|After the miserable time I had with the first Lethal Skies last year, I was crossing my fingers that someone else would be given the task of reviewing its sequel. Much to my dismay, the review copy of Lethal Skies II landed on my desk a couple of weeks ago, and I had no other choice than to put it in my PS2 and prepare for the worst. What I found after it loaded was a superb flight combat game that was an improvement in every way over its predecessor. The sense of speed was increased dramatically, the radar was actually useful, and the hassle of in-flight refueling was no longer a problem. After spending quite a bit of time with the game, I can happily say that Lethal Skies II is a fun game that is worth taking a look at.
The story in the game takes place a few years after the first Lethal Skies. The armies of WORF have been defeated and the task of rebuilding the world has begun. The mainstream countries, with North America as their base, move forward by trying to heal the scars of years of war. The anti-mainstream countries of Europe, having lost their dominance, fear their declining future and confront the countries trying to rebuild the world. Bolstered by the remnants of WORF, the anti-mainstream countries form a new army called ANGIL and war breaks out once again.
The gameplay in Lethal Skies II has been improved in every way from the original game. The speed of the game has been increased and you no longer feel as if your jet is going to fall out of the sky. The missions are much the same as before, with strike and interception missions, but the overall difficulty has been lowered a bit and the game is much easier to pick up and play. Something that I love is that the focus of the gameplay has shifted to more of a dog fighting, man on man, affair rather than simply relying on heat seeking missiles to get the job done. There are still missiles, of course, but they dont lock on as fast so you find yourself having to use your machine guns--which have a very generous hit detection area-- to take out air targets more often than not, which is very fun.
A major problem I had with the original Lethal Skies was that in-flight refueling was a pain in the ass and that the biggest threat was running out of fuel rather than being shot down by the enemies. In Lethal Skies II, fuel isnt consumed nearly as rapidly and when you do need to refuel, you simply have to land at the gas station to get more fuel and reloaded with missiles. This is great, and I especially like the fact that you can get more weapons mid-mission. The once useless radar has been fixed and the arrow that indicates where the nearest enemy is has been sped up and is actually useful this time around.
Also worth mentioning is the surprising intelligence and aggressiveness of your AI controlled wingmen. You issue commands to them with the D-pad and they quickly and competently comply. In several missions you have to rely on them to blow up secondary targets while you are taking care of business somewhere else, and they actually do a very good job. This is a refreshing change from most games where your AI teammates are bumbling idiots. They do such a good job that it almost makes the game too easy, but you can choose how many wingmates you take into battle with you so you can adjust the challenge of the game to your liking.
The only missions that arent all that fun are the ones that require you to fly through a narrow canyon or do anything close to the ground. These jets cant exactly turn on a dime, so navigating your way through a narrow canyon isnt the easiest thing in the world. Once you make it through the canyon, you have to land your plane and it is pretty frustrating when you blow the landing and have to fly through those nightmarish canyons again. Landing isnt very difficult, but it isnt a guaranteed success every time either. Hopefully the canyon missions will be dropped entirely and the somewhat sluggish controls of the jets will be tweaked for the next game.
Graphically, Lethal Skies II is a nice looking game that maintains a nice steady framerate. The jets are extremely detailed and have a ton of moving parts. The ground textures arent that great, but it is hard to fault it for that when everything else is so pretty and you spend a lot of your time in the clouds anyway. The menus and overall presentation of the game is simply outstanding and really draw you in. The menus sort of look like a comic book version of an Air Force training manual and everything looks great. The environments range from deserts to brightly lit cities and the lighting and weather effects do a great job of tying everything together and making it look very realistic.
The sound in Lethal Skies II is also very good. The music is generic rock music, but it does a good job of matching the pace and feel of the game. The best part of the sound is all of the alarms and beeps and radio chatter you hear in the cockpit of your jet. Things like that go a long way towards immersing you in the game. Better yet, the sounds of the jet engines have been completely redone and sound wonderfully realistic. I compared the jet engine sounds from last years game to an old 70 horsepower Subaru, so it was welcome change to hear the high-pitched scream of a fighter jet in Lethal Skies II.
Overall, Lethal Skies II is a much better game than its predecessor and is worth at least a rental for flight combat fans as well as gamers just looking to blow stuff up. What I find especially satisfying about Lethal Skies II is that all of my complaints about the original game have been addressed and the game is 100% more fun. Its nice to know I might be making a difference, you know. Fans of flight combat games, arcade style shooters, and anyone looking to spend some quality time with an F-16 jet should give Lethal Skies II a try.