Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4617)
Written on  :  Jan 10, 2002

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful

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A lot of fun, a lot of shooting, but the stunt flying parts can leave you frustrated

The Good

The atmosphere is perfect. Instead of fancy schmancy video briefing, Zipper wisely substituted a map with some animated icons and some photos with excellent voice acting instead. It makes you feel right in an old-fashioned radio show. Most of the movies are there in that brownish color of old movies complete with white streaks... even more authentic. You get a LOT of souvenirs from each mission, and there are plenty of enemies to shoot and planes to build or customize.

The Bad

One of the ways you "earn fame" is by stunt flying, and that means you have to fly through tight space that no one else would DARE fly into. Can you imagine taking a plane and fly through a TRAIN TUNNEL? How about fly through the arcs of a bridge, following the traffic lanes? THROUGH a hangar UNDER the zepplin already inside? If you have a steady hand this can be quite entertaining, but unfortunately I never was a very "precise" person and stunt flying proved to be extremely frustrating for me. I can kill enemy planes with no problem. It's these stunt tasks that had me completely beaten. At least the game lets you skip the mission if you failed it 3 times in a row.

The Bottom Line

Crimson Skies is a "lite" sim that dropped most of the flight model in favor of "fun", and it is a lot of fun.

Set in an alternate 1930's when the United States no longer exists. Due to the Great War, the Stock Market Crash, and the influenza epidemic, the country had broken up into multiple nations that rely on air travel, with planes and blimps replacing rail and cars as the ultimate means of transportation. Blimps can launch and recover aircrafts with landing hooks, thus allowing them plenty of range. Pirates raid commercial blimps, and mercenary airforces are often contracted to provide protection. You play Nathan Zachary, a "notorious" air pirate and noted ladies' man.

The game is your typical Wing Commander-style presentation. You see a movie to start you off in the right mood, then you're left in your "stateroom", where you have the choice of reviewing your missions, contract a new custom plane built for you (which costs money), go onto next mission, and a very nice touch: change the "momento" on your desk, which is a picture frame that contains a lot of pictures of pretty women and even your dog. As you go on more missions, you can get more pictures as keepsakes.

When you select "next mission", you get to mission briefing, which is a map with some movie icons and markings, with some pictures of notable persons or events, and a full voice narration between your persona and the rest of his "gang".

Once that's done, you can choose your plane and outfit it with the appropriate ammo. You can choose from multiple types of ammo from slug to explosive. You can also choose different types of rockets for your "hardpoints". Sorry, no guided missiles in 1930's (yet).

Then you watch an in-game cutscene of your blimp, the Pandora, and your plane inside being spun up for launch. You can choose from three different viewpoints: in-cockpit, no cockpit, or behind-plane. Most people will probably choose behind-plane as it makes stunt-flying a little easier.

The objectives will vary a lot, but mostly it involves shooting down enemy planes that attack, and sometimes it involves hijacking other planes, picking up people from trains, and more. There are even a few blimp-busting missions where you have to kill enemy blimps by hitting them when their gunports are open, or by killing their engines so they can be captured. There are even some ground attack missions where you need to take out enemy boats, ships, bases, etc.

Most of the missions are nicely designed, but quite a few have strict time-limits. If you don't kill of all the enemies in the alloted time you can't fulfill your objective, esp. on the escort missions. With some practice, it's easy enough, but the really frustrating points are the stunts.

As mentioned previously, you get souvenirs from each and every mission. In each mission there are certain stunts you can perform, mainly by flying through impossibly tight spaces like tunnels, hangars, and such. You'll hear a "camera shutter" sound, and get an extra photo for your scrapbook. However, some of the missions REQUIRE you to perform the stunts, and those can be pretty frustrating, as ANY mistake would virtually require you to start ALL OVER. Can you imagine flying through EACH of the O's in the famous HOLLYWOOD sign? You need a VERY steady hand.

However, do not despair. The game allows you to skip any mission if you fail it three times in a row.

The game has a LOT of atmosphere and is a lot of fun to play, except for the frustration levels of stunt flying and some of these "kill them faster" missions. Zipper should be commended for creating such a fine product. I just wish they would have left the stunt flying to be completely optional.