Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (エースコンバット5 ジ・アンサング・ウォー Ēsu Konbatto Go Ji Ansangu Wō, also known as Ace Combat: Squadron Leader in Europe and Australia) is a semi-realistic flight simulation game developed by Namco for the PlayStation 2 video game console and the fifth instalment of the Ace Combat series.
The storyline of the game is set in 2010 and follows the Wardog Squadron, four rookie pilots from Osea caught within the rising hostilities between Strangereal's two superpowers, the Osean Federation and the Union of Yuktobanian Republics. Amidst the fighting, the four pilots unknowingly fulfill a cryptic prophecy of the Demons of Razgriz and uncover the sinister conspiracy pulling the strings behind the Circum-Pacific War.
The Unsung War is the most expansive Ace Combat game to date (except the uncut Japanese version of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere), featuring more playable aircraft and levels than any other installment, four controllable wingmen, and a large number of fully animated intermission videos. After Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, it's the most critically acclaimed part of the series!
During the course of the game, the player has the opportunity to buy 53 different planes, from real-life aircraft to prototypes and fictional planes. Most of the planes are grouped into "families", where the more advanced models are unlocked after earning a certain number of score points with the less advanced aircraft. In some missions, the entire squadron is restricted to flying certain aircraft. All planes have alternate paint schemes, gained by meeting certain goals in missions, such as shooting down "ace" pilots. There are a total of 32 missions in the campaign mode, but due to multiple mission paths, only 29 of these are flown in a single campaign. Once the mission objectives are complete, the player is awarded bonus money for performing above and beyond the requirements of the mission. With missions that require landing or refueling in mid-air, bonus money can be earned by doing them quickly.
- Main article: Difficulty
The difficulty setting affects the number, artificial intelligence, and the damage threshold of the enemies present per stage, as well as the amount of damage the player's airplane can take. The settings are Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, Expert, and Ace. On the hardest two difficulty levels, even a single missile from the enemy will destroy the player's airplane, whereas on the easiest level it takes several missiles.
- Main article: Wingman Command
During missions, orders can be given to wingmen through the Dual Shock controller's directional pads, such as whether to actively engage enemies, spread out, or use special weapons. Unlike in Ace Combat Zero, the player cannot order the wingmen to concentrate their fire only on air or ground targets. Instead, the statistics of their respective aircraft determine their primary targets: a higher air-to-air score will make them concentrate on enemy aircraft, while a higher air-to-ground focuses their attention on the ground (see also Aircraft)
The left and right buttons also help the player answer 'Yes' or 'No' to dialogue prompts. The answer can decide the next mission on some levels (see List of missions in Ace Combat 5).
The cutscenes in the game are fully animated, pre-rendered videos. Only one other AC game so far features them, Ace Combat 6 (while Ace Combat: Assault Horizon instead uses cutscenes running on the game's engine).
The original ambient music for Ace Combat 5 was composed by Keiki Kobayashi, who previously worked on sound effects in Ace Combat 04, and went on to compose the music for Ace Combat Zero and Ace Combat 6. Additionally, the game features four theme songs:
- "Blurry", the rock song that Chopper listens to between missions 03 and 04. Composed and performed by the American band Puddle of Mudd and licensed for the game.
- "Journey Home", the anti-war song first performed in mission 17 (named after it), then in missions 26 and 27, sounds very similar to "Star Spangled Banner". Composed by Keiki Kobayashi, lyrics by Joe Romersa, performed by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
- "The Unsung War", the Gregorian-inspired song retelling the legend of Razgriz in Latin that plays in mission 27+. Composed by Keiki Kobayashi.
- "Blue Skies", Originally featured in Ace Combat 4, a remix of the song plays during the ending credits. Composed by Hiroshi Okubo and performed by Stephanie Cooke.
Ace Combat: Operation Katina is the arcade mode version of the game puts the player in control of Ace Combat 04's pilot Mobius One, the legendary ace fighter pilot who brought the ISAF to victory single-handedly. The player's mission is to play through a number of stages filled with enemies and defeat a certain number of them in order to advance to the next stage. As the player progresses the game naturally gets more difficult and the player will have to adopt new techniques for countering the increasingly aggressive enemies' attacks. The mini-game is split into four branches, levels 1-4: 1 being the least difficult and 4 the most challenging; likewise, the final mission pits Mobius One against anywhere from 4 to 6 X-02 Wyverns. Sky Eye, the AWACS from Ace Combat 04 returns as well to provide mission support for the duration of the game.
Unlike the Campaign Mode of Ace Combat 5, the player starts off with a low ammunition count and must carefully make his or her shots meet their mark. However, throughout the various levels there are different aircraft and ships that can be destroyed by the player to collect extra weapons from these special targets. The special target will be marked as for example, "C-130 M." In this case the C-130E Hercules is carrying extra missiles and shooting it down will result in the player being restocked with 10 missiles. The player can refill missiles and special weapons only; the machine gun uses unlimited ammunition.
- Main article: List of missions in Ace Combat 5
The Campaign Mode of Ace Combat 5 follows the progress of the Circum-Pacific War of 2010, as seen through the eyes of an Osean Air Defense Force (OADF) 108th Tactical Fighter Squadron (alias "Wardog"). The player assumes the role of a trainee named Blaze, who soon has to take command of the Wardog Squadron and turn it into the most feared unit in the entire war. As the game begins, the world superpowers Osean Federation and Union of Yuktobanian Republics have been at peace since "the war 15 years ago", that is, the Belkan War (explored in detail in the prequel, Ace Combat Zero). The situation changes drastically, however, when Yuktobania unexpectedly declares war on Osea and launches a massive invasion, with the Wardog Squadron caught right in the middle of it.
- Blaze (callsign "Wardog Four", later "Wardog One" and "Razgriz One"; also known as "Kid"; real name unknown) is the player character and the protagonist of the game. Formerly a pilot trainee ("nugget") on Sand Island, he is selected as Captain Bartlett's fourth wingman for missions 01 and 02. After Bartlett goes MIA, Blaze is promoted to Wardog Leader and leads his squadron throughout the game. Although the player is free to choose any aircraft for him, canonically, Blaze flies an F-5E early on and later an F-14A Tomcat, like the rest of the squadron.
- Kei "Edge" Nagase (callsign "Wardog Two", later "Razgriz Two") is the sole survivor of Cpt. Bartlett's original Wardog Squadron after the surprise attack just before mission 01. After Bartlett goes MIA while saving Nagase, she refuses promotion to flight lead (as the most experienced pilot of the squad), instead resolving to protect Blaze no matter what. Her feelings of guilt over Bartlett's loss result in her being shot down over Glubina in mission 14, but the Wardog manages to rescue her. She continues to fly as Blaze's number two until the very end, and many players interpret the final scenes of the game as that the two of them marry after the war and have a daughter. Like the rest of her squadron, Edge canonically flies an F-5E early on and later an F-14A Tomcat. Nagase is also a secondary narrator of the story
- Alvin H. "Chopper" Davenport (callsign "Wardog Three") is a "nugget" like Blaze at the beginning of the game. Loud and disrespectful of his superiors (including Blaze, whom he calls "Kid", but excluding Bartlett), Chopper nevertheless proves a valuable asset to the team and a comic relief who lightens up the mood when needed. In mission 17, Chopper's plane is damaged in a dogfight over November City and to minimize civilian casualties, he waits until everyone has been evacuated from the stadium to crash it there. Because he waits for so long, however, his ejection seat circuits burn out and he has no choice but to crash into the stadium together with his plane. As Thunderhead comments, "he was a model pilot to the very end". Like the rest of his squadron, Chopper canonically flies an F-5E early on and later an F-14A Tomcat.
- Hans "Archer" Grimm (callsign "Wardog Four", later "Razgriz Four") is yet another "nugget" from Sand Island. During Yuktobanian air raid in mission 04, he is working on (absent) Bartlett's spare plane in the hangar and resolves to come to the Wardog's aid despite little actual flying experience. Although he lacks self-confidence, he proves to be a talented pilot and can easily keep up with the rest of the squadron. Grimm has an older brother who serves in the Osean 1st Airborne Division and fights alongside the Wardog in missions 09, 16A, and 16B. He is very proud of Hans being a member of the famous Sand Island squadron. Like the rest of his squadron, Grimm canonically flies an F-5E early on and later an F-14A Tomcat.
- Jack "Heartbreak One" Bartlett (callsign "Wardog One") is a famous ace pilot who fought in the Belkan War (in fact, his plane can be spotted in mission 10 (Mercenary Ace Style) of Ace Combat Zero) and has dedicated his life to training the next generation afterwards. He has a long history with Peter N. Beagle and a Yuktobanian Recon Major Nastasya Vasilievna Obertas, which makes him suspicious in his superiors' eyes. In mission 02, Bartlett's plane is shot down near Sand Island and he is taken prisoner by the Yuktobanians but escapes and joins the Yuktobanian anti-war movement. From mission 20 on, he communicates with the Kestrel via encrypted messages, before finally being reunited with his former wingmen in mission 25. In mission 27, he destroys the SOLG backup control systems by flying into the underground tunnel from the side opposite to Blaze's entry. Bartlett flies an F-4G Wild Weasel and an F-14A Tomcat in AC5, and an F-14D Super Tomcat during his cameo appearance in ACZ.
- Marcus "Swordsman" Snow (callsign "Shorebird One", later "Razgriz Three") is the commander of the Shorebirds Squadron based on Kestrel, first introduced in mission 03. The Wardog again meets him in mission 05. In mission 19, he saves the squadron by faking their death and then joins the newly formed Ghosts of Razgriz in mission 20, replacing Chopper, because his own squadron has been decimated by the war. During the final mission, Snow thanks Blaze for letting him fly as a wingman again and feel what his own wingmen felt. Like the rest of the Ghosts of Razgriz, Swordsman canonically flies an F-14A Tomcat.
- Peter N. "Pops" Beagle is an aging mechanic attached to the Wardog Squadron on Sand Island. As revealed in mission 19, he is a former Belkan ace, also known as Wolfgang Buchner and "Huckebein the Raven", who fought in the Belkan War (like Bartlett, he can be seen in mission 10 of Ace Combat Zero). After deserting from the Belkan military, he was given a new identity as an Osean mechanic with Cpt. Bartlett's help. In mission 19, he saves the Wardog Squadron from 8492nd by guiding them through a series of complex canyons and tunnels to escape Sand Island. He then assumes the "AWACS" role for them for the rest of the game until Mission 27, when his duties are taken over by the Yuktobanian AWACS "Oka Nieba" (Sky Eye). Buchner flew a MiG-21bis Fishbed during the Belkan War and a BAE Hawk T1 on a single occasion.
- Albert Gennette is a freelance journalist who came to Sand Island looking for a military story to report, specifically interested in Cpt. Bartlett, a legendary ace-turned-instructor. As the Circum-Pacific War breaks out, however, his attention shifts to the Wardog Squadron and he makes them (and himself) famous by publishing the article "The Four Wings of Sand Island". He remains the primary narrator throughout the game, going as far as to follow the Wardog when they are labeled traitors and flee Sand Island in mission 19. Gennette also makes a cameo appearance in Ace Combat X, covering Leasath-Aurelia War of 2020.
On an interesting note, the first letters of the personal callsigns of Blaze's wingmen throughout the game (Archer, Chopper, Edge, Swordsman) spell out "ACES", the title of their penultimate mission.
- See also: List of aces in Ace Combat 5
The legend of Razgriz is central to the plot of the game. It takes form of a three-verse poem seen during the mission loading screens:
Amidst the eternal waves of time
From a ripple of change shall the storm rise
Out of the Abyss peer the eyes of a demon
Behold the Razgriz, it's wings a black sheath
The demon soars through dark skies
Fear and death trail it's shadow
Until men united wield a hallowed sabre
In the final reckoning the beast is slain
As the Demon sleeps man turns on man
His own blood and madness spread throughout the earth
From the depths of despair awaken the Razgriz
It's raven wings ablaze with majestic light
A summary is also provided by Albert Genette in mission 27+ epilogue (which also reveals the final part of the legend):
- When history witnesses a great change, Razgriz reveals itself; first as a dark demon. As a demon, it uses its power to rain death upon the land, and then it dies. However, after a period of slumber, Razgriz returns, this time as a great hero.
Most of the characters in the game are familiar with the Razgriz legend, however, Kei Nagase in particular has extensive knowledge of it. She first comes to believe that the legend is actually a prophecy referring to the Scinfaxi submarine. Later, she thinks the same thing about Scinfaxi's twin, the Hrimfaxi, reinforced by it being stationed in the Razgriz Straits, the residence of the demon, according to myth. In fact, even the crew of Hrimfaxi come to believe themselves to be Razgriz, evident in their dialogue in mission 13. However, in the same mission, following Hrimfaxi's destruction by the Wardog Squadron, the title "Razgriz" becomes attached to the latter. As Nagase's interrogation of a Yuktobanian soldier in mission 15 reveals, the Yuktobanians start to refer to the Wardog as the "Demons of Razgriz" and even Chopper jokingly refers to himself as "Razgriz Three" in missions 16A and 16B. Following the Wardog's official deaths, the squadron is reformed as "Ghosts of Razgriz", finally accepting this name as their own.
In a way, the legend of Razgriz acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy throughout the game. Assuming that the Wardog Squadron was symbolically "Razgriz" from the beginning, the "great change" witnessed by history is the outbreak of the Circum-Pacific War. The Wardog Squadron, "as a dark demon", "rains death upon the land" while being manipulated by the Grey Men (thus fighting an inherently unjust battle from the beginning). The "hallowed sabre" refers to Marcus Snow, a decorated and respected pilot, whose call sign is "Swordsman" and who symbolically (and officially) kills the Wardog/Razgriz. Then, however, Razgriz is reborn or awakened, "this time as a great hero", referring to the squadron's reformation as the Ghosts of Razgriz, who from then on fight against the real perpetrators of the war, saving the world from destruction many times over. Finally, the "raven wings" may refer to the black paint scheme that the Ghosts of Razgriz sport in the final missions.
The legend of Razgriz is also told in the theme song "The Unsung War" that plays in mission 27+, after the SOLG enters the mission airspace. The song is in Latin language and performed in the Gregorian chant style. Samples of this song, as well as sections of the Latin lyrics, were also incorporated into the musical piece "Zero" from Ace Combat Zero, which likewise plays during the final battle.
- Main article: Operation Katina
The Arcade Mode follows a storyline unrelated to the Campaign mode. During the Usean Continental War (seen in Ace Combat 04) that spanned from late 2004 to mid 2005; the nations of Erusea and the ISAF (Independent States Allied Forces) fought a long and vicious war. Erusea was trying to crush the ISAF resistance and dominate the entirety of the Usean continent whereas the ISAF was struggling to liberate their constituent states from the Erusians' clutches. Eventually the ISAF were victorious, but at an enormous cost in lives. About a year after the ISAF's hard-earned victory, certain remnants of the Erusian military refuse to accept the surrender and attempt to instigate a general uprising across the land. After some time, they succeed in capturing an old military factory along with a very large quantity of weapons.
Alarmed by the danger of the new Erusean threat, the ISAF recalls the pilot known as Mobius 1, for a series of operations to finally silence the threat.
- Main article: List of aircraft in Ace Combat 5
Ace Combat 5 features the largest selection of playable aircraft seen in any AC game to date: 53 planes, 51 of which exist in real life (either as production models or prototypes) and 2 are fictional. From mission five on, the player is given the option to purchase new aircraft for themselves and their wingmen. Perhaps out of necessity to purchase planes for the entire squadron, the aircraft in the game are much cheaper on average than in Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat Zero. Credits are gained by destroying enemies and fulfilling certain requirements on the missions (e.g. achieving high scores or completing them within very short time).
All planes in the game are grouped into "families": the first plane in a family is unlocked by completing a certain mission (see list), while more advanced models in it only become available after the player fills up the so-called "Kill Rate Gauge" of the basic plane. The gauge is filled by shooting down enemies, and both the player and their wingmen's kills accumulate for their respective planes' upgrade. The gauge can be filled in both the campaign mode and free missions. The difficulty setting affects how quickly the gauge fills up: all planes upgrade about three times faster on Ace difficulty than on Normal (even though the money reward remains the same).
In most missions, the player is given the option to select the planes for themselves and their wingmen before the launch. A rough estimate of the aggregate air-to-air and air-to-ground score requirements of the planes for the following mission is given during the aircraft selection, and one of the wingmen will object if the player's choice does not meet them. Some missions, however, do not allow the player to choose their aircraft:
- In missions 01 through 04, the player is restricted to the starting plane, F-5E Tiger II, and cannot select their wingmen's aircraft.
- In missions 06, 11A, 18+, and 27+, the entire squadron is restricted to whichever planes they flew in the respective previous mission.
- In mission 11B, the entire squadron is restricted to unarmed Mirage 2000Ds (though the machineguns are fully loaded).
- In mission 19, the entire squadron is restricted to unarmed Hawk T.1s.
- In missions 20 and 26, the aircraft selection is limited to any aircraft capable of taking off and landing that are available on the OFS Kestrel.
- In mission 21, the player can choose a plane for Blaze but it is stripped of all weapons and the wingmen do not participate in the mission.
In addition to a machine gun and all-purpose missiles, each plane is equipped with a special weapon, specialized against either ground or air targets. Unlike in Ace Combat 04 and Ace Combat Zero, each plane only has one special weapon in Ace Combat 5 (see list), which is immediately available upon its purchase.
After choosing a plane for themselves or a wingman, the player also has an option to select a paint scheme for it. Paint schemes are purely cosmetic and do not cost anything (unlike in Ace Combat 04) but have to be unlocked by fulfilling certain conditions. There are a total of five possible paint schemes in the game, although each plane can only have up to three: Osean, Razgriz, and either Yuktobanian, Belkan, or Special (the latter three can only be unlocked by playing on the Normal difficulty or higher).
- Osean (OS), the default Wardog Squadron paint scheme the plane is purchased with.
- Razgriz (RZ), the black Ghosts of Razgriz paint scheme available after completing mission 20.
- Yuktobanian (YK), available only for some planes, unlocked by shooting down a Yuktobanian plane of the same model in the Campaign or Free Mission mode.
- Belkan (BL), available only for some planes, unlocked by shooting down a Belkan plane of the same model in the Campaign or Free Mission mode.
- Special (SP), available only for some planes, unlocked by meeting certain conditions, usually shooting down a named pilot/ace (see list).
- GameSpot - 8.3/10 (great)
- IGN - 9.3/10 (outstanding)
- X-Play 5/5
- Game Informer 9.0/10
- Metacritic 84/100
- GameSpy 4/5 Stars
- In Mission 27 directly to the north is the Gründer Industries building.
- Stier Castle in Mission 20 is also seen in Ace Combat Zero on missions 12 and 15.
- This game has the second most playable aircraft in the entire series behind Ace Combat Infinity, having a total of 53.
- The Razgriz squadron has all black aircraft, like two units in the US military that once flew black F-14A Tomcats.
- AC5 was the first game in which an allied wingman is shot down by the enemy and dies.