Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate's life for me.
Okay, when I say pirates, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Chances are, you just pictured the skull and crossbones, some dude that looks like Captain Hook, or even that drunk guy hanging out with a pig in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. But what if the path of history took a different course and pirates turned out to be smooth talking, fearless warriors of the air rather than liquor-guzzling sea ruffians? Well, Microsoft and Zipper Interactive have imagined just that and cranked out a game worthy of an old Hollywood studio.
It is a world of gutsy pilots and high adventure. The Great Depression has struck, destroying the progress of all ground transportation, leaving the skies to serve as the ultimate roadway of the future. Here, survival means gripping the flight stick of a tricked-out muscle plane and letting your guns do the talking. Fly or die with the guys and dolls of Crimson Skies.
Crimson Skies is a beautiful, guns-blazing, lip-biting, heart-pounding flight action game. Packed with plenty of attitude, the game's combination of sim elements and arcade hijinks sets it apart from the rest of the field
One of Crimson Skies' biggest assets is the universe that it is set in. Starting off as an air-combat based board game, the world of Crimson Skies is intricately detailed and well chronicled. Everything about the game, from the characters to the movies to the sound, simply screams romantic era 1930's America.
You are Nathan Zachary, the heroic Robin Hood of the skies. With your band of merry men and women known as the Fortune Hunters, you'll fly over 24 missions to defend justice, honor, and a fat wallet. I mean, what is piracy without a little booty here and there?
The FMV cut scenes lend a hand in creating the tone of the game by taking on feel of watching an old feature film from Hollywood's early days. Run in black and white with all the static of the old films, these movie sequences are like something out of a History Channel documentary.
With all this good stuff going for it, the only thing that could shoot down this game would be bad gameplay. Fortunately, gameplay is where Crimson Skies truly soars. In much the same way as the Playstaion smash hit Driver, the game does a marvelous balancing act between flight sim realism and in-your-face, frantic action. Players can jump into the thick of things without reading volumes upon volumes of flight manuals. While you don't need to boggle your mind with thoughts of ailerons and HUD's, you do need to watch out for engine stalls and that pesky gravity, which will cancel your flight faster than a rogue hurricane off the Florida coast. This is definitely a game for gamers, not flight school wannabes.
As if all this goodness isn't enough, the Crimson Skies crew keeps it coming. The game runs on a tweaked version of the Combat Flight Sim engine to bring you some superior visuals. The graphics are excellent, with smooth textures and plenty of details everywhere. You'll see your plane take damage and catch fire when the action gets hot and heavy, witness wing flaps move as your plane changes directions, and delight as stray shots hitting the water send splashes skyward.
As you progress through the missions, you'll gain money that can be put towards the purchase of your very own custom plane. We're not just talking about a new coat of paint, we're talking about a choice of engine, armor, style and payload. Of course, your new frame must be able to support the weight of it all, so don't get too carried away.
For those of you that just want to jump into the fray without any of this "story" business, Crimson Skies also includes an Instant Action mode. Want to dogfight a squadron of enemy fighters? No problem. Try to hijack a zeppelin? You got it. If time is short or you just feel like blowing stuff up, this mode has what it takes to fulfill all your piratical needs.
The game's music also immerses you completely in a 1930's mindset with authentic sounding swing music. The Grade-A voice acting is terrific as well. Pilots banter through battles and give your friends and foes more personality than any computer controlled character ever deserved.
The loading times for each mission are extensive. Mission briefings build up some anticipation for the action to come, but the amount time it takes for the mission to load will inevitably shorten your adrenaline rush.
The learning curve also poses a problem for any would-be hero. You'll go through the first dozen or so missions without too much trouble, bu then all of the sudden your flying and dogfighting skills will be pushed to the max. This is definitely a challenge for some and a catastrophe for others.
It is also important to note that as I was playing this wonderful game, a few problems popped up that may or may not be addressed in your own boxed copy. I had progressed through sixteen missions only to lose my save game file upon attempting to join a multi-player game. Also, while some people were able to get the multi player working with no problems, I was unable to join or even host my own game. Thankfully, the saved game problem has been addressed and fixed in the latest patch, so make sure you pick that one up.
When all is said and done, Crimson Skies turns out to be one hell of an action game. Take a combination of realism and arcade action, add a large helping of 1930's romantic attitude and a healthy dose of humor, and you've got all the pirate treasure you'll ever need.