Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
I found it amazing that this game has already got a member's review for it. Not even GR has one for Ace Combat 5. Although, technically the other review doesn't count as it is blank. Well, now there is actually a review on GR for this game, with actual text!
Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, also known as Ace Combat: Squadron Leader in some countries, follows the sorties of the Wardog squadron. Lead by Captain Bartlett, this squad consists of 4 pilots. Bartlett, AKA Heartbreak One, Nagase, AKA Edge, Davenport, AKA Chopper and you, AKA Blaze. The premise of the game is rather straight forward. Fly to point A, blow up B-Z. Sometimes you are required to land, take off or refuel in midair, but these are few and far between.
Fortunately, you have many tools of wanton destruction to do it with. There are numerous planes to fly, which have to be unlocked, then purchased. This would be a downside, but you'll struggle to buy what you have unlocked, so having all the planes unlocked would be a setback. Besides, you could shell out for a top-o'-the line-plane, but then realise you don't have any money left for your wingmen's planes. For, Bartlett gets shot down, leaving you as the Squadron Leader, hence the game's alternate title. You then get a new wingman, Grimm, AKA Archer. Grimm has a 'special attribute' to him, but I will not talk about it here, lest it ruin your game.
The planes you fly are really cool looking. Each aircraft is modelled and painted realisticly, although their payloads are not given as much attention. (Note: I doubt a F-22 could carry 80+ missiles)
There is another feature unique to this Ace Combat that none of the other titles has: Arcade Mode. In Arcade Mode, you fly as Mobius 1 in an attempt to eliminate the threat Free Eurasia is to ISAF. Sounds familiar? You flew as Mobius 1, as a part of the ISAF against the country of Eurasia in Ace Combat 4! Completing the Arcade mode unlocks the F-22 you fly as in the regular campaign. It can be unlocked through other methods, though.
However, completing the game once is not enough. For, it is impossible to unlock all the planes once through only. In some parts of the campaign, a coin is flipped to see which mission you will fly next. Only after both branches are completed for these coin flips will you unlock all the planes. You might not even do it then! In some of the missions, there are hangers laying about in the middle of nowhere. Blowing up all these hangers unlocks the Falken, the uber plane for Ace Combat 5. As far as I know, there has been one uber plane in every Ace Combat. I didn't find one in Air Combat, the first of the series though. In order to buy the Falken, you will need just over 800,000 credits though. Given that your average income per mission is 10,000, you're going to need to save up.
While you're saving, you can level up your other planes. Some planes have an 'experience' bar below their name when you select them in the hanger. This bar fills with kills and, once full, unlocks the next level of the plane. The next level could be a different version of the plane, or an improved version. For instance, the F-14 you unlock is a fighter (anti-air). 'Filling the bar' grants a bomber version. 'Filling the bar' of the bomber version grants an improved fighter version. Note that only some aircraft have new versions, you can tell as the planes without a newer version will have full bars from the start. Choose your planes wisely.
But you won't always be able to go up in the plane you want. Two of the missions see you launch from an aircraft carrier, so you need to fly carrier aircraft, such as the F-35 or F/A-18. I'd advise going up in the F-14 or F/A 18 as they have improved versions that also are carrier aircraft.
Watch out what you pick, for in nearly every mission where you fly, your wingmen fly too. You, being the squadron leader, need to pick your wingmens planes too. The planes you pick will need to fill a proficiency quota, shown at the bottom of the screen. This quota has two parts, Ground and Air. Picking a bomber will help to fill out the Ground quota, but will hardly make a dent in the Air quota. Balanced planes (like the Falken) will make an even dent in both quotas. Fortunately, these quotas are suggestions, which can be ignored. If needs be, you can launch into a mission without filling these quotas. You can tell when one hasn't been filled as your wingmen will tell you before you launch. I wouldn't advise ignoring the quotas, as they can show what you will come up against most, ground targets or enemy aircraft.
Nice, shiny enemy aircraft. Like I said, each aircraft is rendered and textured brilliantly. The ground, however, needs a bit of work. You'll notice it when you're flying at 5 meters off the ground through a busy city. (Note: do not try to fly at 5 meters off the ground through a busy city.) In the city missions, you'll notice that the skyscrapers and bridges are all they bothered to render, the other buildings are 'suggested' through smudges on the ground. Ewww.
But nevermind, as this is a measure used to save memory. Besides, why would you be flying low enough to notice?
Thus ends my review of Ace Combat 5, the second review for this game on GR, and the only one with actual words. Cool.