Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. Impressions

Picked this one up because the word on the street says is that it has a pretty good single player campaign and because my Xbox Live account has gotten no love since I got the damn thing in May.

I also got it because I adored the original Crimson Skies on the PC.

Unfortunately this one is giving me some mixed feelings. First off, they’ve changed the spirit of the universe a bit which, as I understood it (and perhaps I’m wrong), was a kind of super high adventure/drama radio show that one would encounter in the 1930s and 40s. Nathan Zacary was this legendary, way larger then life hero who all women want and all men want to be. I could picture being a kid in that time, running home from school to hear the next episode of Crimson Skies! and figure out what mess Nathan has gotten himself into and how he’ll get himself out with the help of his crew the Fortune Hunters. (Just listen to the install routine of the first game and you’ll hear what I mean)

You could experience all this in the PC game. With each mission briefings you don’t get any fancy FMVs or detailed 3D maps telling you where to go. You get Nathan and the crew’s witty banter (audio only) as he explains what to do while photos and maps are tossed on the screen giving you a few visual clues and something to look at to accompany the sounds. Nathan’s voice booms with overconfidence, passion and light hearted mischievousness like any air pirate hero would. Whoever did the voice acting on this one did a superb job.

The Xbox version however seems more subdued. Its like a hollywood remake of the original radio show. Nathan is more quiet and low-key, the missions briefings and banter are there but not as frequent, the story itself so far hasn’t really pulled me in yet (The “revenge” part really isn’t that convincing so far). It just seems a little more generic.

Perhaps it was a mistake to change from linear missions to this free roaming GTA style gameplay where you fly around and look for various missions yourself. I really don’t see it as adding anything special. One might argue it makes the game less linear but you’ll have to be doing most of the missions anyways so what difference does it make?

Thankfully, the essental gameplay style is there. You fly around shoot the bad guys and pull off some stunts that would never be physically possible. Surprisingly they’ve toned down the realism even more then the first one. For example giving you ‘health pickups’ every now and then when you shoot down the plane. Gives it a more console style feel, which I don’t much care for but I’ll let it slide. :P

The other element that was introduced in the Xbox game was allowing you to switch to AA guns on the ground/boat/zepplin which is a nice change but honestly it limits the thrill ride experience you can get when sitting (relatively) stationary.

The music is one of the strongest points. It’s dynamic, exhillarating, high-adventure style that will get your adrenaline pumping. Sometimes the tempo changes a bit jarringly but that’s a minor complaint.

I can’t really comment on the multiplayer yet as I’d like to get used to the controlls a bit more but if you’d like i can share some impressions.

All in all it’s not a bad game by any means, and those of you who missed out on the original might really enjoy this one without problems. I guess these are nitpicks by a fan who has seen the direction change in an unfavorable way IMHO. To give you an idea of what i mean, the game starts off with an FMV of Zack waking up with a nude girl next to him. That kind of stuff is better assumed IMO. Showing it explicitly raises the maturity level and at the same time it raises the immaturity level if you know what i mean.

That’s really too bad. I love the idea of free-roaming gameplay, but not at the expense of the wonderful sense of style that the first game had. That was the game’s number one draw, really.

It seems like people who never played the original will be able to more easily overlook these flaws… does that sound right? Is it a fun game in its own right? Is the sense of style really that important? I never played the PC game buit I am really looking forward to picking this one up.

Yes, as I concluded, if you never experienced the first one then this should be a very rewarding game. I don’t know about the length of the single player missions, but if the multiplayer is any good then it should be a worthy purchase.

Sounds right to me. I never played the original, and I love the new one to death. The free-roaming aspect is one of the only things that actually got my attention, to be honest. Not because Everything Must Be Like GTA Now, but because I have come to hate the stop-go feel of mission-based flight games over the years. It’s like riding in a car with someone who can’t handle a manual transmission. Constant jerky stops and starts. Crimson Skies flows very well, and holds my attention.

The online play helps, too. As someone who was bitterly disappointed when Sega canned Propeller Arena to save money at the end of the DC’s life (oh, wait, it was out of “concern” for 9/11 because you could hit buildings with your plane…riiiiight), I’ve been waiting for something like this on a console for a long time.

Also interesting to note that I had to check two stores before finding a third that actually had copies still in. It seems to be selling well. Same deal with Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Positive signs for Microsoft’s holiday season?


I disagree. I think it has the original’s sense of style and the open-ended mission design makes it much better than the original game. It’s also much more polished and the combat model/physics feel more solid, better thought out. Plus, in the first couple missions the villains are cajuns! How cool is that?

Finally, a very pretty first party title without slow down!


Actually, I’m having a very good time playing the game. It’s definitely a thrill ride, most of the time. Switching in and out of the stationary guns is fun, it doesn’t really get boring. The game makes it seem like you’ve got a lot to keep track of at once, when actually you don’t.

At first, I didn’t like the “combo system” for pulling off aerial maneuvers, but now that I’m used to it, it’s a lot of fun. By adding “roll” to the right stick, I think you’ll see some people who can outfly combo users, once they get the hang of it.

On an unrelated side note, I was co-oping with a friend through Serious Sam on Xbox the other day (he’s not a computer user). I decided that, if they’re going to continue to put FPS games on consoles that use a lot of weapons, they should add a scroll wheel to the controllers. Perhaps near the triggers, similar to the GCNs “Z-trigger”.

oh btw i had to groan at one of the quips Nathan gives after taking down a bogey. Saying, “Take those broken wings and learn to fly again” is not only out of place but extremly corny. :P

I played and loved the original PC game, but I can’t really agree that my enjoyment was tied so directly into the universe and presentation. It was pulled off magnificently though, and credit is deserved for sheer volume of detail. Something the new XBox version definately isn’t quite going for.

Yet, those mission briefings dragged on so long that about midway through the game I just outright skipped em entirely. Scanned the helpful bulletpoint objective list and got my shooting on. Listening to 5 minute banter about Nathan’s exploits with femme fatales, air pirates, the constant cooing of Betty and his other crewmates, it just got a bit tired and redundant… I really had to wrestle myself to maintain interest in the exploits of the devilishly handsome Nathan Zachary, but the desire to simply ‘get on with it!’ and start up the joyous flight combat once again had a much stronger pull.

So I don’t really miss the banter that much. Purists may feel cheated, (I certainly miss the sheer customization options for your planes) but I’m having too much fun with this new game to even care really. It’s been quite fabulous online and off. Great handling, superb physics and collision detection, lots of modes, gorgeous audio/visuals, solid map layouts; a class act game release!

Damnit, I’m trying my best to hold out until Sunday so I can take advantage of the 2-for-1 sale at Toys-R-Us, but reading the positive impressions everywhere is killing me! :twisted: It’s a damn good thing I’m working today and tomorrow otherwise I’d probably cave and go buy it.

Oh and I agree that the GTA-esque freeform mission selection is an improvement. Lends itself to building a more cohesive progression system, I don’t really miss splash loading screens and a ‘return to base’ break between sorties much at all.

I’ve gotten a real kick out of taking in the sights, snagging hidden tokens, and simply letting the gamer choose their next course of action(despite being a rather linear choice, but a choice nonetheless) it keeps us consistently hugging that controller and playing around. Not to mention becoming more familiar with the environment rather than being flung heafirst into some new setting mission in and out.

Yeah, I really enjoy the freeform mission selection as well. It really lends itself to exploring, and thanks to the upgrade tokens, simply flying around hidden and hard-to-reach places proves to be rewarding.

I miss some of the original cast though…since when is the Fortune Hunters reduced to just Nathan, Betty, and Big John? Where’s Sparks, Tex, and the rest of the crew? And I’m only on the Arixo missions at this point, but somehow I don’t think the Black Swan is going to be returning. :(

Graphically, this game is much better than the original, and although I was wary about playing with a gamepad (instead of a joystick), the controls work really well. When I read about the special move system in the previews, I was quited turned off, but after using them, I wouldn’t go back…I’m spoiled for the Rogue Squadron games now…not being able to quickly execute an Immelmann or Split-S just sucks.

To this point I liked the story in the original more, and Zeppelins have been nerfed pretty badly in this one (your Devastator can take them out with rockets fairly easily, no more carefully lining up torpedo shots when they open their main cannon bays), so there’s really no incentive to use one of the slower anti-zepp planes (caveat: I’m still not very far into the game…just finished the Navajo relic/train escort mission, so this might change further on).

Not being able to customize the planes was actually a smart decision I think, much like the simplified mech lab in MW4. Having only stock weapons and armour gives each plane more character, whereas on the PC I put the same weapon loadout on every plane then maxed out its armour and speed with whatever available weight I had remaining.

As for the gun turrets…I’m not so sure on this one. They are very useful, and quite fun too, but I think they’re far too plentiful. Just about every mission gives you the opportunity to jump into a stationary gun, which (IMHO) doesn’t fit in with the spirit of the game. If they were only available every four or five missions to add some variety it might have been better.

Overall though, this is proving to be an excellent game so far…fans of the original should definetely pick it up, and console gamers who never played the PC game but enjoy games like Rogue Squadron should give it a whirl as well. Hopefully sales will be strong enough for Microsoft to continue the franchise. :)

"To this point I liked the story in the original more, and Zeppelins have been nerfed pretty badly in this one (your Devastator can take them out with rockets fairly easily, no more carefully lining up torpedo shots when they open their main cannon bays), so there’s really no incentive to use one of the slower anti-zepp planes (caveat: I’m still not very far into the game…just finished the Navajo relic/train escort mission, so this might change further on). "

I agree. The Zeps lack some of the strategy that they had before.

Well I DID play the original, and I love this one even more. It’s much more polished, with a much better difficulty curve, and I like the contorols more. All I want is for the black button to, instead of padlocking me to my target plane, cycle to the next enemy and give me the little spyglass arrow at the edge of my screen like the PC version had. That’s all it’s missing.

The flight model is more arcade-y, but I don’t mind that. It still works. I also don’t mind that it’s only 3rd person, because it doesn’t get in the way at all. I like that it’s more forgiving about you bumping the ground. The mission structure is way better. The graphics way better, and the environments just amazing.

I feel the atmosphere is still there, myself. I mean, when I shot down a guy and Nathan said “All pilots make mistakes, but you abuse the privelage!” I felt right at home in the setting.

And the online play ROCKS.

This is seriously one of the best Xbox games out there.

Now, as much as the PC version wasn’t a “sim”, this version is even less of one. It’s about planes, don’t let that fool you. This game is all action, big explosions, blowing up multiple zeppelins, dropping in for instant repairs (if you have the money), and so on. I personally don’t view this as a bad or good thing: it’s just different, and probably better suited to the console.

I agree with all y’all. This game is great!

I say that even though I’m completely stuck. I’m on the first real mission (Sea Haven), and I’m instructed to find Big John, earn money, and explore. I found Big John (he said he’d meet me at the Pandora), I earned a bunch of money (enough to upgrade my plane, even), and I’ve collected 10 of the 14 explore tokens.

When I return to the Pandora, I am not given any feedback as to how I can finish the mission. The to-do list still says find Big John, earn money, and explore. I assume that I need all 14 explore tokens before I can move on to the next mission? Is that true?

Thanks for your advice!

After you’ve found Big John you need to do another mission for him to advance. I believe it starts near the Pandora - fly around until you see a Mission blue $ and then hit X - make sure you seeing an X on the $, and not the on green “enter Pandora” symbol. Sometimes the action controls are bit funky if you have more than one action icon in view.

If memory serves its a mission where you can hop into the top of the Pandora and use the guns.


OHHHHH, okay. Thanks, Dan! I’ve seen that $ and I’ve seen the green arrow… I thought they were the same things: board Pandora.

How much does it cost to rent a billboard? Because I’m about three steps away from getting one and having them write “FUCK CHICAGO” in the biggest font available.

I’m in the middle of this one mission. I’m assuming that it is the last mission in Chicago (please let it be the last mission). There’s a large group of zeppelins trying to escape and I have to stop them. There are two problems with this:

A) Chicago sucks. The level is too damn small. The other areas have been pretty wide open, but Chicago’s got a ton of buildings. It looks great, but to keep the framerate up (I assume) you can’t wander as much. Also there’s no warning when you’re about to go off of the map, the game just takes over your plane and turns you around. And of course you’re very close to a lot of buildings so (and this has happened to me at least five times today) a lot of the time it will turn you around right into a building and run you along the wall until your plane explodes (you’ve got no control over this). Fucking great. At least turn off collision damage while you’re driving my plane, assholes. Or maybe put in a buffer area and warn me when I’m getting close like Battlefield does. Or put the border over a wide street so there’s nothing to crash into when I turn. There’s three damn ideas I came up with in ten seconds, all of which are fairly obvious and not very difficult.

Sure, there’s a map up top, and I suppose I could look at that to see when I’m coming up on the border, but a lot of the action in this mission happens near the border, plus there are a ton of fighters and AA guns shooting at me and oh yeah those zeppelins that I’m supposed to stop which, conveniently, are allowed to fly out of the “mission area”. If my mission is to destroy the zeps, how can following them put me out of the mission area? Whatever. Which brings me to…

B) My wingman (wingwoman? wingperson?) is an idiot. The game will highlight one zep at a time so I can find them easier. You’d think that, with all of the zeps trying to escape and me needing to stop them, it would target the one closest to the exit. Nah, it just picks on that it likes. Occasionally Betty (I think that’s her name) will say something like “One of the cargo zeps is getting away!” and I’m supposed to do something about it, but I can’t find the one she’s talking about. How about pointing me in the direction of the thing? AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Maybe I need new glasses, the mission happens at night and it’s hard for me to spot the zeps in the dark.

Unfortunately, this one mission is pretty close to ruining the entire game for me :(

The music’s pretty great, though.

Man…and I was actually jealous that you’re at home today. Now I feel like I got off easy sitting in my cube.


Well, like I just said to you over the phone, it really is a great game and it’s a super ton of fun. Just not this one area. Grrr. Can someone at least lie to me (if necessary) and tell me that as soon as this mission is over I’m finished in Chicago and never have to go there again? Maybe that would get me back into it. Right now I’m just trying to figure out which window I’m going to throw the XBox through.