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Crimson Skies

Simulation video game by Microsoft for the Computer

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Fly sky High!

  • Feb 7, 2001
Pros: Excellent graphics, engaging story, enjoyable gameplay

Cons: buggy, requires serious power

The Bottom Line: big guns, fast dames, great gameplay if you've got a system that can keep up. Highly Recommended!

I admit it.

I don't like flying sim games.

However, I do love fast paced action games and when the trailers for Crimson Skies showed the world in an alternate 1930's with Indiana Jones style characters, I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed.

Crimsons Skies was published by Microsoft and developed by Zipper Interactive who also had a hand in earlier versions of the Mechwarrior franchise. Zipper used their older Top Gun engine but employed a few new graphical tricks.

The Story
The single player campaigns begin by introducing your character, Nathan Zachary, the leader of a daredevil group of air pirates. Nathan is obviously a love-em and leave-em type of guy as is later drawn out in more detail. However rich the story is, it is still a vehicle for bringing more action to your computer screen. And this is good. Some of us enjoy the cutscenes and dialog, but Crimson's dragged on a little too long. Thankfully, the trigger happy can skip them to get right into the action.

The Graphics
Right away, the graphics are noticeably stunning, especially at higher resolutions. Each plane is carefully modeled from details provided by FASA - the developer of the original pen and paper game that it is based on. The environments are lush and full of organics. Especially nifty are the movie sets and flying through New York. You'll have to play the game to know what I'm talking about. Just imagine being able to fly through the O of the Hollywood sign!

The Sound
Right away, much attention to detail was given to the sound. I absolutely love the opening score. It is heroic, fun, and perfectly fits the mood of the game.
Not to be outdone, each weapon has it's own sound and they play perfectly over systems with and without a subwoofer. But if you've got one, it will make use of it.
In addition, the voice overs are intentionally over the top. Derived from the serials of the 1930 and 40s, the acting is full of caricature and charm. My wife is getting really tired of me espousing "When ya hit the ground, tell 'em Nathan Zachary sent ya!" Haha, I kill me.

This is what gives the game legs. While the single player is linear and does not improve much from repeat playings, the multiplayer is always exciting because the type of game and opponents are different. While it doesn't bring anything new to the multiplayer genre, dogfighting is extremely fun. And when that tires, try playing chicken while commanding a zeppelin. That's a new wrinkle in the genre.

The Bad
The shrinkwrapped Crimson Skies suffers from a few serious bugs which have now been fixed in a patch available at Microsoft. If you are using this with anything other than an nVidia video card, keep your receipt, you may have problems. And if your system is anything less than a 500mHz, your performance will be disappointing, as the game is a hog. And be sure to reboot your computer after you're done playing to clean up the resources. Again, a patch is available to fix most of the bigger bugs (but not improve performance) so credit has to be given to Microsoft for trying to fix problems


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About the reviewer
Jeffrey Kafer ()
Ranked #45
Voice over artist specializing in audiobook narration. Hear more at and
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Review Hearkening back to the days when flight simulators had story lines and gamers valued playability over flight model fidelity, Crimson Skies is one of the more unusual games to appear in quite some time. The game is set in a fictional 1930s America, where sinister air pirates threaten both the sky and the ground and only you (playing the role of intrepid air adventurer Nathan Zachary) can save the day. Both the premission briefings and the missions themselves play out like the campiest of Hollywood cliffhanger serials. Everything from the music to the way the dialogue is delivered evoke memories of the few episodes of Mystery Squadron and Tailspin Tommy we've seen. It's the kind of game where your enemies taunt you while you're flying, stately zeppelins float through the sky, and stunts are encouraged--the crazier the better. In fact, every time you perform an aerial feat that is particularly skillful (or stupid), the game automatically takes a picture of the dramatic event for your pho
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ESRB: T - (Teen)
Publisher: Microsoft

First to Review

"Fly sky High!"
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