previews\ Jul 13, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Lethal Skies II - PS2 - Preview 2

Combat flight simulations are not new, though the variance in styles of games is as wide open as the blue skies through which the planes fly. The games themselves have run the gamut between being a simple arcade shooter and an intensive course in flying aircraft.

It is therefore a joy when a game comes along that combines ease of gameplay with sterling graphical elements in a three-dimensional world. Such a game is Sammy Studios (and Asmik Ace’s) Lethal Skies II, an aerial combat arcade-style flight shooter slated for release in September on the PlayStation2.

The game is, obviously, a sequel but is not merely riding the jet stream of its predecessor. This game has upped the ante graphically as well as adding a split-screen two-player mode, seven new planes (bringing the total to 19 aircraft), and more than 20 missions. The camera offers five different first- and third-person perspectives so you can ride the tail of that F-16 or MiG 29 or move forward, through the cockpit, on the nose of the aircraft.

The story takes place in the year 20xx, following an environmental disaster that has left the world with little land mass. There are two main factions, the World Alliance and Frontier Nations. Into the mix is thrown a new foe, one with advanced weaponry and one that is bent of controlling the world. While players can take on the role of the enemy, the game’s main thrust is to plant gamers firmly in the seat of planes which belong to an elite air squadron.

The missions cover the gamut from search and destroy to running patrols over the land masses. However what marks this game as something unique is the ease in which players can jump right in and play, as well as the wonder three-dimensional graphical elements. was invited to take to the less-than-friendly skies in a preview build of the game, and strapped it for a high-speed chase through the wild, blue yonder in an attempt to gun down the enemy.

While the graphical quality was superb, with detailed skies, and top-flight HUD, and sterling effects over nicely detailed landmasses, the first thing that really stood out was the ease of use. Even without a manual, the control elements were kept so simple that most players will have no trouble getting airborne and using the on-screen prompts to find the enemy.

There are two modes of flying, the computer controlled monitoring of fuel injection, and activating the thrust for that quick burst of speed. Primary and secondary weapons are also simply activated once you get tone on your target. But therein lies the key. The targets seldom take steady lines through the less-than-friendly skies, and you will be dodging, turning, diving, climbing and going through all sorts of gyrations in trying to track and then down the enemy plans.

The game does offer a variety of play styles, from the mission-based storyline to the free-flowing dogfights.

The soundtrack is only a secondary character here. The music tries to pump up the attitude, and is only marginally successful, while the voice-over narration is average. The game tries to keep a timeless quality with its use of the year being 20xx, but that doesn’t really work. It is apparent, from the use of more modern aircraft that this is the near future, and pinning it down should diminish the quality of the game.

After all, this is about the action in the skies above, and in that regard, this game really delivers well.

Lethal Skies II is incredible to look at, from the well-modeled planes to the glints of sunlight off the surface of the ocean below, and easy to play. With those two elements propelling the game along, Lethal Skies II should do as well as its predecessor, if not better. This is definitely a game that will have broad appeal, from fans of the original to those who are looking for a solid arcade jetfighter shooter.

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