No sooner than Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion begins to climb the heights of aerial action, its brevity sends it diving back down to earth. Like catching a short flight on a puddle-jumper, there's no time spent at the top - it's up and back down again for this gorgeous game that skimps on missions and modes.
Skies of Incursion tasks you with repelling Leasath forces
as part of the defending Falco squadron. A surprise enemy invasion has the Aurelian military scrambling to defend key locations and hotshot piloting skills are needed to prevent total defeat. Across five missions, you face down enemy jets, anti-aircraft guns, tanks, and even a naval landing party.
Fuelled up with nowhere to go
Therein lies the game's biggest problem. For all its grandiose prompting, the five-mission campaign falls severely short of epic. Skies of Incursion just gets going when the action is cut off. It's absurdly short - each mission takes less than five minutes to complete, yielding a total campaign time around half an hour.
To say it's disappointing is an understatement. Short missions are ideal for portability, yet it's reasonable to expect more than five missions, particularly given the lack of multiplayer.
Neither local or online modes are provided, leaving you to repeat the campaign or tackle any of the scenarios individually in Free Mission mode.
This puts Skies of Incursion at a serious disadvantage to competing titles that offer multiplayer and significantly longer single player campaigns. Even worse, it puts it behind previous incarnations of the series.
Peanuts or pretzels
More than modes and missions are lacking, sadly. Skies of Incursion underwhelms with plain combat, limited selection of aircraft, and absolutely no customisation.
Simple mission objectives result in plain action. It's a positive and negative quality. The straightforward nature of combat makes the game easy-going, but it lacks sophistication and variety.
There aren't any air restrictive missions where you have to fly at a specific altitude or scenarios where your radar is jammed and you have to rely on visual targeting or night missions. You're given a target and told to shoot it. That's enjoyable to a point, but the action never feels tense or harrowing.
It's truly disappointing, too, because the mechanics are more than up to the task. Excellent controls are the game's strongest suit, ensuring precise, responsive handling overqualified for the basic jobs at hand. Calibration, camera angle, pitch inversion - you could spend more time tweaking control options than it takes to complete a mission.
A limited supply of aircraft only exacerbates the lack of variety. You're given access to three planes to begin with, additional models unlocked by completing the campaign on each difficulty mode.
If you want more, you have to buy them at 59p/99c apiece. Ultimately, it doesn't matter much because you should have little issue completing the game with any of the available aircraft.
The selection of planes would be less of a concern if Skies of Incursion provided a means of customisation. There's literally nothing here - no weapons, no performance enhancements, not even liveries.
All of these shortcomings - few missions, no multiplayer, limited aircraft, no customisation, minimal variety - converge in a game that falls short of the soaring standards set by earlier instalments of series.
It isn't that Skies of Incursion is bad, so much as it's deficient. Demanding all the bells and whistles of its console counterparts for a fraction of the price is a stretch, yet the game fails to deliver a reasonable set of features.