Namco Bandai has dominated the air combat genre with "Ace Combat" for years without much competition, but Ubisoft is taking the series head on with the Tom Clancy-branded "HAWX" in March. A Ubisoft developer told us one of the big differences between the two games is the element of realism brought to "HAWX."
No one has really challenged the "Ace Combat" series. Some air combat games have come and gone, but Namco Bandai's champ reigns supreme.
The Ubisoft developers behind Tom Clancy's "HAWX," however, are hoping to force a changing of the guard in March.
"HAWX" lead designer Thomas Simon told me at a multiplayer demo last week that while he has great respect "Ace Combat," he felt there were key areas of improvement the series had avoided over the years.
"What 'Ace Combat' did to the air combat genre is really great," admitted Simon. "They really set the basics of that [genre]. But we felt, in general, it was a bit closed…the frame was too tight and people are getting used to that; we wanted to refresh it a bit, so we opened it via new gameplay features."
Specifically, Simon wanted to change the fact that "Ace Combat" took place in a universe that didn't actually exist.
"We wanted to put it in the real world, so you're not fighting in places that have no emotion," he explained. "If I'm fighting above Washington, it means something more to me. That was a real choice."
He has a point. I can't imagine "Fallout 3," a game that had a profound impact on me, having the effect if it had taken place on a faraway, made up planet.