Lethal Skies II
By: Matt C. on October 20, 2003
When the original 'Lethal Skies' was released in North America on the PlayStation 2 last year, it was mostly met with modest reviews from the gaming community. The game simply did not hold up well against Namco's Ace Combat 04, which is arguably the best combat flight sim on the PS2. This year, Asmik Ace Entertainment has returned with the sequel to Lethal Skies (titled Lethal Skies II, of course), and fortunately, it improves heavily on the first game.
For starters, Lethal Skies II offers more responsive controls than its predecessor. This is a relief, because not only does smooth controls make the game more fun, but Lethal Skies II has some linear canyon missions that are reminiscent of Star Wars: Rebel Assault on the PC. It's almost like flying in a giant water pipe, due to the fact that you cannot fly out of the canyon without failing the mission. Anyway, maneuvering your jet might take some getting used to at first, but once you spend some time with your craft, it will become second nature.
One aspect that I like about Lethal Skies II is that it does a nice job of mixing simulation and arcade style gameplay. For instance, LSII utilizes pretty much all of the buttons on the Dual Shock 2, but the game is still easy to pick-up and play. Also, your aircraft doesn't magically carry infinite missiles, yet it still carries a little more than jet fighters do in real-life. And you even have to keep track of your engine heat, your gun heat, and your remaining fuel -- although it doesn't seem to be as important when playing on the easiest difficulty setting.
Lethal Skies II has more than 20 single-player missions, and each one has you defending targets, taking out ground or air units (or both), escorting other vehicles, rescuing people, and more. During said missions, you'll have wingmen in the air with you who can follow simple orders. You can have them defend your fighter, attack mostly air units, or have them attack ground units when possible. Fortunately, these allied pilots can actually be quite useful. They aren't perfect, but you'll actually see them bring down enemy planes and ground vehicles.
However, despite getting some well need back-up, Lethal Skies II's latter missions prove to be extremely difficult. In some campaigns, the enemy AI becomes way too aggressive, which makes things more frustrating than it needs to be. Before each mission, you can select your aircraft and your armaments (same with your wingmen), but that doesn't always matters any easier. Don't get me wrong, the single player campaign is fun (and a bit repetitive after a while), but the unbalanced gameplay really hurts the overall game.
In addition, Lethal Skies II features a nice 2-player mode, which can be played from a split-screen perspective, or by using two PS2s and TV's connected with an i.Link cable. Once everything is setup, each player can go at it in a head-to-head battle, team up against enemy fighters who appear one after another, or participate in a "snake race" that has each person flying through a canyon as fast as possible and landing at an airbase at the end.
In terms of visuals, Lethal Skies II does not push the PlayStation 2 to its limits, but the overall game engine looks a lot better than its predecessor. The jet models are perhaps the most impressive graphical aspect in Lethal Skies II. I am no expert when it comes to military aircraft, but the planes in the game look quite detailed and appear to be great representations of their real-life counterparts -- including common jets like the F-16 and MiG29. And the Black Ops planes that you can eventually unlock simply look awesome.
The terrain doesn't appear to be quite as detailed, especially when you fly close to the ground or water, but it looks nice when you are flying high above the surface of the Earth. The sky looks great too, and the weather effects and clouds are very convincing.
Lethal Skies II also gets high marks in the presentation department, due to the beautiful prerendered cutscenes and the up-beat intro sequence, which makes use of the in-game graphics.
As for the soundtrack, it mostly consists of generic rock that oddly fits the game well. However, to be honest, I didn't really notice the music all that much while I was actually in the sky taking out enemy units. The voices' of your wingmen sound really lame though.
In the end, I truly found Lethal Skies II to be a solid flight combat game that I highly recommend to gamers who enjoy flying titles. Sure, it's rough around the edges, but Asmik Ace was definitely going in the right direction with this one. And if the third game in the series makes it to North America next year, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be nothing short of stunning.
Graphics: 7 Sound: 7 Music: 5 Replay Value: 7 Ingenuity: 5
Overall Score: 7.7 (Good)
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