The Basics: Sensing that PSP owners were craving blistering dogfights in modern jet fighters at supersonic speeds, Namco Bandai has recently announced that Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is being developed exclusively for the Sony handheld. This announcement comes hot on the heels of the release of the PS2-exclusive Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. Fans of the highly regarded series that own PSPs are no doubt excited at the prospect of taking 30,000-foot-level combat on the go. While we're a little confused by the name (Since there haven't been ten Ace Combat releases, what does the X mean? What makes the skies so deceptive anyway?), it is just a working title, so our questions may be able to be left unanswered when it ships this fall.
The game centers on a protagonist pilot's epic battle to save his native country of Aurelia from the wrath of its neighboring – and invading – nation, Leasath. While we don't claim to be geography experts, a cursory glance of the globe lends us to believe that it's a fictional setting (not to mention that all previous games in the series are too, but hey, you never know). In fact, the story takes place in an all-new universe, set apart from the existing Ace Combat canon.
Fake nations aside, the game boasts plenty of real-life aircraft, such as the F-14D and the Tornado F3s. Needless to say, these birds can deliver the pain. But in case that's not enough, players will also be able to get under the virtual hood of their planes, tuning them with unlockable parts that can be acquired by conquering campaign missions. While there's yet no indication of the level and amount of tinkering you'll get to do with your prize possessions, it's an intriguing facet of the game that has us rubbing our hands in anticipation.
Ace Combat X also boasts wireless multiplayer for Ad-Hoc but lamentably not for infrastructure. Details are sketchy as of now – modes? Number of players? – but we'll keep our eyes on new announcements in the coming months.
What do we think? The PSP could use a kick-butt modern flying combat game, to be sure. The system is top-heavy with vehicular titles but light as a feather when it comes to winged machines. An unmitigated bummer is the lack of support for infrastructure multiplayer, though. Those of us who spend a lot of time at Starbucks or with wireless networks will be clamoring for true internet support, especially if the announced ad-hoc multiplayer modes are enjoyable. Still, it's great to see an exclusive title for a proven franchise make its way to the PSP.
The initial screen shots look very promising, and if past Ace Combat games are any indication, Skies of Deception (if that is its real name) has a great chance to be a winner. Be sure to check in this fall for a full review.