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Crimson Skies Preview

Ben_Silverman By:
PUBLISHER Microsoft 
T Contains Animated Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco

What do these ratings mean?

Fly the not-so-friendly skies!

Like most relatively normal gamers, I have an avid disregard for hardcore simulations. When I see the words 'flight sim' included in the mention of a new game, my eyes glaze over and I suddenly get really tired. Visions of 200-page game manuals overflowing with words like "aileron" and "induced drag" cloud my fragile gamer's head, prompting my eyelids to grow heavy and my daydreaming to reach new heights. Piloting a Harrier sounds like fun, but not on my computer. Learning to land a 737 at LAX could prove useful in a made-for-tv movie crisis, but that doesn't make it a good game.

So what does makes a good game? How about frantic action, excellent control, tons of tricked out muscle planes, and a hefty dose of humor? Well, you'll find all that and more in Microsoft's upcoming flight "un'sim, Crimson Skies. Combining the best old-time Hollywood cliches with a brilliant game engine, Crimson Skies oozes fun and style out of every death-defying bank and roll.

Crimson Skies draws heavily from the board game and comics of the same name. It's America in the 1930's, though not the version described in the history books. It seems that the country is in turmoil due to economic strife and prohibition. Transportation systems decay, leaving the skies the only means of profit. You play the swashbuckling Nathan Zachary, leader of a gang of pirates with intentions to cash in on the chaos.

You'll fly 11 ridiculous aircraft over the course of 24 single player missions, each with various goals and objectives. In addition to the typical "shoot to kill" dogfights, you'll find yourself swerving inches from the top of a speeding train to rescue a damsel in distress, or pumping round after round into full-sized enemy zeppelins in the name of good piracy. The game plays like a top notch action movie.

The planes themselves look more like something out of Twisted Metal than Combat Flight Simulator, with spoilers, wings, flaps and all manner of propeller mishmashed into bizarre yet effective fighting machines. Outfitted with guns and missiles akimbo, you'll be hard pressed to run out of firepower.

With a fantastic balance of realism and arcade fun, Crimson Skies is the kind of game that was created for the gamer, not the grognard. The physics engine is reminiscent of Driver for the PSX; spot on in parts, but bending the rules in others to accommodate movie-quality moves and action sequences. While you do need to keep track of your throttle, you don't need to worry about cockamamie real-world flight dynamics. Just don't crash into anything and you'll be fine.

Tying this all together is a retro-hip swing soundtrack and hysterically accurate voice acting. If you've ever wondered what it was like to be Errol Flynn, here's your answer.

The game will feature full multiplayer support via the Zone, from one on one deathmatch to all-out squadron conflicts. You'll even be able to pilot the zeppelins.

There's no two ways about it - Crimson Skies is just a total blast. In addition to the hordes of enemy planes, I find myself fighting off the other GR editors to play more. At last, a flight game for gamers!

Air pirates rejoice! Crimson Skies is due out September 2000 for the PC.

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