Review: Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge (XB)

Game: Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge
System: X-Box
Genre: Aerial Combat
Developer: Microsoft
Publisher: Microsoft
Released: 10/21/03

When I got to buy games, I won’t lie to you. I’ll go and stick to the same genres I enjoy and never look back. (Music games, RPGs, platformers, and the occasional extreme skateboarding title). I’ll rarely get into the other multitude of game genres out there, simply because they don’t interest me that much.

But something caught my eye when I saw Crimson Skies on the game shelf. It had an interesting story, nice stories, and looked to be fun. Good thing that I wasn’t disappointed when I finally got the chance to play it. But will YOU like it? Read on to find out!


The game’s story is one of the more interesting ones that I’ve encountered, portraying an alternate history for the United States. After the Great War ended, relations between the individual states began to sour. Historical events like the Great Depression didn’t help matters either.

Things started getting really interesting when Texas annexed itself from the country. Once this happened, individual territories began to form and break away. The US was no more, and the territories began to war against each other.

Now here’s where “historical” fantasy ends, and “fantasy” fantasy begins. The only way to get safely from place to place nowadays is by plane or zeppelin. And with that, air pirates arose. Not affiliated with any territory, they do your average pirate stuff, like pillage, loot, and anything else to get money and supplies. You take control of one such pirate, Nathan.

Nathan has lost a bunch of money, and now has to turn to the air piracy to get it back. But along the way, he gets in the middle of something that could change the tide of the ongoing war for the worse.

Story: 8/10


This game looks good. REAL good. Much better than the other X-Box games I’ve seen.

The cut scenes are by far the best looking things in the game. The people are extraordinarily detailed, with incredibly life-like movements. I even think I saw a wrinkle or three on some of the older people. Plus, the mouth movements match the voices in the game beautifully.

The in-game graphics are also nice. The planes are modeled pretty well, with barely any signs of jaggies or clipping. The environments are a bit of a mixed bag, however. Buildings and man-made fortresses look nice, as well as the deserts and landscapes. But when you fly over islands, its like you’re flying over giant blobs of green and brown. They don’t look all that pretty.

Graphics: 9/10


The main sounds of the game sound pretty general at best. There’s the machine gun fire, the engine noises the planes make, and the explosions during battle. There’s nothing really of note that I can find original and exciting here.

However, this doesn’t mean that the sound is a total loss. The game contains quite a bit of voice acting, and it sounds very good. There is plenty of emotion behind each character’s words, and it sounds pretty natural to boot. While it may annoy you during battle, you’ll notice the definite quality during the cut scenes.

CS is also home to an impressive musical soundtrack, which bumps up the Sound score quite nicely. It fits the game well. Its calm during the points when you have no mission but gets incredibly frantic when there is a ton of action going on. There is an increasing sense of urgency within the music, as if a real disaster is happening. It really helps you lose yourself in the moment as you tackle the big guys.

Sound: 7/10


The game is entirely based on aerial combat. And as such, you’ll be spending all your time flying over land and sea waging war against anyone who fires on you first. The controls of which are fairly easy to learn. The left analogue stick controls your ascent and decent, and turns you left and right. It’s inverted to begin with, but you can change that in the options menu. The right analogue stick is used to turn the plane on its side, but serves an even better purpose. Pressing in the stick, and moving both sticks in a certain direction will let you perform special aerial maneuvers. These are incredibly flashy, and can be used to dodge enemy fire.

The R-trigger fires your plane’s primary weapon, usually a machine gun. The L-trigger fires your secondary weapons, such as missiles. You have a limited supply of these, however, so use them sparingly! The Y Button is used to boost, allowing you to fly farther, but with less maneuverability. A boost meter in the upper-left corner of the screen accompanies this. Using it too often will make the plane spin out of control. The B button is the brake button, allowing you to slow down during combat and position yourself to your advantage. The X button is the action button; allowing you to switch planes, enter repair shops, and access missions when you get close enough to them.

There are also points in the game where you’ll need to control a separate gun turret. The R-trigger fires, the A button is used to zoom in and out, and the B and Y buttons will switch guns if there are multiple turrets.

Anyway, the main goal of the game is to complete missions and obtain money. Flying through the main worlds, you’ll need to follow blue marks on your map to find them. The only thing is that there are only one or two missions active at a time. This begs the question as to why the game was set up this way, but it gives the impression of free roaming as you search for things to do.

The missions themselves usually involve two things: blow things up, or protect things from blowing up. All missions contain attacking enemy aircraft, offering very little variety. Even so, they are pretty fun to engage in. Upon completion, you’ll obtain money, and the next mission will be available to play at any time.

During a mission, you may have the opportunity to switch planes. Finding a plane icon on the map, you can switch planes in mid-battle. Assuming you win and make it back to base, you can keep it and use it when you see fit. There are also repair stations in various places, allowing you to repair your plane in mid-fight. It costs $200 a pop, though, so you may want to think twice before using it.

Also around the map are various pilot wing icons. Collecting them will allow you to upgrade your various planes in your hangar. You’ll need a certain amount of money and icons for each upgrade, as the wings disappear after use.

After all that, the main game is pretty fun. Definitely worth the price of admission.

Gameplay: 8/10


There’s not much left in the main game once you finish it. Other than playing through it and using a different plane more often, I can’t see much more reason to go through it. However, X-Box Live users will find plenty of reason to come back. The dogfights supplied there are incredibly enjoyable.

Replay Value: 7/10


Once again, the X-Box Live options supply most of this category. Playing online with friends and strangers is the closest thing to addiction I’ve experienced in this title. Otherwise, it just doesn’t contain the qualities I find in other addicting titles, such as DDR or Super Smash Brothers.



You don’t see too many aerial combat games out on the market nowadays. Rogue Squadron is the closest thing I can relate to it, but Crimson Skies contains plenty of differences that I have not seen in games of its type. The multiple selection of planes, as well as the unique customization methods offer plenty of uniqueness.

Originality: 7/10


There is nice, decent difficulty curve going on here. The missions start out easy, but get increasingly harder as the game progresses. In fact, you may not even notice the subtle increases as you go on. It’s that good.

Balance: 8/10


This game is definitely going to appeal to X-Box Live users, simply because you can play others online. I also see fans of Rogue Squadron and Star Fox picking this game up. Other than that, there isn’t much of a fan base who’ll actively pick this game up.

Appeal Factor: 6/10


The Live experience is an excellent addition to this game. I never knew how fun a game like this could be online, but once again, I was happily proven wrong. Lobby navigation is easy, and there’s very little lag to speak of. (At least when I went online.)

There are several game types to choose from, and up to sixteen people can play at the same time. Missions include Dogfight, which has every man for himself, Team Dogfight, which pits two teams against each other, a King of the Hill type game, and a Capture the Flag mission, where the flag just happens to be a chicken!

If you have X-Box Live, you will have fun. I guarantee it.

Miscellaneous: 8/10


Story: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Replay Value: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Balance: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
TOTAL: 75/100 (Reviewer’s Tilt: Same)



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