Review: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown – VR Missions

The long awaited, frequently delayed Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has finally launched, bringing with it a selection of PlayStation VR exclusive challenges. Known as the ‘VR Missions’, this gameplay feature has been a hot topic of discussion amongst the virtual reality (VR) community for several months, and now we can finally say that the quality of the experience delivered has been worth the wait.

It would be remiss not to begin by adding a significant caveat to the opening statement in that while the gameplay is indeed top notch, it is very short lived. The rather diminutive VR campaign – engrossing as it is – will likely take just a single evening to complete for the first time. Additional playthroughs are of course encouraged by way of the ranking system, but nonetheless Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s VR element is most certainly an addition to the core videogame, opposed to feeling complete in its own right.

The VR Missions are structured very similarly to that of the core campaign, as you might expect, but aren’t necessarily intended to follow after. The opening mission presents enough hints in its gentle introduction that players could very well jump straight into the VR Missions without needing to head through the basic tutorial, though doing so may see a few downed planes or ally bases being caught unawares. The increase in difficulty is harsher than that of the non-VR campaign due to its brevity, but the core Ace Combat audience will undoubtedly revel in having a new way to experience a real challenge.

Using the DualShock 4 controller the standard non-VR gameplay offers two control schemes aimed at casual players and ‘experts’, but in the VR Missions segment of the package only the latter is available. It may seem like a strange design decision but is undoubtedly due to the first-person default, more immersive nature of the VR gameplay. Of course, there’s always the option of utilising Thrustmaster’s T.Flight Hotas 4 flight control stick, but VRFocus will save jumping in-depth on this for another day.

It’s that added level of immersion that the VR Missions capitalise upon. All of the cockpits you will enter have been specifically redesigned from the ground-up to make full use of the PlayStation VR; simulating aspects of flight control that would otherwise be impossible on a videogame console. The attention to detail is simply phenomenal, and certain encounters will undoubtedly get your heart racing at times; collisions with enemy craft or the first time you experience cloud bursting.

In addition to the missions themselves, which are offered at three difficulty settings, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown includes two other VR modes unlockable through continued play: Free Flight and Air Show. These are simple additions that present further gameplay opportunities but lack the depth of the core experience. Worthwhile as contenders for showcasing VR to aeronautical enthusiast friends and relatives, these gameplay modes remain unlikely to hold your attention for too long beyond the basic assortment of missions. Inherent to the package, then, the VR Missions are most definitely an add-on opposed to a core principle of the videogame.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a wonderful addition to the PlayStation VR’s software catalogue, but is undeniably limited. Those who had already decided to purchase this latest edition of the beloved series will find the VR Missions a perfect accompaniment to their non-VR experience; however, it would be extremely hard to recommend that anyone purchase Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown based on the strength of the VR element alone.

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