View Thread : Crimson Skies

I just got Crimson Skies (with that great TRU 'buy two get on free' deal) and although I haven't had time to play it yet (Enterprise is on), I've heard great things about it and was hoping that one of yous was going to get it so that we could get some Live matches started.

A Black Falcon
So is it anything at all like the awesome action/sim released on the PC a few years back? I doubt it... it looks like a pure action/arcade flyer now. :(

This is pretty much a whole new game. Entirely new graphics engine, new levels, and a slightly more arcadey design. It's certainly nowhere near as arcadey as the Rogue Squadron games and it's really not that much different from the PC version (which was very arcadey for a PC flight game), but it's still straigh-up fun. Having played a lot of the PC version this one definitely beats it in every category.

A Black Falcon
Thought it was like that... true, Crimson Skies is an arcadish flight game. That's why I liked it, really... arcadish enough to be approachable and fun, yet simmish enough to have good depth. Sort of like TIE Fighter, except somewhat less complex (though you have to worry about running into the ground... :)). I know the hardcore flight sims are quality games, but they are just so unnaprocable and complex that I doubt I could ever get good at them... not worth that kind of effort, IMO.

The flight model is very similar to the PC version, just a whole lot smoother.

A Black Falcon
I've heard its quite a bit more arcadish...

In some ways it is. But there's really not a huge difference from the PC version which was already very arcadey. The flight can get quite complex what with the dozens of special moves that you can perform (which serve an actual purpose in combat other than looking really cool). They took just about everything that made the PC version good and threw away everything that brought it down a bit (you have to admit that the PC version was very flawed), then polished the hell out of it. That is why the X-Box version has a higher average rating than the PC version. See for yourself. (

And just look at Gamespot's two reviews for the two different versions:


score: 7.7

Occasionally, games defy genre classification. That's the case with Crimson Skies, which could be called a flight sim, an action game, and at some points even an adventure. While games that mix genres often turn out badly, Crimson Skies takes the most interesting aspects of each of its source genres and puts them together into a fresh, original concept that has plenty of style. In fact, playing Crimson Skies can be so much fun that it'll remind you of why computer games were probably invented in the first place: to create absorbing, imaginative, alternate worlds to escape to. Unfortunately, the game is also a reminder of how easily technical problems can defeat a promising design.

Crimson Skies takes place in an alternate past in which the Great Depression caused the United States to break up into a host of regional fiefdoms engaged in constant skirmishing. Faced with the breakdown of the railway system, these nations were forced to rely on aircraft for commerce, and the skies soon became crowded with passenger and cargo traffic. As airborne trade grew, so did the menace of "air pirates." Crimson Skies takes you through the exploits of one such buccaneer, Nathan Zachary, as he and his cohorts gradually turn from being aerial bandits into public heroes. Along the way you'll meet the other denizens of the Crimson Skies universe, including rival pirates like Ulysses Boothe and several of Zachary's former love interests. It's a very rich and well-developed universe.

The world of Crimson Skies is actually based on the popular board game from FASA (now part of Microsoft), and it's a loud, brash place. Microsoft and developer Zipper Interactive have done a great job of creating an atmosphere for Crimson Skies that's similar to 1930s pulp fiction, between all the game's daring exploits and its emphasis on adventure instead of pure violence. While Crimson Skies is ultimately a game about air combat, it's structured so that the focus is just as much on daredevil flying as it is on shooting the other guys down. To this end, you can even set up instant-action missions where the objective is stunt flying.

In keeping with Crimson Skies' imaginative setting, the flight models for the various aircraft are extremely forgiving. The planes allow for flashy acrobatic maneuvers without your having to worry about concomitant airspeed, stall, and lift issues that are at the heart of any true flight simulation. For example, while a Crimson Skies plane does lose a bit of lift when flying at a 90-degree bank, turning the rudder at that attitude will send the aircraft climbing with ease (or diving, depending on which way you turn the rudder). The wide variety of bizarre aircraft designs is a big part of the game - you can even customize your own - and these all have varying speed and maneuverability characteristics. But all the aircraft you can fly share certain things in common that relieve you of having to worry about such things as deciding whether you have enough airspeed for a loop. All the planes are tremendously overpowered: No matter which plane you fly, you'll be able to climb, dive, and turn with impunity.

The result is that you can pretty much dive into the action without having to worry too much about the more demanding details of flight, and instead just focus on the basics - like where the ground is or if you're about to hit a mountain. The game's emphasis is on fast, furious air combat and performing difficult maneuvers. There are "danger zones" in most scenarios, such as bridges or tunnels or some other restricted space underneath some obstacle. Successfully flying through such a zone will shake a pursuer, and in the campaign it will yield a "snapshot" for the photo album/scrapbook that documents all your triumphs. This running archive of your feats of skill is a clever way of personalizing what is essentially a fixed, linear story.

Crimson Skies has a 24-mission campaign that tells the story of Nathan Zachary and his band of pirate aces as they go from Hawaii to Hollywood to Manhattan in search of fame and fortune. The campaign is where the Crimson Skies universe really comes alive and the skill of the production team comes through. Each mission is preceded by a map-screen briefing with voice-over by Nathan Zachary, in addition to plenty of dialogue supplied by his cohorts. The voice acting is simply outstanding and among the best you'll find in a computer game. Both the story and the voices are sufficiently campy for the pulp-novel atmosphere, but they also mimic the style of the time so well without crossing the line into parody that you can't help but be impressed.

The game's graphics are excellent throughout, and they feature wonderful landscapes and clean, crisp aircraft models. The colors are bright, and the effect is in keeping with the story, as it all seems larger than life. Crimson Skies uses the variety of locales to keep the gameplay fresh, and when combined with the story, it's enough to push you through the game without ever slowing down.

The missions are a combination of combat and derring-do. As you progress through a mission, you'll generally be instructed to do something that wasn't in the original mission briefing, as unexpected, scripted events arise. And performing a dangerous maneuver will elicit a comment from your wingmen. The only problem with the campaign is that it's completely linear, so each mission will play exactly the same when repeated. This can become a bit tiresome the fifth time through a mission if you're having difficulty with a particular objective, because you'll hear all the same dialogue each time. Your wingmen serve more as running commentators than actual support, since they can't be given orders and are more useful in alerting you to threats than in dealing with them. This is all in keeping with Crimson Skies' focus on action.

The game's multiplayer mode includes deathmatch, capture the flag, and zeppelin-to-zeppelin combat, and it is supported on the MSN Gaming Zone in addition to being playable over TCP/IP, IPX, and direct serial connections. The only thing that's really missing is the option to cooperatively play missions from the campaign.

If the preceding descriptions were all that could be said about Crimson Skies, then it would be a truly outstanding game. Unfortunately, in keeping with the disturbing trend in which games are released prematurely and later patched after they're already available, Crimson Skies seems as if it were taken away from a quality assurance team much too soon. The game has many serious problems with its loading times and its stability, although the actual in-mission gameplay itself is fairly stable and smooth. The problems emerge in between the actual missions, where an apparent memory leak can often slow menu selection to a crawl. Transitions between game screens are also painfully slow and prone to freezing and crashing. According to Crimson Skies message-board postings, some players have managed to avoid these problems, but many others weren't so lucky - and all these bugs affected several of GameSpot's test systems running the game. As a result, it's impossible to wholeheartedly recommend the game unless Microsoft addresses its problems. It's unfortunate when a fundamentally good game such as Crimson Skies is marred by persistent crash bugs that affect each game session.

However, the worst bug in the game is its tendency to spontaneously delete saved games. Crimson Skies saves your games under your pilot's name (you can create more than one pilot) and keeps track of how far you've gone in the campaign, so if you finish the fifth mission, you just later load that pilot's campaign and you get the briefing for the sixth. Incredibly, the game sometimes just seems to delete these, forcing you to start all over with no chance of recovery. As such, playing the campaign seems like a game of Russian roulette - you may or may not make it all the way to the end, regardless of your skill.

Crimson Skies does an excellent job of taking the elements of flight simulations that have broad appeal - the shooting and the fancy flying - and embellishing them with a great environment and a good story. And it does all this in a slick and attractive way that makes even its corniest moments appealing. So unfortunately, its technical problems end up taking away from what's one of the most stylish games in years. If a patch were to resolve its various bugs, then Crimson Skies would be very easy to recommend - but until then, buy it at your own risk.


score: 8.9

While Xbox Live launched alongside several solid online games, the one that really stood out as a winner, almost immediately, was Microsoft's giant robot shooter, MechAssault. The hot action, combined with some nice mode selections (which were only enhanced over time as downloadable content was released) made the game a smash hit. Now, nearly one year later, Microsoft is in the position of doing what it can to keep the service's initial subscribers onboard for another year of Xbox Live. So what better way to do it than with another great online shooter? Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge takes the hot action to the skies for some furious dogfighting, and it does so with the same brand of pick-up-and-play as MechAssault. However, Crimson Skies does it at an even faster, more exciting pace, and does so without sacrificing the quality of the single-player game.

While playing the game online almost makes the single-player seem insignificant by comparison, the game's single-player campaign is very well done. The game is the same sort of mission-based flight simulator that you'd expect from a Wing Commander or Star Wars Rogue Squadron, but its structure and design is a bit different--and better. When it comes to this sort of mission-driven simulator, one level-type almost always brings the game to a halt: the defense/escort mission. Let's face the facts. Defending a large, sitting duck of a capital ship simply isn't as much fun as raiding enemy encampments or dogfighting with smaller targets. Crimson Skies has its fair share of defense missions, where you'll be protecting zeppelins or encampments from incoming attackers, but the game handles these missions pretty well. Rather than requiring you to baby-sit your zeppelin to prevent it from exploding, the targets you're defending tend to be fairly tough. Therefore they can stand up to some punishment, allowing you to go off and dogfight against enemy planes without having to always keep both eyes on your prize. Though these missions still aren't quite as fun as, say, the level where you man the gun turret on a moving truck and blow planes out of the sky while also destroying several airplane hangars, this slightly easier take on the formula really makes all the difference in the world, and it prevents you from having to meticulously play the game's escort missions to proceed.

The campaign is broken up into areas, and you'll often have more than one mission at your disposal, though only one path of missions takes you to the game's next plot point; the rest are just for show, letting you collect money that can be used for repairs or upgrades to your planes. The game's story takes place in an alternate version of the 1930s that saw the nation's railroads torn apart by wars between fiefdoms that run what's left of North America. With no railways to transport goods, society turns to the air, and large zeppelins are now used to move things from one place to another. This opens up the world to air piracy, and you play a pilot named Nathan Zachary, a smooth-talking Indiana Jones-type who leads a ragtag group of freelancers known as the "Fortune Hunters." After an opening cutscene in which Nathan steals back the plane he lost in a drunken poker game the previous evening, the game gets under way. The single-player campaign is of average length, clocking in at around 10 hours, but the game's optional missions and plane upgrades keep it interesting and fun.

Regardless of what mode you're playing, flying planes is already fun. The control is pretty streamlined, making it easy to learn, but there's definitely some depth to its gameplay. You can control your speed, to a certain extent, and you can also perform evasive maneuvers, like rolls and Immelman turns, with the right analog stick. Boosting your speed and performing stunts both drain your special meter, but it recharges quickly when it's not in use. You have a primary gun, with unlimited ammo, and a secondary weapon, with limited ammo, at your disposal, and some of the game's machines give you the ability to zoom in for a better shot. The game has a good collection of different planes. You can pick from them right off the bat in multiplayer, while in single-player you'll only be given the option to fly a plane, at will, once you've discovered it in one of the levels. You start out in a pretty strong plane, known as the devastator, but you'll earn the ability to fly plenty of other planes with a variety of machine guns, rockets, and railgun-style sniper shots. You'll even gain access to a gyrocopter that can stop completely in midair, which makes lining up those sniper shots a bit easier--at the expense of making you an extremely easy target.

As cool as the game's single-player section is, the online mode is where the real action is at. Up to 16 players can compete in six different games on five different multiplayer maps. Dogfight and team dogfight are simple shoot-'em-ups. Keep away is also available as a solo or team affair, and it works as a king of the hill game, where one player or team must collect and hold an item for a specified amount of time. Flag heist is your basic game of capture the flag, while wild chicken has the players chasing down a flying chicken for bonus points--in addition to trying to shoot each other out of the sky. Though standard free-for-alls are exciting, the capture-the-flag mode is the one that feels like it has the most depth. The game also has support for downloadable content. Though nothing is available at this time, it's pretty safe to assume that we'll eventually see more maps and/or modes added to the game.

The game works very well online, and though you may notice a slight lag between the time you touch an item and the time the game registers you as having picked that item up, this doesn't happen on every server and doesn't get in the way of the action at all. Crimson Skies contains all of the player-matching features you've come to expect from an Xbox Live game. It also lets you play along with one guest on your system in a split-screen, and it keeps a good ranking list that lets you know where you stand against the rest of the world's flyboys and girls. If online action isn't your bag, the game also has system link support and four-player split-screen capabilities, though, this form of multiplayer isn't necessarily as exciting or convenient.

Backing up all this great action is a fantastic graphical presentation. The game gives you a good, long draw distance, allowing you to see incoming planes from pretty far away. Additionally, the game gives you a good look at the lay of the land. The texture work is well done, and the plane models are just plain cool. This is especially true of the devastator, which looks like a biplane but has its propeller in the rear. The weapons look nice, particularly as bullets are flying through the air, but it's the damage they do to their targets that makes them so impressive. The planes break up very nicely, as they're shot to pieces and set ablaze, and the explosions that finally send them down look really great. Smoke pours off of damaged planes, giving you an easy path to follow when you're tracking down an enemy. All the while, the game runs at a slick frame rate that keeps the action moving at a speedy pace. Owners of high-end TVs will find 480p support waiting for them.

The game's great music, along with Nathan Zachary's confident, lady-killing charm, gives the game a nice atmosphere that flies in the same airspace as the Indiana Jones series. That atmosphere is compounded and enhanced by the game's strong voice acting, which benefits from a well-written script. The game's sound, which supports Dolby Digital 5.1, really adds to the experience. The combat sounds great, and the planes all have individual engine sounds, but the little touches, like the way you hear air rushing past as you swoop around at regular speed, are what really drive the point home.

The awesome online mode and strong single-player segment combine to make Crimson Skies an easy game to recommend to Xbox Live subscribers, and the enclosed two-month free trial lets nonsubscribers give it a shot--free of charge. While it would certainly have been nice to see more multiplayer maps--right off the bat--the five levels and different modes included provide hours of excitement. If you needed to find a reason to stay connected to Xbox Live for another 12 months, look no further.

So don't just take my word for it. Read all of the reviews that you can find, and play the game for yourself. You'll eventually come to realize that the X-Box version is the better product.

A Black Falcon
Better... in some ways, quite possibly. But though Crimson Skies is certainly not a very simmish flying game, it sounds like its definitely more complex than the X-Box game, which is of course what I'd expect... that's not bad, just different. The question is, are they similar enough to directly compare like that?

It's much more of a sequel than it is a port. The gameplay is still similar but is done in a more streamlined, intuitive way on the X-Box. Kinda like how when Ion Storm ported Deus Ex over to the PS2 they had to change the entire interface to work with the PS2 controller, and what happened was that they came up with an interface and control scheme so perfect and intuitive that they decided to use a very similar one for DX 2 (both the X-Box and PC versions). Sometimes limitations are a good thing because it forces developers to come up with innovative ideas. In the case of Deus Ex and Crimson Skies, it worked wonderfully.

A Black Falcon
The biggest flaw, of course, is that Crimson Skies is a game made for a joystick. The X-Box one is for a gamepad. Big difference there... sims just don't work on gamepads... and flight games just aren't as fun. Nothing that can be done about it, though.

Yeah I know, too bad there aren't any X-Box joysticks out there!



And even if there weren't any joysticks available, the game still works wonderfully will the X-Box pad. Yes instead of holding a big joystick in your palm you're pushing a much smaller one with your thumb, but it still works very well.

A Black Falcon
Huh, I didn't know that they had a joystick... I knew Logitech had some PS2 pads, and a wheel for each platform, but not joysticks. Cool.

And while I admit that the most arcadish flying games (see: Rogue Squadron-level) are better on a gamepad... anything that is trying to be sim-style at all is far better on a joystick. No question. I don't know about this game, obviously, since MS isn't releasing it on PC. :(

I'm sure it would be better with a joystick, just as any fighting game is better with an arcade joystick and most racing games are better with a racing wheel. But they're just fine with regular controllers. Most of the time.

A Black Falcon
True, you can make do, since the games are designed to be okay with a gamepad... but I couldn't imagine playing even X-Wing on a gamepad. It'd stink so bad...

X-Wing, probably not. But Crimson Skies? Oh yes. Try it before you knock it, bubba.

A Black Falcon
Yeah, Crimson Skies on PC is more arcadish than X-Wing... and if I had an X-Box I'd definitely get this game. :)

You should get an X-Box so that we can have some Live matches.

A Black Falcon
If I could, I would...

Cheer up, Johnny. If you set your heart to it you can accomplish anything!