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This Hollywood Fighter Jet Made China Do a Double Take, Now It's In Ace Combat
According to sources present on set for the filming of Top Gun: Maverick, the devilishly striking silhouette of the Darkstar Hypersonic Interceptor was so life-like that Chinese military spy satellites stopped whatever they were doing, then aimed their sensors directly at the film set.

This Hollywood Fighter Jet Made China Do a Double Take, Now It's In Ace Combat

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Such was the effect people the world over had when they had their first looks at the flagship fictional aircraft from the much-anticipated sequel to the original Top Gun. After thoroughly wowing movie theater audiences, Darkstar is ready to make a quantum leap into the video game sphere thanks to a collaboration between Paramount Pictures and Project Ace's Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.

Dropping as a part of a special Top Gun: Maverick aircraft pack DLC alongside other notable airplanes from the movie, Darkstar is nothing short of the most striking plane in the game. It's no coincidence that this scramjet-assisted speed machine bears a striking resemblance to what's been described as a successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Depending on who you believe, it might even be based on a real-life classified megaproject from Lockheed Martin Skunkworks.

Whatever the case is there, what this amounts to in Ace Combat, a franchise known for its experimental hyperplanes, is a jet that stands out even among a truly elite company. Its looks may be a bit subjective, of course. One can't help but make out the facemask of an old European plague doctor in the styling patterns of Darkstar's front fascia. This is also the case inside the cockpit, as all you can really see inside without looking directly down are three thin slits running across the front of the canopy for windows.

Furthermore, the idea that a giant Mach counter was more important to keep in your direct line of sight than your radar or comms display just goes to show this plane had its beginnings in a motion picture and not real life. But does anyone really care about all of that? We think they'd like to know how fast it really is. Well, in that case, wait for no further, friends. Pushing the upper limits of the in-game physics engine the way Darkstar does might make judging this somewhat challenging. So let's break it down by the numbers.

As one can see straight away, Darkstar's cockpit Mach counter goes all the way up to Mach ten, or 7000 mph (11,265 kph). But as far as gameplay testers could find, Darkstar will top out at a much more reasonable Mach 5 (6,125 km/h; 3,806 mph). And remember, that's without any modifications or upgrades of any kind. With added tuning parts, this speed can be boosted up to 3,500 knots (6,500 km/h; 4,000 mph).

Because most vertical control surfaces would be ripped to shreds at those speeds, Darkstar's comparatively tiny vertical stabilizers are all-moving. Meaning they can use a full range of motion to do the work individual control surfaces would on more conventional aircraft. All while the main fuselage stayed as arrow-sharp and streamlined as possible to compensate for highly turbulent air at hypersonic speeds.

It's been said that with powerful enough scramjets, you could make a brick fly with ease. This is doubly the case for Darkstar. Although the arcade-like nature of Ace Combat gameplay mutes the more intricate flight characteristics, the bizarre proportions of Darkstar clearly show signs of remarkably different flight performance than what long-time Ace Combat players would identify as normal. Long story short, Darkstar can't stand long horizontal turns.

Your best bet at success with this airplane is to side climb, using Darkstar's powerful twin engines to place yourself above a fray. From there, diving down on enemies looking like a meteor from outer space should render most single-player combatants toast in seconds. However, that's not necessarily as true in multiplayer with live opponents. We also recommend resorting to high-speed, oblong vertical turns instead of slow vertical ones in the situation you do have a MiG-31 or something on your tail. Darkstar may well be blisteringly fast, but it's nowhere near indestructible.

Darkstar's full suite of weapons consists of x140 standard missiles that can lock on to both air and ground targets alongside x26 Short-Range Aerial Suppression Air-to-Air Missiles, x52 Advanced Small Diameter Bombs, and twin pulse-laser cannons in place of the standard machine gun with 650 rounds of ammunition. In short, it has one of the coolest ordinance load-outs of any plane in the game. All in all, Darkstar is a neat DLC trinket in a game that's made people fall back in love with arcade flight simulators all over again.

Feel free to check out our full review of the Top Gun: Maverick DLC for Ace Combat 7 on PC if you want to learn more. We leave you with a video below of Darkstar facing a MiG-31 in a rolling drag race. Let's just say it went kind of like a Nissan GTR Nismo drag racing a Mazda Miata.


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