Friday 22 February 2019

Ace Combat 7 review: Every cloud has a silver lining

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (PS4/XO/PC) **** Age: 12+

Ace Combat 7
Bury Me, My Love

with Ronan Price

Obscuring, confusing and sabotaging, the clouds transform Ace Combat's dogfighting in this latest in the long-running series. What might seem like innocuous wisps of fluff perform an elemental role in the airborne combat and add a fresh layer of strategy to the high-speed manoeuvring.

First, though, you must see past the cringeworthy geo-political backstory about two nations at war - which occupies far too much screen time for its own good. Hammy acting and clunky lines abound, which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't follow you from the cut-scenes into the missions.

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But once you're up in the skies, the doubts fall away, the sublime handling of the fighter jets amplifying the thrills - prioritising playability over realism. Then you learn the joys and perils of cloud cover, as the gorgeously rendered tufts act variously as handy sanctuary from pursuing missiles, shields for hidden enemies and icy blankets that reduce your steering ability. Annoyingly, the cloud formations can also obscure your heads-up display, which probably wasn't the makers' intention.

PS4 players are treated to a superb, if limited, VR mode, which offers a handful of missions that showcase how suited flight sims are to virtual reality. Even without that enticing diversion, though, AC7 elevates a series that had begun to take itself too seriously and finds its wings by stripping back the gameplay to its core.

 

Bury Me, My Love

(Switch/PC) **** Age: 12+

2019-02-02_ent_47576795_I1.JPG
Bury Me, My Love
 

A "game" about refugees? Well, why not? This interactive fiction is as valid as any docu-drama in another medium. Originally a smartphone game that played out in real time via notifications, this version loses a little in translation. But it still tells a powerful story of a Syrian refugee fleeing to Europe, based on real experiences.

Majd has stayed behind in Homs while his wife, Nour, makes her way to the safety of the West via migrant routes, their phone messages their only contact. The texts artfully capture the fear and the nightmarish decisions but also their humour and love. Your replies as Majd influence the direction of Nour's path and, as the title hints, it doesn't always end well.

Perhaps there aren't enough meaningful choices all told but Bury Me, My Love cleverly sketches a perilous journey few of us could imagine having to take.

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