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ups: Some cool graphics effects; fans of combat flight genre should dig it.
downs: Conflicted about arcade/sim status; nothing terribly unique here; monitoring fuel consumption.

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Lethal Skies Elite Pilot: Team SW Review
game: Lethal Skies Elite Pilot: Team SW
three star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Sammy
date posted: 09:10 AM Wed Jun 19th, 2002

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Man oh man, did this game soar in under the radar or what? Lethal Skies Elite Pilot: Team SW, or Lethal Skies for short and LS as its friends call it (I'll just call it Lethal Skies), is a combat flight sim with a supposedly arcade feel. When I think arcade, I think fast, easy, and fun. Lethal Skies satisfies none of those three criteria and I find myself wishing it had been shot down before it could have even attempted a shaky two-point landing into my PS2.

The story in Lethal Skies presents a world where environmental destruction is proceeding at an accelerated rate. The ice caps have melted and flooded coastal cities. The Statue of Liberty is up to her armpits in water at New York, and Los Angeles has been rebuilt on top of giant floating hexagonal platforms. Even in areas not effected by the flooding, the destruction of nuclear energy plants and oil refineries by tsunamis rendered much the remaining dry land a lifeless, polluted wasteland. Terrorism and civil war broke out between countries that could afford to build floating cities and those who couldn't. At the head of these outbreaks of violence is the World Order Reorganization Front or WORF. Opposing WORF is the World Alliance and your team of crack pilots known as Team SW. Team SW must fight WORF on land, air, and at sea in order to stop it's bid for world domination. Rock on.

As far as the actual game play is concerned, Lethal Skies has what you would expect. There are escort missions, strike missions and interception missions all set in various places around the world. There is even a \"fly through narrow canyon while avoiding enemy radar\" mission, which seems to have become mandatory in this type of game. Lethal Skies is being called an arcade combat flight experience, but it seems they just called it \"arcade\" because it they didn't know what to classify it as since it obviously isn't a simulation. As was mentioned above, arcade-ish games usually have three things going for them. They are fast, easy, and fun. Lethal Skies is lethargic at best, not providing a good sense of speed, and it always feels as if your fighter is going to fall right out of the sky. Lethal Skies is also horrendously, unnecessarily difficult at times and because of this fact, Lethal Skies isn't all that fun.

Some things are more difficult than others, of course. Landing is fairly easy; though having to replay a difficult mission because you blow the landing is frustrating as hell. Fighting enemies is made difficult in two ways. The on-screen radar is pretty much worthless and the enemy indicator arrow that appears in the middle of the screen and points in the direction of the nearest enemy is far too slow. The second reason why fighting the enemies is difficult is that your missiles never seem to lock on quick enough and they don't have enough pow in them to do the job in one shot. You'll find yourself making several runs on ground targets, which is a frustrating and time consuming activity. Luckily, aerial targets usually fall with just one shot. The final and most damming aspect of Lethal Skies is how ridiculously quickly you run out of fuel. This makes the game a battle against your own gas guzzling jet rather than against the evil minions of WORF.

Fuel is consumed at such a surprisingly rapid rate in Lethal Skies that missions will end with you running out of gas far more often than actually getting blown up by the enemy. This is a big, frustrating part of the last few missions. What is worse is that in some missions you are required to do an in-flight refueling. This means finding the fuel tanker using the dinky radar and then matching the damn thing move for move. The controls are a bit touchy and a tiny bit of pressure on the stick in the wrong direction can screw everything up. Using the flaps (controlled with the L2 and R2 buttons) makes this a bit easier, but still not much fun. These missions are torture and only sour you even more on a decidedly average game.

There is a training mode along with the story mode game, but the training offered isn't all that useful. You learn how to land and dogfight, but those things are easily enough learned in the first mission of story mode. It would have been better if the game offered an in-flight refueling practice mission but, alas, no such luck.

Graphically, Lethal Skies gets the job done. The jets are nicely detailed, but the explosions don't look as good as they should. In a game where the main focus is blowing stuff up, you'd think they would make the explosions themselves look spectacular. Not here. There are a couple neat effects you can choose to turn on at the options screen. There is a motion blur effect with variable intensity levels that looks rather neat. It makes the game almost unplayable though. The other effect is a g-force effect. It makes the Dual Shock 2 rumble when you are pulling a few g's and also tints the screen red or black, simulating the blood rushing to your head or you starting to black out due to the g-forces.

The sound is a bit disappointing: house music consisting of heavy guitar with some funky jungle beats thrown in for who knows what reason. The jet engine noises are just way off the mark. They sound like an old 70 horsepower Subaru struggling up a steep hill rather the massively powerful, high pitched whine we are all familiar with. Racing games are guilty of this all of the time. They give us piddly little muted engine noises and pump their generic guitar laden house music at us instead. Give me a loud, whiny F1 engine, give me a throaty four-stroke motorcycle engine on supercross games, and for crap's sake, give me a jet engine that sounds like a jet engine. It isn't that difficult and would add immensely to the world that developers are trying so hard to create.

Overall, Lethal Skies Elite Pilot: Team SW is a very average game. Decent looks, but average sounds and average game play. I would have enjoyed it much more had the focus of so many missions not been on either running out of fuel or having to re-fuel in midair. Games are supposed to be fun, not give you an ulcer because you are worried about the fuel mileage your jet gets. I will say that flying just a few meters above the breaking surf or doing barrel rolls and other maneuvers trying to make yourself sick is kind of fun for a while. Diving towards the ground going full throttle and pulling up just in time is fairly satisfying as well. I say give Lethal Skies a rental and do some barrel rolls and try to make yourself sick for a couple days. Fans of the genre might like it much more.

Eric Qualls (06/19/2002)