Crimson Skies offers players the chance to pilot a variety of 1930's inspired aircraft through some wild missions. The simplified control scheme allows you to jump right into the action and focus on shooting down opposing planes. Successfully completing missions unlocks additional craft upgrades and new missions. You can also battle against other pilots in vicious dogfights using Xbox Live. Crimson Skies' graphics are outstanding, with detailed environments and smooth frame rates creating an incredibly realistic sense of flight. Crimson Skies' excellent design evokes the period effectively, with an interesting plot and characters that give the game a nice pulp-action feel. This approach definitely gives Crimson Skies a unique feel that's more sophisticated than most other console titles. However, the addictive gameplay, and simple controls should give it a broad appeal that makes Crimson Skies soar above other flying titles.
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge takes place in an alternative past when the United States split apart into small nation-states after the end of World War I. In the game's world, states have split into different nations and they're warring with each other. Along with these small nations' rise to power, the emergence of air power predominated as they took to the skies in order to gain dominance of the world. Against this backdrop, a new wave of air-piracy also emerged, as bands of outlaws competed against one another for their slice of the pie. Crimson Skies protagonist is one Nathan Zachary, an accomplished and somewhat crusty swashbuckling air-pirate who leads a group of misfits and bandits known as the Fortune Hunters. The game places you in his shoes as you try to defeat an onslaught of enemy pirates while trying to discover the mystery surrounding the death of Nathan's friend, Doctor Fassenbeinder. Along the way, you'll meet a variety of other characters including Big John, Nathan's love interest Betty and a bevy of bad guys from the competing nations. Crimson Skies' backstory and plot unfold in elaborate cut-scenes between missions that are quite effective in establishing the characters' motivations while moving the plot forward at a good pace.
Crimson Skies' gameplay emphasizes action, and this arcade shooting approach means you don't have to spend a lot of time learning how to fly the planes. The game's intuitive controls are easy to learn, yet offer plenty of maneuverability that allows you to dodge enemy fire or challenge foes head-on. There are many types of planes that can be unlocked by completing missions, buying upgrades, or switching during missions. Once you have earned a plane, you'll find it in your hangar at the Pandora, and can then use it for any mission. Each plane has a unique flight style and different primary and secondary weapons. This gives Crimson Skies a thrilling visceral feel that few other games can match. Once you're in the cockpit, you'll find that controlling the planes is surprisingly simple. Flying uses the left analog stick, while you can perform special moves by pressing down on the right stick. This system is easy to understand and most players should have little trouble performing basic maneuvers, while even more advanced special moves such as barrel-rolls aren't that difficult to perform. You can also receive a quick burst of speed by using the turbo, but this is limited. However, it regains strength automatically. Firing on enemies requires a little bit of skill, with the trick being to anticipate where they're heading. Planes have a limited amount of ammo, but you can pick up more by catching parachutes after you down enemy fighters. Standard planes abound, but you'll also face giant Zeppelins and ground based gun turrets. When you take too much damage, you can repair your ship by collecting repair kits your opponents drop when defeated, or by flying into the garage, which fixes and accumulated damage and also restocks your ships' weapons.
Crimson Skies' mission structure is non-linear and lets you play the game on any path that you choose. While the main missions unlock sequentially, other missions can be played at any time. This gives you a great deal of freedom and also lets you choose to complete a variety of side missions where you can increase your bank account and earn extra upgrade wings. These challenges usually involve racing against a rival, and allow you to bet various amounts of money on the outcome of the race. While the majority of the gameplay revolves around flying, there are also many points where Nathan can jump out of his plane and take control a fixed gun encampment. During these sequences, you can jump to different gun turrets on a ship. Each turret has a different type of weapon ranging from machine guns to sniper rifles. During these sequences, you can select from a standard viewpoint or zoom in to increase your shots' accuracy for faster kills. These ground-based missions offer a welcome change of pace without slowing down the action. Each mission has many different objectives that need to be completed. There are 20 missions in the game, and they can take awhile to complete. However, players can automatically restart the missions from the last checkpoint passed when they're shot down. This eliminates something that could have been quite frustrating. What's impressive about Crimson Skies' mission structure is that it allows you to complete each individual mission in a variety of ways - it doesn't matter if you shoot the planes down from the air or the ground, as long as the end-result is the same. This definitely adds to the challenge as you try and find the best way to complete each mission. Once you have finished a mission, you can return to your base ship, the Pandora Zeppelin. Here, you can purchase upgrades to your plane, select a different plane, interact with other members of the Fortune Hunters to gain information, save your progress and change the control options. The game's open-ended approach gives players a strong sense of freedom, yet Crimson Skies' strong plot line provides players with strong motivation that propels them to keep pushing forward.
Crimson Skies' brilliantly designed single-player campaign is excellent and provides exciting and intense gameplay. However, the robust multiplayer modes are another area where Crimson Skies shines. Players can either compete against each other using a split screen, a Lan connection or by Using the Xbox Live service. Crimson Skies includes can six different online modes that support up to 16 players simultaneously including Dogfight and Team Dogfight modes. The objective in these Dogfight modes is to shoot as many opponents down as possible - either in free-for-all mode or in teams. Other modes include Flag Heist, where you have to capture the other team's flag and bring it back to your base, There's also a Team Accumulate mode, where you have to hold onto an object longer than the other team. In Keep Away, the object is to hold onto an artifact as long as possible, but the other pilots are trying to grab it away from you. These online modes offer a good selection of team and competitive game. Logging on and signing up is a simple process, and the addictive gameplay offers speedy action with little in the way of lag or slowdown. Connecting online also allows you to download extra content such as extra maps, planes and even new online modes. These online modes are an excellent addition for Crimson Skies, allowing you to put your flying skills on the line against other players worldwide.
The overall look and design of Crimson Skies is beautiful and another testament to the Xbox console's power. The ship designs are detailed yet authentic and definitely evoke the feel of the 1930's with convincingly authentic bi-plane designs. There's a lot of variety in the ships, ranging from standard bi-planes to massive zeppelins and even some slick looking retro-copters, and the ships gain new looks and features as you upgrade them. Crimson Skies definitely puts you in that time, though there are touches such as double wings and super-weapons that give things a fantastic edge. Crimson Skies most impressive feature is its expansive environments that offer players a great sense of freedom. These range from a beautiful pacific island that's been turned into a pirate outpost, to richly detailed art-deco urban locales. The game's levels showcase plenty of attention to detail, and offer a convincing sense of scale. The highly polished environments feature beautiful water that feels real, massive explosions and other special effects that add to an already impressive presentation. Most importantly, the game offers a convincing sense of flight, with smooth frame-rates and long draw-in distances that make you feel like you're actually in the air. Crimson Skies' intense action is complimented with a perfectly composed score is full of old-move heroic flourish that fits the adventurous, pulpy feel of the game perfectly. Helping even more is the fact that Crimson Skies' story development and voice acting are exceptional. Their motivations are clearly defined and these appealing characters draw you right into the story. The developers have created an alternative universe that allows them to add modern touches that evolve the old technology. For example, the ships have machine guns and missiles, but the characters don't have cel-phones, so the alternate reality doesn't feel contrived. Because of this consistency, Crimson Skies hits all the right aesthetic notes, and smartly recreates the spirit of classic pulp films from that era without feeing corny.
Crimson Skies is an excellent title that offers players a lot of action, without bogging them down with excessive flight controls. The intuitive flight-controls are easy to get the hang of, allowing you to concentrate on the battles themselves. This instantly accessible gameplay offers plenty of challenge and variety in both air and ground-based missions. The non-linear structure allows a great deal of freedom, while still keeping players on the correct path. From an aesthetic standpoint, the game's robust graphics engine is impressive, with smooth frame rates, impressive ship designs and beautiful environmental effects set against an evocative 1930's veneer. This makes for an exciting game and Crimson Skies' plot and characters fit the locale perfectly, with an appealing set of protagonists and an interesting story that provides strong motivation throughout. Finally, Crimson Skies' excellent online modes are addictive and challenging, adding more replay value to an already entertaining title. Crimson Skies is an excellent Xbox title that should appeal to a broad audience. The game's back-to-basics approach, excellent design, challenging missions and impressive production values make for an excellent title that's highly recommended for anyone who's ever wanted to experience the danger and romance of being an outlaw fighter pilot