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Crimson Skies

Product: Crimson Skies
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: $39.99/£29.99
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

From the first moment that I set eyes on early screenshots from Crimson Skies I had a feeling that the game could turn out to be something special. The idea for the game has come from the FASA role-playing game of the same name and has you playing the part of Nathan Zachery a daredevil pirate.

The planes are faster, the engines are bigger, the guns are more powerful, and the women more beautiful. Welcome to the world of Crimson Skies… The year is 1937. The United States has shattered under the weight of the Great Depression, regional Prohibition and mounting isolationism. The transcontinental railroad and the budding highway system have become useless as they now cross hostile borders. Commerce and trade leave the ground as air travel -once a national obsession - now becomes a vital lifeline connecting allied countries.

Giant zeppelins crisscross the skies, carrying both passengers and cargo. It is a time of gunship diplomacy and airship piracy. It is the age of the fighter pilot and a time of daredevil adventure and sinister intrigue. It is the world of Crimson Skies…

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Fearless adventurers. Sinister plotters. Bloodthirsty sky-pirates. Militia heroes. From fearsome cutthroat "Marshal" Bill Redmann to heroic Charlotte "Charlie" Steele, from daredevil Loyle "Show-stopper" Crawford to the enigmatic Black Swan… these are some of the most prominent and dangerous pilots plying their deadly trade in the skies above fractured North America!

The skies above North America are dominated by all sizes of aircraft, from the nimble J2 Fury to the deadly Hughes Devastator. As distinctive as the pilots that fly them, these aircraft are flown in battle from the towering skyscrapers of the Empire State to the jeweled islands of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i.

With the collapse of the United States and the rise of aviation, many aircraft manufacturing firms have seized the opportunity inherent in chaos. Some have cast their lot with their home nations; others will sell to anyone with ready cash. Lockheed, Marquette, Hughes… these are just some of the movers and shakers in the world of Crimson Skies!

Are you hero enough to survive in this gripping and swashbuckling flight-adventure - from the minds that crafted the FASA roleplaying game?

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Enjoy an all-new experience in flight combat! Crimson Skies puts you in the cockpit for thrilling dogfights and aerial adventure. Use your cunning and skill to outwit the dastardly villians, and use the terrain around you to attain tactical superiority!
  • Become the ace of the skies with Crimson Skies' intuitive flying system! Easy to learn yet hard to master, Crimson Skies captures the true spirit of combat flying with an intuitive flying system, which will let you command the air with ease. The focus is on the art of dog fighting not the science of flying!

  • Grip the yoke tight as you fly low in completely interactive 3-D environments! Crimson Skies puts the emphasis on flying low and using it's faithfully rendered 1937 America landscape to your advantage. Follow the line of the Hollywood Hills as you swoop in for a daring raid on downtown LA, or hug the coastline and bank against a cliff wall to dodge the enemy dogging your six!

  • Dodge flak as you go Zeppelin to Zeppelin in on-line multiplayer combat! Crimson Skies comes fully multiplayer ready via the MSN Gaming Zone whether you want to go one on one with a friend or fly squadron on squadron with a group of your air pirate cronies.

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It's like a time machine, only better! You are immediately immersed in the world of Crimson Skies. Smell the leather of your bomber jacket as you become Nathan Zachary, a handsome and dashing air pirate, in an alternate 1937 America where gunship diplomacy and air piracy rule the day.
  • Blaze a name for yourself with hot lead in dozens of daredevil raids and aerial adventures! Over 24 high paced and intricately designed missions promise to enmesh you in the complex and engrossing story line of the Crimson Skies universe.

  • Immerse yourself in a fully interactive storyline in a gaming universe that captures the sweep and romance of 1930's America! Interact with dozens of denizens in the Crimson Skies world as the handsome and daring Nathan Zachary, notorious buccaneer and renowned ladies' man.

    Air chatter with friends and foes, cut-scenes, in-game animation sequences and a variety of dynamic mission objectives will help dedicated air pirates live and breath in the Crimson Skies world while engaging an array of fearless adventurers, sinister plotters, bloodthirsty sky-pirates and militia heroes.

    Along the way, gamers may run up against ace pilots like Paladin Blake, famous starlets such as Lana Cooper or deadly femme fatales like the Black Swan! But watch out, that girl you seduce tonight might be the deadly vixen gunning for you tomorrow...

  • Capture your daring aerial exploits in your very own personal scrapbook. Each mission in Crimson Skies comes jam packed with a sky-full of primary and secondary objectives. See how many snap shots and headlines you can grab in the course of your adventures via a personalizable memoir which captures your deeds in the game and the mementos from your many encounters...
Crimson Skies puts you in a world of bigger planes, badder guns -- and more beautiful women. All new fantasy planes, weapons and characters make this a flight experience you're unlikely to forget!
  • Swoop and soar in eleven exotic and specially fitted fighting planes! Fly everything from the nitrogen charged Whitley and Douglas Raven fighter-bomber to the buzzing and whirring air gyro to the latest Hughes Aircraft prototypes.

  • Dogfight dastardly villains for air supremacy and the spoils of air-commerce! Fight fast and low as you fly against some of the craftiest pilots ever to grab a yolk. The goal of the game is air piracy as you play the role of Nathan Zachary, the handsome and dashing leader of the notorious air pirates, the Fortune Hunters.

  • Snatch the super secret prototype to add to your aerial arsenal! As the daring commander of an air pirate wing, you need to constantly be on the lookout for new fighter designs to steal and reverse-engineer. Listen closely to the air chatter and don't forget to ask about any rumors floating around the pilot community regarding the latest advances from Crimson Skies' many industrial titans.

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Installation And Settings

Crimson Skies comes on just the single CD and is just as easy to install as you would expect. There are a couple of installation options where you can decide on the size of the installation you want to use. I went with the full installation.

The Gameplay

The best way to describe the gameplay in Crimson Skies is to class it as a shoot-em-up in the same genre as StarLancer. You play the part of Nathan Zackery an ace pilot who flies with a group of pirates and the captured zeppelin called the Pandora.

The game begins in the sunny surroundings of Hawaii where you start out searching some old ruins for treasure before running into some British enemies. The game manages to take you through Hollywood, the Pacific Northwest and the dark streets of Manhattan in the conclusion to the game.

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The basic premise of Crimson Skies is as follows, you start out with a mission briefing before taking flight (without needing to take off thankfully). When in the air the mission objectives are always displayed thanks to a spyglass that follows your enemies/objectives around the screen as you fly around. Objectives range from flying over ancient ruins to taking out large scale zeppelins or hidden fortresses in the sky.

The further you get into the game the more access to different aircraft you get, I believe there are over 11 different types that you can end up flying. The more advanced players can construct their own type of plane by changing airframes, engines, armor, guns, hard points and paint colors.

The game not only has the full 24 mission campaign to play but also has instant action and multiplayer games to take part in. The instant action allows you to pick a certain type of mission you would like to take part in. You can either pick a mission to fly or start to create one yourself which can be great fun. Multiplayer can be played either over the MSN Gaming Zone, Via a LAN IPX, LAN TCP/IP or via the internet or modem to modem connections.

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Multiplayer games are as follows:

Capture The Flag: Take a flag from your oppositions base and then get it back to yours.
Deathmatch: The player with the most kills wins the game.
Zeppelin Vs Zeppelin: Protect your zeppelin while trying to destroy the oppositions zeppelin.

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I have played a number of multiplayer games over the internet with friends and this part of Crimson Skies is one of the least fun areas which really does surprise me. There tends to be a high chance of crashes (computer ones, not plane ones), one bug that can wipe out your single player saved games (fixed in a recent patch) and there isn't as many multiplayer gaming options as I would have liked to have seen, such as being able to play the campaign through with fellow pilots via the zone or suchlike.

Graphics, Sound & Music

Crimson Skies uses an enhanced version of the Mechwarrior 3 engine, although you wouldn't know it to look at the graphics as they are now. The flying is smooth and planes, zeppelins and ground details are well designed and great to look at. There are also many small bits and pieces in the game that really enhance the atmosphere such as small cars driving on the roads and cloud effects. The explosions are also great and there seem to be many different types of plane destructions that are available in Crimson Skies.

There are problems though, the game seems to suffer from lots of slowdowns not due to the graphic engine as such, but more to do with large memory leaks causing the game to lock or slow to a lower frame rate than it really should do. Hopefully these will get fixed in a later patch.

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The sound in Crimson Skies is one of the major plus points in the game, it is superb throughout. The radio chatter is almost constant all the way through the game and nearly all of it is perfectly spoken by the voice actors, especially the hero Nathan Zackery who is great in the main role "When you hit the ground, tell them Nathan Zackery sent you". There are so many great one-liners in the game that stand out everything from the plane sounds to the sounds of a moving train are all wonderfully done and executed.

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Originality: 91%
Gameplay: 92%
Story: 90%
Graphics: 91%
Cutscenes: 89%
Sound: 92%
Music: 80%
Manual: 80%
Interface: 87%
Multiplayer: 78%
Overall: 85%


Crimson Skies is an immensely fun game to play through in both single player and multiplayer games. The graphics are great and the settings are imaginative enough to keep players enthralled from beginning to end. The only let down to this almost great game is the amount of bugs it has shipped with and that is a real disappointment that I hope gets fixed with upcoming patches as the game really can shine when it works as well as it should.


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Specs & Package
Overall Score 85%
Version Reviewed US Version 1.1
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 CD
1 Manual
The Good Points Excellent Graphics
Great Sound & Music
Fun Gameplay
Long Lasting
The Bad Points Quite Buggy
Big Memory Leaks
Multiplayer Not As Good As It Could Be
Awfully Slow Menus
Similar To StarLancer
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows Me
128 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7.1a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD-ROM: Toshiba SD-1202

PC Required Windows 95/98/ME Or Win 2000
Pentium 266mhz
32 mb ram
4x cd rom Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 8mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
450 mb free hard drive space


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