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  • Platform: Xbox
  • ESRB: Teen
  • Genre: Flight Sim
  • Players: 1-4
  • Online: Yes
  • Developer: Microsoft
  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Suggested Retail: $49.99
  • Graphics: A
  • Sound: A
  • Gameplay: A
  • Replay: A
  • Fun Factor: A
  • Reviewer’s Wild Card: A


Defend and attack in this alternate history aerial adventure

By Troy Roberts     November 25, 2003

A year ago when Xbox Live! was released, there is no doubt that the main draw for gamers to pick up the online service was MECHASSAULT. The intense action and numerous gameplay selections made the game a smash hit and Microsoft is still reaping the benefits of its success. So, it's now a year later and Microsoft is trying to figure out how to keep all of their Xbox Live! customers subscribed for another year. Why not release another hot, intense action game, but this time in the air? Sounds like CRIMSON SKIES to me.

CRIMSON SKIES takes place in an alternate history, with the game taking place in 1930. During this history, the United States' railroads are torn about by wars between different governments that basically run what is left of the country. With no railroads to transfer goods, the country turns to the air to transport items. In CRIMSON SKIES, you take on the role of Nathan Zachary, a smooth talking pilot who leads a bunch of freelancers known as the Fortune Hunters. The main character in this game really has an INDIANA JONES type feel to him, so gamers will probably react pretty positively to this guy.

One thing about CRIMSON SKIES is that it is, somehow, much faster than MECHASSAULT. The action is more intense and the game doesn't sacrifice any in the single player game, although this is obviously a game that should be played online. CRIMSON SKIES is played along the lines of ROGUE SQUADRON, a mission-based flight simulator, with each mission having you do something different. Certain missions will have you being sent out to eliminate enemy squadrons, while other missions will have you defending a capital ship. And while there is a fair share of defense missions in the game, they're not as boring as they are in other games; the cap ships in this game can take a beating, leaving you free to engage the enemy fighters without having to check on the ship you're defending every second. The single player game is actually pretty long, clocking in at close to 10 hours.

The gameplay is fairly easy and, in no matter what mode you're playing, is

A screenshot from CRIMSON SKIES.

very fun. You have a special meter that can be drained by boosting your speed and performing stunts, but it recharges fairly quickly while not being used. You have two guns on your plane: The primary one has unlimited ammo, while the secondary one has limited ammo. The game also has a pretty good selection of planes to choose from. In multiplayer, you can select from all of them when you start, but in the single player game, you have to unlock the planes as you go along. Each plane is completely different, with a different assortment of weaponry and strengths and weaknesses.

Of course, CRIMSON SKIES really shines in the multiplayer mode. Up to 16 players can compete in six different gameplay modes on five different maps. There are two types of dogfight modes, and keep away is a mode where you have to get a certain item and hold onto it for a certain amount of time. But the most interesting mode is a capture the flag type mode. I love it in first-person shooters so it only makes sense that I would love it here. While there is some lag in multiplayer games, it isn't enough to make the game unplayable.

The game also looks great, with the textures of both the ships and backgrounds looking really good. The firing effects from guns look very realistic as well, and a beautiful soundtrack lends itself quite well to the atmosphere of the game.

CRIMSON SKIES is an easy game to recommend to Xbox owners. If you have Xbox Live!, this is a must buy. And even if you don't, there is enough in the single player game to keep you busy for quite some time.


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