Looking back on it more than a year after its closure, there may never be another Ace Combat title to match the over the top beauty of Ace Combat Infinity. Even for Ace Combat, this game went well beyond the limits of over the top scenarios the series has ever provided. Setting aside opinions on its free-to-play structure and the fuel supply system which further enhanced the grindy nature of the game, we recall the core of its beauty: a massive array of aircraft and overwhelming firepower. The one-of-a-kind aircraft formations and gobsmacking challenges in Infinity may never be seen again in an Ace Combat game. At least not on the level Ace Combat Infinity allowed them to.
For those that didn’t play it or need a refresher, Ace Combat Infinity (2014) was the first free-to-play game released for the Ace Combat series. The story of Ace Combat Infinity takes place in the third universe within the Ace Combat series - a version of the actual planet Earth affected by events paralleled in the first Ace Combat universe, Strangereal. Multiple elements of events, organizations, nations, and weapons that appear in the original world were adapted and reintroduced to influence this new version of real-world Earth to shape it into something more fitting for an Ace Combat game. The Ulysses asteroid from Strangereal is adapted as the catalyst that forced change on Earth which lead to the conditions for Ace Combat Infinity, super weapons reappear and are explained away as real-world military projects and the well known Ace Combat continent of Usea is reintroduced as the primary antagonist nation. Ace Combat Infinity is remembered in general as the first free-to-play game in the Ace Combat series. Its game model utilized two types of fuel units that were needed to fly online and offline missions - purchase of a specific downloadable content item could ensure no fuel would be needed to play offline. Over its service life the game received frequent updates, additions to the Aircraft Tree, an expansion of its single player campaign to eight missions in total, multiple new online maps and game modes and constant challenges for score ranking prizes.
Massive Aircraft Selection
Ace Combat Infinity’s ultimate claim to fame is most likely its aircraft selection. The volume and variety of aircraft available in the Aircraft Tree for this game remain unmatched by any Ace Combat title. Over 230 aircraft were available. This extensive offering of aircraft from the 1930s in the real world to the 2040s of the fictional Strangereal world of Ace Combat. Strategic bombers, World War II warbirds, staple modern jet fighters, returning Original Aircraft created by Project Aces and full 3D models of the biplanes from Namco’s Sky Kid horizontal arcade shooter. The bulk of the aircraft that populate the Aircraft Tree are variations of base aircraft. For example, the F/A-18F Super Hornet had eight variations of its base model. Each variant featured a unique paint scheme or markings and could have different aircraft specifications or special weapons selections than the base model. Some of these variations included designs based on well-known aircraft flown by heroes and opposing enemies: Su-37 -Yellow 13-, F-15C -Pixy-, F-22A -Mobius 1- and T-50 Akula. Other modern prototype and proposed aircraft included aircraft rarely seen in the series, like the MiG-35D Super Fulcrum, F-15SE Silent Eagle, AV-8B Harrier II Plus and ATD-0 Shinshin. Some original aircraft designed for the Ace Combat series also returned. A few of them modeled for the first time in high definition, such as the ADFX-01 Morgan (Ace Combat Zero, 2006), XFA-27 (Ace Combat 2, 1997) and the XFA-33 Fenrir (Ace Combat X, 2006). Recreations of two original aircraft from Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere were also reintroduced late into the game’s service life. The futuristic X-49 Night Raven and R-101 Delphinus 1 were included in the game with variants of these aircraft, alongside real-world aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon and Su-37 Flanker featuring markings from Ace Combat 3.
The ever expanding Aircraft Tree was further enhanced by the ability to upgrade any aircraft in the game to a level far beyond its initial performance. Players were able to take an aircraft's base performance from level 1 to level 20 along with the most extensive version Aircraft Tuning system found in any Ace Combat game. This allowed for aircraft acquired much earlier in the aircraft tree to still remain competitive even against more advanced aircraft, though it required a lot of time and development to bring them to that point.
A Passing Dream
Thus far Infinity is the first and only Ace Combat game to include the ADA-01 Adler. This aircraft was initially planned to be included in Ace Combat 5 (2004) but time constraints during the development of that game caused it to be left out. The existence of the Adler was confirmed in an interview with the Project Aces development team in 2004, with the only known official picture and information of it released in the book, Aces At War 2011. Though it was not the ‘A’ model described in previous materials, Infinity introduced the ADA-01B presenting the chance to fly the aircraft for the first time since it was referenced over a decade before Ace Combat Infinity launched. Now with Ace Combat Infinity's closure, the Adler is once again inaccessible.
Super Weapon Special Raids
The primary focus of Ace Combat Infinity was the online competitive co-op game mode. This mode placed two teams of 4 players in an indirect adversarial battle. This is not to be confused as player vs. player combat - it was not a team deathmatch. The objective was for both teams to attack the same enemy NPCs in a mission but outscored the opposing team in points by the end. Eight highly skilled players could tear through even the toughest of maps with relative reliability and speed. Knowing that, the inclusion of Special Raid missions was perfect for this game. Special Raids that featured Super Weapons were similar to boss raids found in MMORPG genre games. All players work together as one team to defeat a specific enemy (enemies) to receive an increased amount of in-game currency or other awards. But the players are faced with a heightened difficulty to prevent or slow their success. In the case of Ace Combat Infinity, the boss style Special Raids included various well known Ace Combat super weapons from the main series. There were multiple variations of the Excalibur Anti-Ballistic Missile Chemical Laser, Stonehenge Spaceguard Turret Network, Aerial Fleet and the Strategic Orbital Linear Gun. Each variation of these raids appeared at random at an unspecified rate. Some variations presented more enemies to fight and new challenges the players had to overcome which were not found in the original battles in the games these weapons were first introduced in. This included tactical laser systems added to the Aerial Fleet and the Excalibur laser redirected off of a system of mirrors to create a laser defense network. The appearance of notable enemies like the 156th TFW Aquila from Ace Combat 04 and the QFA-44 Butterfly Master with a swarm of MQ-90 Quox drones added extra difficulty as well. By building on the known abilities of iconic Ace Combat super weapons and further boosting their presence with these new hurdles, Special Raids remained a welcome and anticipated part of Ace Combat Infinity throughout its service. Both for challenge and the massive in-game currency pay out for completing the missions with high rankings.
The coupling of the all-star aircraft selection, Infinity's aircraft customization system and the ability to level up special weapons resulted in some of the most insane shows of firepower seen in the series. Until this game's release, seeing multiple so-called Super Aircraft in one mission was reserved for special single-player challenge missions or in limited numbers in online multiplayer matches for specific games. Each of these super aircraft having limited amounts of their own immensely powerful weaponry. Infinity threw all of that out the window with the combination of aircraft tuning parts and the ability to level up aircraft and special weapons. Aircraft that only had a single fictional special weapon could then have over a dozen of them available. Each with increased damage output that dwarfs their original.
Peak Infinity Aesthetic
Screenshots and video of Ace Combat Infinity are still available in places Ace Combat fans mingle and all over video services like YouTube. Dantofu has encapsulated a piece of peak Infinity aesthetic in his “Ultimate V2 Experience” video.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |