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Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War

It's kind of hard to identify with the cold steel of jet fighters. Even with human pilots, the machines always take center stage in dogfighting games as they streak through the sky, filling the azure air with white-hot lead and missiles across an otherwise peaceful landscape. So it's up to the intense, toe-curling action to keep you interested, and that's something the Ace Combat series has always kept onboard.

Whether it's escorting a convoy of allies through enemy terrain or obliterating a monolithic, sky-shattering laser tower, your senses have to be sharp. Previous games in the series were a little on the cakewalk side, but now the opposing army's gone to flight school. Enemy pilots now weave, dodge and react to the flow of battle. You start knocking their friends out of the sky, they just might turn tail and run ... or a group of rival aces may sweep in mid-mission and totally rearrange your face. These main targets push enemy intelligence to the max, making them damn near impossible to perforate with missiles. We tailed a group of five aces through a frosty mountain range and barely got a couple of shots off before they spun around and shredded our Su-27 (the Russian F-15 Eagle equivalent) to bits.

Why the hostility? You'll have to play to figure it out, when the game ships in April. Ace Combat Zero's story takes place 15 years before the last game, and is told primarily through (ugh, live action) flashbacks. None of the games have offered a stellar plot, so expect a basic, but functional storyline to tie all the fireball-in-the-sky action together.

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