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Playstation 2






Sammy Studios



Asmik Ace Entertainment



T (Teen)



September 2003



- Fun, simplistic combat
- Nice customization options
- Two-player mode



- Pointless story and characterizations
- Landing missions
- Useless training mode



Review: Aero Elite: Combat Academy (Playstation 2)

Review: Aerowings 2 (Dreamcast)

Review: X-Wing Trilogy (PC)



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Lethal Skies II

Score: 7.1 / 10


Airplane combat sims used to frighten me. All of those crazy acronyms, numerical indicators, gigantic weaponry manuals full of obtuse terminology - more than enough reasons to keep away from them. Thankfully, overcomplicated games like this are usually confined to the PC, and console flight combat games are quite a bit easier to handle. Lethal Skies II from Sammy, despite looking a lot like an authentic flight sim at first glance, is actually an arcade-style shooter, even more than Namco's Ace Combat games. Think of it as an advanced evolution of After Burner and you'll be okay. While there's all sorts of aircraft and missiles that will at least keep the Air Force enthusiasts somewhat occupied, the game is mostly streamlined for any casual player.


lethal-skies-ii-1.jpg (11407 bytes)          lethal-skies-ii-2.jpg (18039 bytes)


Visually, the graphics are competent, though nothing special - at least they run smoothly most of the time, and the menu interface is awfully enthusiastic. Alas, the cornball pornrock soundtrack will probably grate on you after awhile, however. There are over 20 missions, with a few unlockable stages and alterable difficult levels. There's also plenty of different aircraft, ranging from the F-16 to A-10s, many of which are unlocked based on performance, so there's lots of reasons to keep playing. There's not a huge difference between the aircraft other than some vague differences in armament, speed and mobility, as they handle pretty similarly. There's also a nice option to customize your missiles, if you're into that sort of thing. Despite the wide range of options given to you, the default mission parameters are usually acceptable, and even let you turn off the G-force induced blackouts, just to make things that much easier. There's also a rather nifty two-player mode that can be used over the I-Link cable, although unfortunately no cooperative campaign mode is offered.





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Lethal Skies II tries to get you involved in its political plot, taking place in the nebulous video game everydate 20xx. However, the 

announcer sounds like he wished he were somewhere else, the writing discards some general rules of English grammar, and the attempts to personify your wingmen are pitiful at best, especially considering they aren't even given portraits.


The general gameplay is also pretty simple - either lock onto bad guys and press the "Fire" button when the game tells you 


to shoot a missile, or unleash your cannon at the handy little circle that leads in front of the enemy fighter craft. At the lower difficulty levels, your airplane can take quite a bit of punishment, but a moment of careless in the harder modes will result in death. You have a few wingmen in any given mission that are actually somewhat competent, so many times you won't even have to take the full burden yourself. While this is plenty of fun, it would get repetitive after awhile, so there's a fair mixture of air and ground based missions, but this is unfortunately where Lethal Skies II begins to falter a bit.


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The targeting indicator is quite fickle on the ground missions and often seems to disappear before you've visually confirmed something to shoot at. Even worse are the missions where you are confined to flying through a canyon - climb too high and you'll meet an invisible ceiling, which will most likely cause your fighter to spin out of control into the nearest surface.


The worst offenders are the landing missions. There's a mostly useless training mode that lets you practice a bit (though lacking the tutorial that it should) but when it comes to the actual missions, it's often difficult to align yourself just perfectly without crashing. It gets even worse when you have to pilot VTOLs (Vertical Take Off and Landing craft),
of which there are almost no instructions whatsoever. Considering that the rest of the game is far easier and all of the other gory flight details are dealt with a nice layer of abstraction, why did the developers choose to make these tasks so difficult?


These are annoying because these are mostly isolated incidents - the core gameplay is actually reasonably well done. So if you can deal with the occasional frustrating roadblocks you'll face, then Lethal Skies II will probably be a somewhat enjoyable, if not particularly engaging, way to waste a few afternoons, even if you can't tell a MIG29 from an A-10.


- Kurt Kalata

(October 20, 2003)

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