There’s been a distinct lack of big budget flight simulators since HAWX 2 (released 2010) and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (released 2011). But with the latest instalment of Ace Combat from Project ACES team at Bandai Namco, that’s about to change.

During E3 we managed to get hands on a six-minute demo of Ace Combat 7, we had the choice to experience the VR version of the demo, however in the interest of our busy schedule we choose to go with the non-VR version.

The demo consisted of an early mission named Two-Pronged Strategy, during this demo we got the chance to pilot either the F/A-18F or the F-140 aircrafts. Both aircraft featured few stat differences such as mobility, speed and combat effectiveness against air and ground targets. Settling on the F/A-18F the mission began on the aircraft carrier, following take off and reaching high enough altitude.

The game finally gave me full control, allowing me to do a few barrel rolls and fast turns as my squadron filled me in on critical mission details. The goal was to intercept and take down some bandits in the area that clearly entered the wrong airspace.

The visual quality of the game was stunning and you can’t help but admire its beauty while performing an aerial ballet through beautiful cloud formations, the plane models are highly detailed, soaring turns would create satisfying effects on the wings of the plane and the flaps adjusting appropriately with each pivot.

For those wondering, the ground isn’t some lightly textured plane. It’s a highly detailed greenery cut around realistic looking lakes and rivers, something that always to me felt like it diminished the immersion of the experience.

Of course, all these stunning visuals are supported by Ace Combat 7 utilizing the power of the Unreal Engine 4 bringing stunning visuals alongside its famed flight gameplay creating truly immersive aerial battlefields.

Ace Combat has realistic aspirations but it is certainly not trying to be a hardcore simulator, the controls are very straightforward. Locking on to enemy fighters was satisfying and made only more so by the striking smoke trails left behind by your rockets. Using the machine gun was a more manual process that required getting behind your target and aiming with care.

After all targets were eliminated there was yet another big surprise, a big enemy bomber appeared, and with it even more foes, this time automated drones that separated from the bomber. Things got hectic from here so some advanced moves and deployment of flares were required.

You can rotate the camera somewhat independently in third person view; or use the cockpit view for the full immersion and having the critical display information where you need it. With most of the fighters dispatched, it was time to focus on the bomber before it reached its destination. The bomber had multiple points of weakness, at each engine, and it required a number of fly-bys to take them all out. At this point, the mission concluded.

Ace Combat 7 was extremely accessible, fun and looking quite impressive visually thanks to both its art style and sheer technical elements and use of Unreal Engine 4. And is set to be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC and is expected to release in 2018.

There’s been a distinct lack of big budget flight simulators since HAWX 2 (released 2010) and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (released 2011). But with the la