Ace Combat 04 still stands as the high point of series (excepting for now Ace Combat Zero, which I've not played). As with all games in the series, the action is intense and rewarding, but without the exceptional story and style, it would just be a highly polished shooter.
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception has a carbon copy of the time-tested dog fighting and strafe bombing action of the other games. Early on the game shifts the combat a bit closer to that of space sims: instead of a fighter skimming along the outside of an enormous capital ship, your plane is zipping around a giant flying fortress five times your size. A simple branching mission structure permits choices best suited to the player's abilities, adding some welcome self-determination to the more common rigid mission progression. A flimsy, ridiculous plot seriously detracts from the otherwise enjoyable experience. You might notice that the story reads like a conspiracy theory about American motives for invading Iraq, except military equipment sales -- not oil -- are the focus.
Ace Combat X also exhibits Sony's continued failure to promote online gaming through its capable handheld: ad hoc networking is supported, but no online play is available.
By living up to its pedigree and adding a couple of new features, Ace Combat X succeeds and in the process becomes the latest worthy game for the PSP. Like much about the PSP, however, it fails to live up to its full potential. A second outing would be appreciated, especially if it adds a more mature story or permits me to make my own career fighting other pilots online.
Stop buying other games and get Zero. Honestly, best ace combat ever.
zakk: Ask for my mailing address on IRC and you can donate a copy to the Curmudgeon Gamer Memorial Library.
I've only played one Ace Combat game, I don't remember which one, I think it's the Greatest Hits title for PS2, and I wasn't really impressed. The multiplayer sucked and the story mode was kind of stale. I know it's unfair to judge an entire franchise on one game, but it didn't make me want more.