Easily one of the most impressive games at Microsoft's Gamestock was Crimson Skies, a flight game with action elements designed for players who want to feel the thrill of dogfighting without having to worry about the science of flight. We first reported on Crimson Skies back in July of last year but have since heard little from either developer Zipper Interactive or publisher Microsoft. Here's an updated look.
John Howard and Jordan Weisman, one of the cocreators of the BattleTech universe, are heading up the design team of Crimson Skies at Zipper. "Chuck Yeager once said that a fighter pilot's life is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of fear," said Howard during the presentation of the game. "Crimson Skies is just about capturing those moments." Sitting behind the controls of the game, we'd have to agree. Crimson Skies eschews all the mechanics of a typical flight simulator in favor of focusing on fast-paced action. The game still has enough of a robust physics model to appease the hard-core sim fans, however, but the general feel is definitely geared toward the more casual flyboy.
The game's plot takes place during 1937 in an alternate universe to ours. The United States is in the depths of the Great Depression and Prohibition, leaving the country's railway system in ruins. As a result, the only means of transportation is through the air, and militias from the four geographic corners of the US have risen up to fight each other for air supremacy. The air pirates are made up of male and female pilots who, according to Howard, "are as sexy as the game is." Players will take control of one of these pilots and in turn will get to fly one of 13 fantasy propeller planes that sport massive engines and even larger weapons.
The levels in Crimson Skies will all be mission-oriented. During the demonstration, Howard played a level where one of the objects was to pull a scientist off of a moving train. We played a level where we had to jump onto an enemy bomber from the cockpit of our own fighter. As you can tell, the game makes no pretenses of taking itself seriously, but the missions are filled with action sequences that are seemingly taken straight out of a Hollywood movie script.
Crimson Skies is due out sometime in the fall of 2000, and according to Microsoft, it will make an appearance at E3. We'll update you on the game's progress then.