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January 11, 2010 - Virtual fight pilots should start getting excited because Namco Bandai's Ace Combat franchise is returning to the PSP with Ace Combat: Joint Assault. This marks the first PSP release in the series since Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, which was released more than three years ago.

The big news is that the game's namesake plays a major part in the experience as the story mode can be played with two to four players. Some missions will make use of the new Joint Assault Mission System, which breaks the players into teams and has them coordinate attacks where each effort can affect the other team's situation. So, one team might be tasked with taking out a generator in one location, while the other is sent in striking a ground team. If the first team disables the generator, the other team will find that the enemy's defensive systems will go offline. Happily, players won't be stuck with a local experience as the game supports Ad-Hoc, Ad-Hoc Party and Infrastructure connections. There will, of course, also be adversarial options for competitive multiplayer as well, which will support up to eight players.

For the first time, the series will be set in the real world, with missions situated around locations such as London, Egypt, Midway, San Francisco and Tokyo. More than 40 different aircraft types have been licensed for use in Joint Assault.

What sounds most interesting about the title is its new Enhanced Combat View mechanic, which aims to remove the distanced fighting seen in most every modern day tactical fighter. The goal is to bring the fighting up close and personal to take things away from the RADAR-heavy battles. Details of how it'll work are sketchy for now, but the idea is promising.

While Ace Combat: Joint Assault doesn't have a specific release date yet, it is scheduled to hit stores sometime this year. We'll have more information on the game soon, but for now, take a look at a ton of images in our gallery.

Click the image to check out numerous Joint Assault images in our gallery.