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
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.
GameZone.com 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.