Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge Review


Crimson Skies is an aerial action game set in an imaginative alternate world. In Crimson Skies' world, the United States split into separate nation states in the early Twentieth Century. It is now the 1930s and war between these new nations has so destroyed the transportation infrastructure that the only reliable means of transportation is air travel. As the people have taken to the skies, so have traders, freelancers, and pirates, making the skies a veritable free-for-all shootout. The world of Crimson Skies is a as much a 1930s view of the future as a 1930s alternate world. Art deco abounds, but so do gleaming steel skyscrapers and gigantic airships. Throw into the mix a healthy dose of Indiana Jones inspired characters and locations and you get one of the more unique settings ever to appear in a video game. In this alternate world of aircraft and zeppelins you are Nathan Zachary, an adventurer flyboy looking to the skies to rebuild the fortune he lost in the stock market crash of 1929. He's formed a group called the Fortune Hunters and together they seek financial gain through the raiding of pirates, gambling on aerial races, and taking on the occasional mercenary mission that comes their way.

Screenshots
The dangerous skies above Sea Haven look beautiful.

As Zachary you spend most of your time at the controls of your fighter plane. Crimson Skies is more of an aerial action game than a flight sim; the controls are easy to learn and you don't have to worry about stalling or even having to land your plane. For the most part your plane travels at a constant speed, but you can slow yourself by deploying airbrakes to make tighter turns and a turbo button will give you a short burst of speed when needed. The triggers fire your guns and a secondary weapon which varies depending on the type of plane that you are flying. That's pretty much all you need to know to fly your plane - the right stick can be used to perform advanced maneuvers like barrel rolls which are useful in a pinch, but you can certainly make it through the game without the need to use them.

Don't let the simple control scheme fool you, though, Crimson Skies is an exciting and often challenging game to play. Rather than take you through a sequential series of missions that follow the storyline, the game takes a less structured approach. In each of the locations that you visit during the course of the game, you are free to fly around and explore, taking on missions whenever you are ready for them. Missions are marked by special icons and all you need to do to begin one is to fly to the icon and press the X button. You'll receive a short briefing on the mission's goals and you are then you’re on your way. It's a very seamless way to launch you into the missions and it works well.  There are a variety of missions in the game, from escort to seek and destroy missions, and there are even some non-violent missions such as air races to test your flying skill. Most missions are accomplished from the controls of your plane, but you'll also have the opportunity at times to man anti-aircraft guns or control the defensive guns on zeppelins. There's a good deal of variety to the missions, and they're all exciting to play.

Failing a mission, either by failing to complete the goals or by getting yourself shot out of the sky, does not carry any consequences greater than making you start out in your zeppelin again. You’re free to retry missions until you get them right, and you can often switch to another mission before reattempting the one that you failed. There’s no replaying missions that you’ve already cleared or negative consequences to the storyline in Crimson Skies. If more games followed this model there’d be a lot fewer frustrated gamers out there.

Successfully completing a mission does more than advance the storyline – you can also collect cash bounties based on your performance. This cash can be used to repair your plane at shops and save yourself a trip back to base or as gambling money to make the races a little more interesting. The best thing that you can do with the cash though is to upgrade your plane, or even buy a new one.