We've come to acknowledge the Ace Combat series as the crème de la crème of the air-combat/flight simulation genre. The last Ace Combat title was an amazing piece of software that grasped the gamer with its fueled story, photo-realistic visuals, and sleek gameplay. Now, take AC4 decrease the strictness of the game, by making it more arcade-like and user-friendly from the get-go. Add a whole bunch of diverse and adrenaline rushing missions, and the answer to your formula is none-other than Lethal Skies. Developed by Asmik Ace Entertainment, Lethal Skies is Sammy's very first air-combat title, which is titled Sidewinder F in the land of the rising sun -- Japan.
I met up with two executives from Sammy Entertainment and an executive from their PR firm Bender and Helper. They had, what they informed was a beta version of Lethal Skies. From what I witnessed, Lethal Skies is just right in the visuals department. The aircrafts (9 real, 2 imaginary, and 4 secret) are all compromised of great detail. From the glance I had at the game, the aircrafts didn't seem to suffer from any noticeable aliasing issues. They were quite large, and built with a wholesome amount of attention to detail. I was personally informed that the game's overall development stage is "solid beta", which leaves room for some possible tweaks here and there, but nothing too drastic. The special effects were very bright, compare to those found in Ace Combat 4. From the 30-40 minutes of what I saw, the landscape detail surely has an edge over Ace Combat 4. The mountains seem to be more rugged, and the ground doesn't wash out when you close it on it. The frame rate is super steady, at what seemed to be a very crisp 60. The atmospheric detail such as clouds look pretty as well. In some of the stages you'll be able to swoosh through the clouds, providing more feeling of excitement. Having said all of that, I did find one minor flaw. While I didn't play ever stage, the open field stages that didn't feature a linear setting, such as hairballs (dozens of enemies in one packed area), seemed to have fog covering draw-in, but it was very distant and nothing to worry about. It may have also been that one specific stage, so I can't really draw a conclusion. Lethal Skies is a pretty good looking flight combat title, unless something goes awry (which is unlikely), folks should be expecting a pretty flight combat title this May.
The game played almost nothing like Ace Combat, so take it for better or worse. The game is built around more action that simulation, and some of the missions are very complex, but cool. One mission will have you shifting in between a canyon in order to keep yourself out of enemy sighting, another will have you re-fill your fuel tank in mid-air by making contact with what seemed to be a 767. The missions will vary from air-to-ground assaults, and air-to-air combat, and will allow gamers to choose from a total of 13 fighters, 4 of which need to be unlocked somehow. You of course have a squadron of your own to back you up, and strategy can at times play a factor. But more or less, you'll be doing most of the damage as you take full control of a fighter and its weaponry. Locking on and switching targets is similarly done in Lethal Skies as it is in AC4. With that in mind, the aircrafts still retain a sense of realism, so don't expect them to be overly exaggerated and completely arcade, it's just controlling them is a simpler task than in Ace Combat 4.
From what I played, I can say that Lethal Skies is a very promising aerial combat title. It's a fun, visually impressive title that will be worth checking out this May. Will it dethrone Ace Combat 4? It's questionable, but not impossible. Sammy's target audience is generally, niche, but with Lethal Skies they seem to be changing that. Look for more hands-on Lethal Skies coverage in the coming weeks. And stay posted for screenshots, we're working on getting those.
2/11/2002 Arnold Katayev