Ace Combat Infinity: A Wonderful, Long Lost Combat Flight Game We Wish Never Shut Down

Ace Combat: Infinity 22 photos
Photo: Project Aces
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We love Ace Combat around here. But the series struggles to be consistent at times. The Playstation-exclusive fourth and fifth games are certifiable classics, and the sixth installment in the series for the Xbox 360 also has its fans. But between six and seven was a prolonged period of drab for the series.
That is, if you were unfortunate enough not to own a Playstation 3 during the seventh console generation. If you were one of those lucky ducks, you were treated to an Ace Combat installment that broke all the rules. If you marveled at all the NPC aircraft the player got to shoot down and wondered what it'd be like to fly them, this was the game for you. This is the story of Ace Combat Infinity, the audaciously awesome Ace Combat game only a handful ever got to experience.

Because AC: Infinity's servers shut down nearly half a decade ago, the only frame of reference people who never played the game only has the Ace Combat wiki to clue them in on what they were missing. As a single and multiplayer arcade-style flight combat game, Ace Combat Infinity took the best aspects of past games and blended them into a barely cohesive yet undeniably wonderful little package.

In the Ace Combat universe, the primary plot of the series takes place on an alternate-reality planet Earth referred to as Strangereal by die-hard fans. But AC: Infinity was one of only three games in the series to take place in our own universe. But key elements of Strangereal, like all the characters and unique, custom aircraft, are carried over to our own timeline through Ace Combat: Infinity. The results were nothing short of a fever dream.

Released worldwide over the course of one month in May 2014, Ace Combat Infinity's plotline is the perfect blend of Strangereal and, well, just real. In the Strangereal universe, a large cluster of Asteroids impacted Planet Earth in 1999. Starting a chain of events among the Strangereal nations that become the driving force behind the events of the mainline continuity of the series.

Ace Combat Infinity
Photo: Project Aces
In AC: Infinity, Project Aces, the game's developer, simply replaced Strangereal nations with real ones. Running on the same game engine as the failed Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, homages to past games permeated this game. With a price tag of entry of absolutely free, it was the first time the series utilized a free-to-play model.

One of Strangereal's greatest attributes is its level-boss superweapons. It's a feature no Ace Combat game feels complete without. Be it Ace Combat 6's Aigaion airborne aircraft carrier, Ace Combat 4's Stonehenge railgun, or even Ace Combat 5's Scinfaxi-class submarine, most of the superweapons in the series up to this point make an appearance. They're all integrated into a storyline that's not all that riveting on its own but makes up for it with some kick-ass gameplay.

Lovers of DCS World and Microsoft Flight Simulator may scoff at Ace Combat's comically arcade-inspired gameplay. But hey, if you're into mindlessly mowing down hoards of enemy planes with neat special weapons after a long stressful day, Ace Combat Infinity satisfied that itch.

A choice of two weapons was to be had flying into battle in this game. The standard air-to-ground/air-to-air missile is iconic in all modern Ace Combat games and has a slot for special (SP) weapons. These SP weapons could be faster-moving air-to-air missiles, cluster missiles, air-to-ground missiles, precision bombs, and even unguided rockets. More than enough variety to suit almost any play style.

Ace Combat Infinity
Photo: Project Aces
Though the single-player for AC: Infinity was fun on its own despite its somewhat effortless plot, Project Aces put a huge emphasis on multiplayer co-op missions. Elements from past Ace Combat games make their way into Infinity. Items like target boxes that increase as you close the distance come from Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere for the Playstation 1. Health bars for each individual enemy is a feature borrowed from the above-mentioned Ace Combat 6.

Oil and shrapnel debris comes from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. It's one of the only elements of that game people spoke fondly of. At the end of the day, the level of refinement applied to the game with all its inspired features was nothing short of impressive. It laid the foundation for Ace Combat: Infinity's greatest feature, its second-to-none aircraft selection.

A simple clip show video showcasing each aircraft available in Ace Combat: Infinity is available to watch on YouTube. It takes nearly twenty minutes to get through every single one. 230-plus unique aircraft models were integrated into Ace Combat: Infinity. Around 50 of them are usable by the player. It's not quite War Thunder levels of variety, but it sure sets the record in the Ace Combat series.

From long-standing fighter jets like the F-14, F-15, MiG-29, and Su-35, to strategic bombers like the B2 Spirit and B-1B Lancer, and even piston fighters like the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the Supermarine Spitfire, it was every Ace Combat fan's dream. The custom skins for each playable aircraft were just gravy on top.

Ace Combat Infinity
Photo: Project Aces
That is, if not for the annoying sortie fuel mechanic. Which players feared would turn the game into a pay-to-play type of game. Project Aces soon implemented features allowing players to earn sortie fuel by completing missions. Completing contracts throughout the game by beating challenges also aided in this pursuit. But it was all for not because Ace Combat: Infinity's servers shut down in 2018.

Legend has it that Project Aces was so surprised by AC: Infinity's positive consumer and review scores that they decided to revive the mainline series. The result, if true, was the seventh installment of the Ace Combat main franchise, Skies Unknown. At launch, AC7's starting roster of playable aircraft peaked at 24. With incremental DLC, this number is considerably larger today.

But the selection still pales in comparison to what Ace Combat Infinity had to play with. If you ask us, it might just be worth reviving the game for the Playstation 5. At least, that would be the coolest thing we've seen in a while.
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