Flight simulators are usually less spectacular on console than on PC: due to the limited memory, the landscapes are mostly poor in detail, due to the limited screen resolution you rarely see the enemy – mostly you only spot a fireball on the horizon. The console pilot therefore regularly feels lonely in the vastness of the air: Namcos Ace Combatseries spiced up the sky battles with techno beats and radio contact, in Squadron Leader you can set the tone yourself for the first time! You use the directional pad to command your wingmen to attack and retreat, and you also respond to inquiries from your colleagues: “I’m needed at the base, can you manage the boys on your own?”
Your answer not only influences the level of difficulty, but the entire course of the battle: In the middle of the turmoil you have to make lightning-fast decisions, that’s never been the case in a console simulator. However, players without knowledge of English will be overwhelmed in places, because in the heat of the moment you can hardly follow the German subtitles. But you are far from being the boss: Headquarters also issues orders, forbids you to intervene or calls on you to assist low-flying aircraft. Namco packs the new air combat action into traditional simulator missions: You defend your base, escort aircraft carriers and intercept squadrons. You mostly jet in the clouds, houses and bridges act as graphic delicacies.
Controlling the 50 licensed pilots works intuitively, because you leave details such as landing gear and landing to the autopilot. Orientation is also easy, because the HUD uses a 3D pointer that can tilt – so you can see the angle to the target. The radar also visualizes all aircraft as arrows and therefore offers an optimal overview of the nearby airspace. You play the 50 missions in campaign and arcade mode, the latter sends you into battle under time pressure. Namco hasn’t installed a split-screen or link mode.