Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge" opens with a rapid-fire clip that rivals most movie trailers for action and drama. The game cashes a pretty big check with this trailer before the main menu even arrives - but can it cover it? I'm pleased to say that "Crimson Skies" does - and more. This is an utterly beautiful, fast-paced and thrilling effort from Microsoft that I think will impress most gamers.

"Crimson Skies" takes place in an alternate 1930's where air travel is the only way to get around. You star as Nathan Zachary, a flyboy who leads the Fortune Finders, a group of "good" air pirates who do battle over the rather touchy skies of the game. Giant zepplins float past, fighter planes and helicopters swoop by and boats pass in the rivers below. Rusted zepplin hulls litter the beaches, while lush valleys, industrial looking homes, repair shops, towering buildings/cityscapes and bases scattered about below during various points.

What's wonderful is that the battles can often be approached in a couple of ways. While attacking planes or other targets in your plane is certainly the first choice, players often have the option of flying down to a gun turret below. Pressing X will allow Nathan to land his plane at a turret, switch planes on a runway, stop at a repair shop or at the Pandora, the Zepplin where the Fortune Hunters are based. The turrets offer different forms of ammo, as well. Sometimes, you'll be able to man your zepplin's weapons in a "Star Wars" esque attack on the nearby enemy planes. You can also switch turrets with a button press, or exit back to your plane. As for the missions, I liked that they were a good mix of escort/protect, attack and other variables. I didn't feel like I was going through another very similar variation on what I just did each time out. There's also the occasional races.

Attacking the Zepplins is also remarkable, as they show convincing damage after attacks and eventually, explode into flames. The boss battles are also impressive - the first major boss battle includes something - I won't spoil what, because it's pretty darn cool - that emerges out of a downed zepplin. The battle that ensues is certainly a heartracing one, as Nathan races to save a friend from the oncoming terror. Nathan can also take on other jobs or go after one of the Zepplins - successfully shooting it down allows Nathan to collect bagged money that floats down to Earth.

Amazingly enough, this isn't simply a very good flight actioner, it also boasts a richly told mystery plot that's advanced by superb cutscenes and exceptional voice acting. The control of the aircraft is simply marvelous. Each plane handles smoothly and the controls are very intuitive, allowing players to simply jump aboard and take off. Basic attack and control moves are easy, but players can also perfect the ability to roll and switch perspectives mid-battle. AI - both in terms of your teammates and the increasingly nasty enemies - is excellent, too. Planes - 10 in all - can be upgraded by collecting money and tokens.

Word of warning: "Crimson Skies" is a very fast-paced flier, with plenty of rolls and action. Although many may not feel the same effects, during a couple of prolonged (1-2 hours) periods of play since I've started, I started (pretty strongly) to feel the need for an airsick bag. Those who start to feel a little ill during gameplay should stop and take a break until the feelings subside.

XBOX Live: Up to 16 player online multiplayer battles.

Rating: 9.5/10

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  • Model: Microsoft XBOX
  • Shipping Weight: 2lbs
  • 1 Units in Stock

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 12 April, 2011.

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