Name: Crimson Skies
Genre: Arcade Flight Sim
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 2000
The new millennium was coming and half the population worldwide was concerned about something called the Y2K. A media invent that probably helped to cover some massive problem in the world. Why is that important? I don’t know, but that was the world situation when I first came to know one of the best games that I played on PC; Crimson Skies.
The game combines three things, and it does that marvelously: action, flight simulation and a story that is fresh and totally original in more than one aspect.
Crimson Skies is set in an alternative version of the thirties, when a great crisis has sieged the US and has caused the country to be divided into various autonomous states. This situation has started several civil wars; most attacks there have led to the destruction of the main roads and the country’s railways, turning the sky into the only free transport route left. As the air transport increased so did the air pirates, a group of pilots ready to do anything to get the bounty and live free. Enter Nathan Zachary, a cool flying ace, women lover who leads a band called “The Fortune Hunters”, who you get to control during five chapters, a total of twenty-four missions. So jump out of the cargo zeppelin, we are taking the skies tonight. many others.
At the start of each mission, you will be shown your goals, primary and secondary. Before actually jumping into the open sky, there is a detailed briefing with high quality voice acting for a change. Most of the situations and dialogs you will see in the story mimic the golden radio-dramas of the forties, which get incredibly mixed in a tale of air pirates.
If you fancy some quick action, the Instant Action Mode should be your choice. Here you can choose your mission from a good number of air battles known as “Air Spicy Tales”. This battles also let you select your plane model and the type of mission (Stunt Flying, Dogfighting, Squadron Battle, etc). This is the best way to practice in-flight techniques, stunts or simply to study the tactics of the enemy bands such as the Black Swan, Medusa and other gangs.
Regarding the planes, each model has its own set of skills and properties. One of the best characteristics of the game is that it allows you to build your own plane, taking into consideration the engine, armor, weight of the fuselage and basic armament. Remember the pin art so popular in WWII planes? If you fancy that, you can add your own to the nose of your bird. Be advised, once your plane was created you cannot modify it anymore. The only thing you can change is the type of ammo you will use. If you don’t feel like constructing, you can always steal blueprints of planes from the manufacturer and buy new models from them.
The graphics show how detailed the game really is. The gauges and different instruments resemble the ones you might find in an old Spitfire or Fockewulf 190, they look vintage and worn off. You can engage your enemies from inside the cockpit, from a 3rd person perspective and also from a first person view where you don’t see your plane at all, a pretty useless camera, in my opinion. The game’s interface displays the ammo quantity, the plane damage, speed and altitude, basically all you need to fly and be an ace.
Regarding the sound, the engine will be constantly roaring without it becoming a nuisance, other FX such as the machine gun fire, the balloons being blown away or the radio voices of your comrades and enemies are perfectly crafted and there is not a single bad thing I can say about them.
Crimson Skies presents a progressive learning curve which allows you to learn the basics during the first couple of missions and apply your knowledge in the next chapters. When I say apply, I really mean it, as you will need every bit of skill you have gained to master some of this game’s missions. Though there is not much replay value (the missions are too linear and nothing changes when you replay it) each stage has a number of “danger zones” which you can use to take pictures for the gang’s album. Finding these places in each one of the stages and managing the stunt required to get the pic will make you want to retry some levels a couple of times at least.
Perhaps, the only big issue I have spotted in the game is the fact that you are not able to control the actions of your team. I’m thinking about other flight sims where you can command you team members to attack a target, to fly in a certain formation or simply to cover your arse during a hard maneuver, there is nothing like that in Crimson Skies, the only thing your colleagues will do is alert you of some enemy at your six, and eventually steal some kill form you, after you have been dogfighting with the bloke for 20 minutes or so. That if they have not been shot down during the first 5 minutes of the mission.
This is a title I’ve been waiting for developers to go back to and release a new version. There is a sort of sequel for the original X-Box called Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge which unfortunately I have not been able to try, but nothing else for the PC. Maybe one day, we will be once more able to attack some extra air ships and claim their bounty like true air pirates!
Verdict:- A game so unique that can appeal to flight sim enthusiast and action lovers. Crimson Skies manages to be original, tell a wonderful story and through 24 missions never misses the premise of any good game: to be fun.
If after this reading you have a nostalgia attack, you may want to try some of the Crimson Skies books which expand the stories seen in the game.
Second Opinion:- A game that is a thrill seeking flight sim thats more about fulfilling fantasies than it is actually simulating reality. That gets this 'Bots circuits tingling!
Any game cool enough to be ported from the PC to the Arcade instead of vice-versa is well worth a look-in. Transbot Approves.
Go out and play in the skies!
Transbot Scores:- 7.5 out of 10