Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (PlayStation 2 - 2006)
Defend the country of Ustio against an enemy that is smarter, faster and deadlier than any that have come before.

Less than two years after The Unsung War hit shelves, we were treated to yet another dosage of air-to-air action. The short turnaround time and perceived lack of upgrades made Zero one of the least successful titles in the series. We say it's one of the best - roaming packs of rival aces patrol the skies, ready to throw down with pilots and jets that give even the swiftest of players a run for their money. The new Ace Style Gauge made it so your in-game decisions actually affected what happened later on. Each mission had three possible ranks (Soldier, Knight and Mercenary), and whichever rank you achieved would change dialogue, amount of info revealed at the end and bits about the rival pilots themselves.

As far as the story goes, Zero tries to mix the flashbacky tales of 04 with live-action actors and the result is... bizarre. It's cool to hear about these hot shot pilots 10 years after the war's over and done, but live action? Really? At least the performances are averagely acceptable or there'd be even bigger problems.

But even with a trio of possible outcomes and some tough-as-nails dogfights, Zero didn't grab much attention. Maybe it's because it was released so soon after five with a similar subtitle (both are The [insert word] War), or perhaps it was due to the imminent arrival of next-gen systems, who knows. In our humble opinion, if you've gotta check out one Ace before the sixth hits, make it this one. It's mostly like the others, but Zero crams in a good portion of what makes the series fun.

Defining moment
How about three super weapons? A laser-belching tower harasses you early on, then it's another flying fortress patrolled by expert aces, and then the final battle is a laser-mounted jet that can only be damaged through the exhaust ports. You want a tough fight, try that last one.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.