Naturally, since this IS a combat-based game, you're going to take damage just as much as you can dish it. Thus you'll need to pick up ammo and health to replenish your plane's resources. Although you can find a few selectively deposited through each area, destroying enemy craft or dropping by service station is more effective. The HUD is composed of a few helpful visual monitors including your current objective, radar, armor, secondary weapon and targeting brackets. Out of all the elements on the HUD, I found the radar to be the most misleading at times, since it fails to give you an accurate location of your enemy's altitude and location. Thankfully, there's also an enemy camera which can be activated at any time pressing the black button.
Unlike most objective-based games, Crimson Skies isn't hindered by linear gameplay. FASA Studios endeavored to deliver the most diverse, enjoyable experience possible. As a result, the single-player mode features a variety of side-quests which players are welcome and encouraged to explore as money-making endeavors. You'll find a recurring example of this with the "time trial" quest, challenging players to wager their earnings to earn bigger payoffs by achieving new records respective to the current level.
Speaking of which, Crimson Skies is visually splendid and detailed. There's so much to marvel, whether it's the surreal lighting effects striking your plane, the glistening sparkle of the ocean, or the rich textures defining the mountain canyons in Arixo. But don't get too caught up with admiration with danger lurking around every corner.
I must admit that in all its excellence, the single-player mode pales in comparison to the level of excitement, replay value and challenge offered in abundance through the multiplayer online modes. Players can select from 1 of 5 modes: Dogfight, Team Dogfight, Keep Away, Flag Heist and Wild Chicken. After sampling a bit of each, I ended up enjoying respective dogfight modes the most. Keep Away simply doesn't appeal to me, simply because I hate running away from my opposition, I want to destroy them. Flag Heist which takes a cue from the traditional pastime "Capture the Flag"); which also disinterested me quite a bit (perhaps I'll explore it more when I am bored.) And despite Wild Chicken mildly amusing premise, it's still no substitute for the level of enjoyment I gain from dogfighting modes and blowing enemy crafts out of the sky.
Although it's not critically essential that you hone your skills through the offline mode, you'll discover that the practice and research will build up yoru skills, ultimately making you a forced to be reckoned with. Originally, I started out with the Piranha because I didn't know any better. Its secondary weapon is equipped with a deadly electromagnetic pulse which immobilizes anything within its proximity (that would include your allies, so be sure to take precaution before liberally firing at will). Much to my chagrin, online competitors dismissed my abilities as nothing more than a hopeless novice. Apparently, any newcomer that doesn't know any better typically uses that craft as a means to acquire easy kills (usually followed by unwelcome boasting). I sampled nearly every craft before I was helped to discover the advantages of the Coyote. Its secondary weapon emits a fiery burst which immediately ignites your targets ablaze. But what's especially effective about this weapon is the fact the target will continue to incur damage (up to 40% if I am not mistaken), resulting in a gradual loss of armor integrity. Combine that with a volley of standard bullets and it's only a matter of time before your opponents realize that they've exploded and have to start again.