The game works very well online, and though you may notice a slight lag between the time you touch an item and the time the game registers you as having picked that item up, this doesn't happen on every server and doesn't get in the way of the action at all. Crimson Skies contains all of the player-matching features you've come to expect from an Xbox Live game. It also lets you play along with one guest on your system in a split-screen, and it keeps a good ranking list that lets you know where you stand against the rest of the world's flyboys and girls. If online action isn't your bag, the game also has system link support and four-player split-screen capabilities, though, this form of multiplayer isn't necessarily as exciting or convenient.
Backing up all this great action is a fantastic graphical presentation. The game gives you a good, long draw distance, allowing you to see incoming planes from pretty far away. Additionally, the game gives you a good look at the lay of the land. The texture work is well done, and the plane models are just plain cool. This is especially true of the devastator, which looks like a biplane but has its propeller in the rear. The weapons look nice, particularly as bullets are flying through the air, but it's the damage they do to their targets that makes them so impressive. The planes break up very nicely, as they're shot to pieces and set ablaze, and the explosions that finally send them down look really great. Smoke pours off of damaged planes, giving you an easy path to follow when you're tracking down an enemy. All the while, the game runs at a slick frame rate that keeps the action moving at a speedy pace. Owners of high-end TVs will find 480p support waiting for them.
As cool as the game's single-player section is, the online mode is where the real action is at.
The game's great music, along with Nathan Zachary's confident, lady-killing charm, gives the game a nice atmosphere that flies in the same airspace as the Indiana Jones series. That atmosphere is compounded and enhanced by the game's strong voice acting, which benefits from a well-written script. The game's sound, which supports Dolby Digital 5.1, really adds to the experience. The combat sounds great, and the planes all have individual engine sounds, but the little touches, like the way you hear air rushing past as you swoop around at regular speed, are what really drive the point home.
The awesome online mode and strong single-player segment combine to make Crimson Skies an easy game to recommend to Xbox Live subscribers, and the enclosed two-month free trial lets nonsubscribers give it a shot--free of charge. While it would certainly have been nice to see more multiplayer maps--right off the bat--the five levels and different modes included provide hours of excitement. If you needed to find a reason to stay connected to Xbox Live for another 12 months, look no further.