previews\ Aug 18, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge - XB - Preview 2

Flyboys and flygirls alike rejoice!  The lengthy void in your gaming life where a flight combat game should be is only months away from being filled.  Microsoft Game Studios and Fasa Studio are to be thanked by anyone whoever dreamed of taking to the skies in a twin prop plane to become a demon in the clouds, reigning bullets and fear into other pilots while playing with their handlebar moustaches.  This Red Baron re-enactment will become virtual reality with the October release of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the Microsoft Xbox.


Crimson Skies, previously seen as a franchise for the PC, comes to the Xbox for the first time amidst a swirling buzz of great multiplayer action, intuitive controls, and a true sense of flight not seen before on next-gen home consoles.  Amidst a spread of pizza, spring rolls, and beer, got a sneak peek at the game and an opportunity to whoop other industry folk’s tails. 


Crimson Skies can best be described as an action/adventure air-combat game.  The setting is an alternate-history 1930’s, and ground transportation has all but disappeared as politics, The Great Depression, and intense hostilities have forced citizens to take to the skies for trade, travel, and survival.  The main character Nathan Zachary, part Indiana Jones and part Errol Flynn with a dash of Chuck Yeager, is a member of the Fortune Hunters, a group of air pirates that act like Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men without the green tights and singing and dancing.  The Fortune Hunters target larger operations in an attempt to “even out the wealth” of the unruly world.  Nathan must set forth into hero mode when he hears of his friend’s death and some high-tech plans that have gone missing.  What’s an air pirate to do?  Get revenge, get the plans, and get the girl of course.  All in a day’s work. 


Pilots must tackle nearly thirty missions in the single-player mode over roughly fifteen hours of gameplay.  Missions can be taken in different orders, with completed missions unlocking new ones as the game progresses.  From the looks I got of the single player campaign, gamers should quite content with the variety of the missions, the intense boss battles, and the cutscenes that propel the developing story. 


The bulk of gameplay will undoubtedly be spent playing the multi-player portion of the game.  Playable over System Link or Xbox Live, Crimson Skies should be a huge hit with the multi-player gaming community.  Among the game modes are the simple dogfight (deathmatch), flag raid (capture the flag), and a kill-the-carrier mode where the ball has been replaced by an understandably frightened chicken.  Microsoft had eight Xboxes hooked up together and we played some large multiplayer games, both individual and team-oriented, that were a blast.


The controls are quite simple.  Microsoft decided to do away with an accelerator, forcing pilots to control their speed with limited turbo and an air brake.  The left thumbstick controls pitch and yaw, and the right thumbstick controls the roll of the plane.  Each plane (there are ten overall with more possibly available as downloadable content) has a primary and secondary fire, controlled by the left and right triggers, and they vary from simple machinegun fire to guided missiles, shotgun blasts, and lightning guns.  Scared of heights?  Just hop into one of many anti-aircraft turrets and take out planes from the ground.  The planes can also defy the laws of physics with eight special moves that are pulled off with simple flips of the thumbsticks.  Most of the moves are evasive, but come in handy when pursuing enemies in dogfights as well.  Excessive use of the moves will throw your plane into a stall or spinout, so use them wisely. 


Crimson Skies looks fantastic.  Most of the single-player mode takes place outside, and the sky and water look fantastic.  Planes move fluidly, which is incredibly important when trying to navigate a 3-D space.  There really can’t be any complaints about the graphics of Crimson Skies as they are a strongpoint of the game. 


Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is a genuinely fun game that anyone can pick up.  Its ease of use will attract gamers from all walks of life.  Think of Midtown Madness in the clouds with a deeper single player game, and you’ve got Crimson Skies. 


Crimson Skies is rated T for Teen and takes off in October.


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