ACE. You are the last fighter pilot left in our country. There are only three aircraft left for you to use. Enemy ground forces have landed on our coast and are working their way inland. The fate of our entire country rests upon your shoulders. Can you handle it?
When I first loaded ACE, I didn't know what to expect. The grey title screen is plain and functional. I soon noticed I was seated in the cockpit of a fighter jet. To this day I remember my excitement - a jet fighter flight simulator on the C64! Exactly what a boy who was mad on planes wanted!
Straight after the title screen is a settings screen. You can choose your difficulty level, whether to have just a pilot (single player) or a pilot and weapons man (2 player). Also, you can choose the "All Weather All Terrain" (AWAT) setting. This allows you to choose a summer game, night game or winter game. Also you can see high scores and run the demo from here.
Once you press 1 to start the game, you choose your weapons. Multirole will give you both Air-Air and Air-Ground missiles (8 of each). Air Superiority will give you 12 Air-Air missiles. Ground Attack will give you 2 Air-Air missiles and 16 Air-Ground missiles. Naval Attack will give you 8 Air-Ship missiles. You always start with 6000 cannon rounds and 30 Decoy Flares (for getting enemy missiles off your tail).
Above is one of the "summer" outdoor shots, and we're mid dogfight on the game demo, right behind an enemy plane! The black aiming box in the middle is important - your cannon fires into the center of this, as do missiles. So your targets need to be in the middle of this in order to hit them. When playing with a weapons man, the second player solely operates this - he can move it all around and fire at will.
The weapons man makes some of the fighting easier, however it is quite strange because I use the aiming sight to know when I am in level flight and such. When it's moving around, it makes the plane harder to fly.
Let me explain the controls now. You press the space bar to throttle up, and the commodore key to throttle down. The most difficult key to work out was for the landing gear. It's "U" for undercarriage - trust the British to be obscure!
The F1 key will let you scroll through the weapons - Cannon, Air-Air, Air-Ground, Air-Ship and Decoy Flares. Pressing E will make you eject from the aircraft, but you can't eject unless you're in allied territory. There is also a pause key, which is escape on an IBM keyboard.
Pressing M will give you the map, shown above. The green territory is allied territory, and the red is enemy territory. The grey squares in the allied territory are your three airbases. You need to be careful, because enemy ground forces can take over your airbases - and it's a much longer flight then! All airbase runways run on an east-west axis, so it's best to approach the base from one of these directions when landing.
Enemy aircraft are shown on the map when attacking you, and ground forces are the little tanks. Your aircraft is the white aircraft over with the ships on this view. The ships usually only come when all the ground forces are destroyed - this is just the demo map view, and all of these things can't be in the places they are at one time. Happily, the map tells you what the icons are as you look at it, a nice touch!
Above is the night view looking out of your aircraft. The cockpit displays are very easy to explain. Thrust shows your throttle level. Fuel doesn't need explaining. ALT is altitude, VEL is velocity or how fast you're going and SC is your score.
The green box to the right of ALT is the undercarriage up and down indicator and below that is the compass - handy for knowing which way to go on the map. In the center at the top is the radar indicator. Both enemy planes and ground forces will come up on the display - especially handy with ground forces. Below that is your attitude indicator - showing climb and descent, and left or right.
The box marked "From" in the above screen shot is the information box. It will tell you when you're changing between territories. It also will show you when systems are destroyed or when you need to eject. With the refuelling tanker, it will show what altitude to approach the tanker at, and how fast the tanker is going.
Below and to the left is the rear camera. This shows what is happening behind you, and is handly when a missile (bright yellow square) is chasing you, or aircraft are behind you. To the right of that is the weapons and mode display. Usually when you're flying it will show weapons, but if you're refuelling or something like that it will say "Refuel Mode" for example.
The game itself is straight forward. Get rid of all the enemy ground forces and you win. It's not easy - even on number 2 difficulty it can take some time. The programming for this game is exceptional. The aircraft is fast and responsive, and the enemy aircraft and ground forces are realistically represented.
When you take off, pull up at above 130 knots, and you MUST put undercarriage up immediately - before 250 knots. Landing the aircraft is also extremely hard for the novice flyer. I usually get down to 20 feet or so, then come in as slow as I can, then when over the runway tap the joystick down. It's hard to do!
Refueling is a nice touch, and it can be somewhat difficult. You should only really refuel from the tanker when you are out of fuel but still have plenty of ammunition left - or if you're scared of landing, which is definitely harder than refuelling!!
The game also has extensive speech throughout! It will tell you verbally certain things that are happening, such as "Low Altitude!" and stuff like that. It's really very very well done! Damage is well represented too. Your rear camera can be destroyed, followed by the radar, then control damage. Also, your engine can be destroyed and you'll need to bail out. Very good indeed! You feel a great sense of achievement when you get a damaged plane back to base!
An absolutely fine flight simulator, and my favourite fighter simulator for the Commodore 64. An adrenaline pumper, this one!
Downloads: Music, Speech, Advert 2, Advert 3, Advert 4, Advert 5
|GRAPHICS - 9/10|
|The title screen is plain, however the in game graphics are excellent. Wonderfully coloured backgrounds, with very well represented enemy units. Enemy ground forces start as dots on the horizon and gradually become more recognisable. When a SAM fires a missile, you see the missile leave the launcher. The helicopters have rotating blades. In addition, there are hills that you can crash into, and trees - which even disappear when you shoot them. The map is easy to understand and well rendered, and the cockpit doesn't need a manual to explain what each thing does. Overall an absolutely superb effort!|
|SOUND - 10/10|
|No music. Good aircraft engine sounds, missile launch, decoy launch and cannon sounds. There is also a special sound when an enemy missile is on your tail, so that you know without having to look. The real place where the sound comes into its own is the speech synthesis. From memory, the game says - "Rear Camera Destroyed", "Radar Destroyed", "Engine Flameout", "Low Altitude", "Fuel Warning", "Eject! Eject!", and "Contact". It's easy to understand and as they're all warnings, they heighten the tension in a brilliant way!|
|PLAYABILITY - 7/10|
|The game is extremely playable, but does feel repetitive. You're often attacking ground forces, flying back, landing, and so on. It has a wide variety of things to do, but you do only have the one aim - get rid of the ground forces, the ships and win the war. The plane flies like a dream, and dogfighting feels like a fast dogfight! It's very very well done. Horrifyingly, when you win, you're taken immediately to the high score table. No special screen, no text, nothing - BAM - from shooting a ship to the high score table. An absolutely gross disappointment - almost unforgivable really. However, this was well before multi-load became popular, so any end screens were sacrificed for gameplay and that is understandable.|
|OVERALL - 8/10|
|ACE by Cascade Games is one of the best fighter simulators ever released on the C64. Easy to use, fun to play, gets you very tense, frustrated, elated - all the things that make a game a fun experience. Definitely in the Top 10 of all time, but not a game people tend to remember when they think C64.|