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Q4 2003



- First flying action online game for Xbox Live is perfect change of pace from so many FPS crowding the Xbox Live lineup
- The long wait for the gameís conversion from PC title to Xbox title was definitely worth it
- Jaw-dropping visuals, particularly the beautifully realistic sky scenery
- Music perfectly fits the mood of the 1930ís era of adventuring tales on the silver screen
- Great mix of arcade flyer and flight simulator



- Lack of feeling of speed while flying
- Story falls back on average video game story conventions instead of exploiting originality of alternate reality setting
- Race challenges can get frustrating and just plain annoying



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Review: Battle Engine Aquila (XB)

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Crimson Skies: Highroad to Revenge

Score: 9.2 / 10


crimson skies xbox review          crimson skies xbox review


Microsoft has had great success converting some PC games into very good Xbox games, including MechAssault, Midtown Madness, and the NFL Fever series. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge follows the same path to Xbox glory and not only is a solid PC-to-Xbox title, but considering the incredible Xbox Live play it offers, is one of the top Xbox games released to date, rivaling even the revered Halo with its overall quality.

This was supposed to be one of the early great Xbox titles (along with Halo) expected not too long after the launch of the Xbox system. But Microsoft continually delayed the game, apparently holding off until Crimson Skies could take advantage of the Xboxís graphical power while its online play could be fully developed along with the fledgling Xbox Live online service. Holding back Crimson Skiesí takeoff out




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of the Microsoft hangar turned out to be an excellent gamble, because this is one high-flying Xbox game.

Nathan Zachary is your name, flying for pirating profit is your game. Set in an alternate reality of 1930ís America, which is no longer united, the world as Crimson Skies knows it is ruled by gangs of air pirates and militia and their planes and zeppelins. Roadways have been eliminated to


keep the nation-states that exist separate from each other. Zachary belongs to the Fortune Hunters, who gain their riches by pirating from those who dare to take to the skies. Itís one big gang-fight for control and the power that comes along in ruling the airways with alternate-reality aircraft that combine bi-planes of the 1930ís with some futuristic weaponry never seen.

The story has an original premise, but falls back on some old standby stories in the video game world: avenging a fallen comrade and rescuing damsels in distress. A shame, since Crimson Skies had a lot of potential for originality built into its storyline. But itís not the story that makes Crimson Skies so special.

The amazing gameplay, with a perfect balance of simulation and arcade-style flying & fighting action, sends Crimson Skies soaring into the high-flying fun stratosphere. The game plays sort of similar to, believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto, without the same level of murderous bloodshed. Each of the five moderately-sized levels is broken up with a bunch of mini-missions that you can complete in the order you wish. Most require a lot of heavy-duty dogfighting, where youíll face wave after wave of enemy planes. Others require escorting or protecting friendly aircraft, manning anti-aircraft guns on ground-based installments, or stealing items in exchange for information that you need to ultimately get your revenge on your nemesis, John ďGenghisĒ Khan. The only mini-mission that seems misplaced or at least frustratingly unwelcome, are the races through obstacle courses for wagers, which feature too many twists and turns to be much more than a tedious affair.

Youíll be piloting an array of winged crafts throughout Crimson Skies, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some planes are well balanced, like your main plane, the trusty Dogfighter-class Devastator. Interceptors are faster and more maneuverable, but donít withstand much enemy gunfire. And Zep-Killers have hard-to-pierce armor and strong weaponry, but arenít as fast or able to perform aerial evasive moves too well. Your best course of action in most flying endeavors is to stick with your Devastator to achieve pirating (and vengeful) success.


crimson skies xbox review         crimson skies xbox review

Controlling your plane is easy to get a grasp on because of the well-mapped control scheme. Even the faster planes donít really give off a true sense of speed, but the trade-off is much more efficient control, which is a necessity for a flying game where youíll be diving, ascending, and doing all kinds of flying feats. By using both thumbsticks, you are able to perform a variety of special moves and rolls, which arenít required much in single-player gaming, but become critically important in your online flying adventuring.

Simply put, Iíve personally never seen another video game ever thatís had as realistic sky scenery as Crimson Skies. Itís beautiful. Weather effects are done extremely well and the planes are a colorful and unique mix. Crimson Skies rivals Splinter Cell and Dead or Alive 3 for the most wonderful graphics to appear on the Xbox yet.

In addition to the visual treat of Crimson Skies is the perfectly-fitting musical score that flows throughout. The orchestral tunes fit like a glove for the 1930ís-esque setting (albeit alternate 1930ís setting) of the game, with climatic music providing the just-right amount of tension and edge to your battles. Unlike the musical score, the voice acting isnít special, but you could imagine celluloid heroes of the 1930ís acting and speaking their dialogue like the Crimson Skies cast.

What really defines Crimson Skies as a classic Xbox game is its online gameplay via Xbox Live. In a Live line-up crowded with a plethora of first-person shooters, even exceptional ones such as the Tom Clancy trio [Ghost Recon, Island Thunder, and Rainbow Six 3], Unreal Championship, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, itís refreshing to have an aerial combat title finally available. Crimson Skies is really enjoyable online, with many different online modes to choose from. There are the modes you would expect, including Dogfights for deathmatch fans, Flag Heist for the capture the flag crowd, Keep Away, Team Accumulate, and the most unique of them all, Wild Chicken. You win by catching an actual flying chicken and returning it to your base to score points for your team. With nary a bit of lag in sight, and tightly responsive plane controls online, battling it out with a dozen or so teammates/opponents is a great gaming escapade that is virtually unrivalled on Xbox Live.

Crimson Skies really flew out of nowhere to land as one of the best Xbox games available, especially with its amazingly engrossing online play, near-flawless visuals and sound, strong overall gameplay, and lightning-quick control responsiveness. Containing a perfect blend of multiplayer and single-player gaming, Crimson Skies breaks through the crowd of first-person shooters flooding Xbox Liveís roster to give Xbox owners a unquestionably stellar alternative to the FPS genre for online gaming that not even the mighty PS2 has yet to provide its owners.

- Lee Cieniawa

(November 25, 2003)


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