Tony Wilkins reviews one of the few challenges to the Ace Combat franchise that appeared on the PlayStation One.
Ace Combat has become the benchmark console flight sim based shooter upon which all others have been compared since. Few people have ever heard of one of its early rivals however. Raging Skies appeared in 1996 a year after the original Air Combat was launched by Namco. Since then it has largely fallen off the radar of many people as Ace Combat went from strength to strength with each new title. It certainly didn’t help that Ace Combat 2 arrived just a few months after the launch of Raging Skies but is this ignorance justified?
I said in my review of Air Combatthat the story was rather weak and that you didn’t feel like you were part of the action. This is not as much the case in Raging Skies. Here you are presented with an in-depth story as you take on terrorists, madmen and the odd rogue USAF pilot. Admittedly the gameplay at times feels disjointed from the story but you do feel like you are part of something bigger. Therefore on this note Raging Skies is superior to Air Combat.
Raging Skies also offers the player a cockpit view which Air Combat doesn’t (in fact the Ace Combat series wouldn’t get a cockpit view until Ace Combat 4). This view appeals to the aviation enthusiast such as myself but sadly it is quite limited. The cockpit instrument panel takes up half the screen and gives a very restricted and at times claustrophobic feel which is a shame. I only ever found myself using the cockpit view once I had mastered the HUD view.
In terms of actual gameplay the controls are on a par with Air Combat. I didn’t stall as much as I did in Air Combat which was one of that game’s biggest headaches. Raging Skies tries to give a far more in depth world with which to blow the crap out of but sadly this just results in large numbers of shattered pixels and square shaped flames appearing on the screen which becomes irritating and tiresome on the eyes. I am being unfair here as this is a PSX game and we can’t expect too much. It does give alternate weapons which again took the Ace Combat franchise another three years to achieve in Ace Combat 3. You do get a choice of aircraft but I couldn’t really distinguish from them and I could finish the game with the F-4 Phantom II which is the first aircraft you get.
Sadly, unlike Ace Combat it doesn’t hold my interest as much. The gameplay becomes even more repetitive than the early Ace Combat games but more importantly it doesn’t have that spark that Namco’s series has. The developers tried again by producing a sequel on the PlayStation 2 under the title Lethal Skies II but that game was even more anonymous than this one being overshadowed by the incredible Ace Combat: Distant Thunder (Shattered Skies in the US). Had this game came a year earlier I think it would have been a better rival to Ace Combat but as it was Namco shot it down with extreme prejudice and I have to admit that I am not really bothered about that.