks and sounds great No online play Not all that different to before

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War

on PlayStation 2

The Belkan War is set ten years prior to Ace Combat 5…

Release Date:

March 23, 2006