Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is an arcade-style combat flight simulation video game developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. An entry in the Ace Combat series, it was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in January 2019, and for Microsoft Windows the following month. The game features support for virtual reality, offering a set of missions developed for the PlayStation VR headset, as well as several downloadable content packs offering new missions. Ace Combat 7 received “generally favorable reviews”, according to review aggregator Metacritic. In Japan, the game sold 202,379 copies for the PlayStation 4 during its first week, and has sold 286,570 units as of March 2019. In Southeast Asia, the game sold over 500,000 units within a month.
The game takes place in 2019 Strangereal, the same fictional setting shared by other games in the series. Following the events of Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat 5, the Osean Federation (Osea) brokered peace between the military power of the Kingdom of Erusea and the rest of the Usean continent. The IUN-PKF was formed to maintain peace across the Usean continent, while former Osean President Vincent Harling orders the construction of a space elevator off the Erusean coast in order to revitalize the continent’s economy, known as the International Space Elevator (ISEV). Meant to be a symbol of peace between all nations, the ISEV is protected by two massive Osean airborne aircraft carrier drones known as Arsenal Birds. The players control the game’s silent protagonist, an Osean fighter pilot with the callsign “Trigger”.
Like the rest of the Ace Combat series, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown forgoes a realistic flight model in favor of faster, arcade-like gameplay to increase its accessibility to newer players. The player can also choose Novice or Expert control settings; the latter enables the player to execute realistic aircraft maneuvers such as rolls and high-g turns. The game features 28 different aircraft, with an additional six as downloadable content and the F-4E Phantom II offered as a pre-order bonus. As with previous entries in the series, most of the aircraft are licensed from the real-world, although a set of fictional superplanes are also included. Several aircraft in the game make their series debut such as various members of the Su-30 family as well as upgraded versions of older aircraft like the Gripen E and A-10C Thunderbolt II.
For the first time in the series, clouds interfere with aircraft, hindering the player’s vision and targeting systems when passing through them, also rendering laser weapons ineffective due to light refraction. In addition, aircraft briefly stall after staying in a cloud for too long and lightning strikes temporarily disrupt controls and sensors. Each aircraft also carries a limited supply of flares that can be deployed to evade missiles in critical situations. During the single-player campaign, players complete a series of combat missions that tell the in-game story. Players are given an in-game briefing prior to a combat mission, where they are informed of success parameters, expected opposition, terrain features and weather conditions using a 3D map display. Players complete missions by destroying various air and surface targets, as well as accomplishing specific mission targets.
Players earn an in-game currency (“MRP”) via the single-player campaign and the multi-player modes to purchase additional aircraft and equipment through a tech tree. The player begins the game with the F-16C, and is able to unlock the MiG-21 and F-104C Starfighter after the fourth single-player mission without need of using MRP, with the F-22A Raptor, Su-57 and the fictional X-02S Strike Wyvern as top-tier aircraft in the tech tree. Each aircraft is equipped with standard missiles for both air-to-air and air-to-ground warfare, as well as another special weapon. Special weapons are used to boost an aircraft’s ability to carry out air-to-air or air-to-ground attacks. Equipment purchased may also be used to boost the performance of the aircraft beyond its base performance, such as improved engine parts or airframe parts to enhance its speed and survivability respectively.