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  Release Date:
  August 27, 2003
  Microsoft Game Studios
  FASA Studio
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Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
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It seemed the odds were against us. Within seconds, a squadron of Dopplegangers, Bulldogs and Piranha-class aircraft would arrive on our territory. Their only purpose: to wipe us out of existence. This wasn't going to be a picnic in the park. Our unit consisted of a dozen hand-picked pilots. Most of which were still wet behind the ears, fresh out of the academy. I couldn't shake the possibility that some of them might not be coming home.

At least we had the Coyote, piloted by Jake Logan, perhaps the most remarkable pilot among the entire air force. I could see the perimeter just up ahead and my wingmen broke formation, preparing to commence the attack on my order. There wasn't any time for self-doubt. Either we'd all pull through this together, or the enemy would be sending us to our graves.

It looks like we were about to find out...

If Halo is to be considered the pinnacle of first-person shooters, then Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge definitely has set the standard for console flight-based action shooters. Not to mention, it's deceptively addicting. There are games you play when you have the time, and games you make time for; Crimson Skies is a game you rearrange your life around. Since its release, I've already went several days playing the game for an extensive period of time (in fact, twice I haven't made time to sleep until later in the evening.) Pat Schreiber, key programmer for FASA Studio put it best when he said that Crimson Skies would be remembered as "that online dogfighting game." Judging by the current interest and fanfare it's received, Pat's statement is right on target.

Reminiscent of a classic Hollywood flick, Crimson Skies is a tale of adventure, destruction, and oh yes - lots of aerial combat. Set in an alternate reality circa 1930, America has fallen to the Great Depression and has split into 20 feuding countries. With the economy in shambles, once heavily supported by the railroad industry, the regional states take an aggressive position in the skies. Although this breeds a renewed opportunity for transport and commerce, it also gave birth to piracy and greed. Enter Nathan Zachary, a pirate whose personality can be likened to Han Solo with an Indiana Jones complex. With his inner circle of friends, Nathan sets out to even the odds for the underdog and make a little money on the side. But the quest for prosperity won't be easy as he soon learns of a secret weapon which could destroy everything that he aspires to protect.

Essentially, the single player mode is composed of story-specific missions that you must complete to make some dough. Typically the missions require you to destroy a certain rival group, protect a resource station or something along those lines which requires your heroic efforts. The bottom line is that you'll be flying around blowing stuff up (and loving it…I do.) Initially you'll start out with Nathan's personal craft - the Devastator (up to 10 planes in total can be acquired as you progress throughout the game.) Each plane varies in maneuverability, speed and firepower. As your funds increase, you can upgrade the abilities of your craft, transforming them into formidable warbirds to be reckoned with. Players can also execute a variety of aerial maneuvers using the twin analog sticks simultaneously. More specifically, you'll need to click on the right analog stick, then tap up or down in conjunction with the left analog stick. Commands can vary from tapping both sticks up, down, left, right, or in opposite directions. It took me some adjustment and as a result, so initially I had the habit of stalling my craft. Practice often so you don't end up becoming a casualty of war (or frustration).

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