Precision is a concept that requires not only patience, but also the right instrument. After all, would a painter be able to create a detailed portrait were he given nothing more than a paint roller? This example not only bears an obvious answer but also depicts a situation where precision is essential. Without its respective tools of the trade, accomplishing such a task would near the impossibility. Such is the dilemma with Lethal Skies for PlayStation 2. Yet in this case, the problem did not come as much from lacking the necessary accessory to fully enjoy the gaming experience as it has from the fact that the right tool for the job simply did not exist.
Lethal Skies' story is pretty farfetched for a game that mainly involves flying a plane around and shooting targets and enemies. In the near future, the environment is deteriorating at an ever-increasing rate and global warming is becoming a serious threat. Frozen regions of the world have begun to melt which, in turn, have led to most areas of the planet being submerged in water. As a result, a group of countries known as the World Alliance have created artificial cities on the sea to escape the dangers the mainland was now facing. Others who did not follow in this project grew angry and jealous, leading to terrorist outbreaks. A group of elite pilots referred to as Team SW has been created in order to defend the World Alliance. As far as I can tell, this B-movie plot was in no way necessary and does more harm than good to a game that wishes to aim for realism.
The game does have certain flaws, such as annoying techno music blasting out of the speakers throughout the various missions, but the main problem it faces lies in something much more serious than sound. When playing Lethal Skies, my impressions were that it looked and felt like it was trying to pass itself off as a jet fighter simulation. Of course, this shouldn't be interpreted as bad, for it does the job quite well, on the surface that is. In creating Lethal Skies, those who programmed it forgot one tiny but crucial detail: this game is being played using a Dual Shock 2 instead of a joystick or a keyboard.
My favorite game of the sort dates back to almost five years. Although now dated, Digital Image Design's F22: Air Dominance Fighter combined cutting edge graphics and what can still be considered incredible realism. However, the price for such authenticity was steep. Most of the keyboard's keys were assigned functions, as were all the buttons available on the joystick. In order to master the aircraft, one had to become an expert in handling everything at the same time. Of course, being knowledgeable in avionics jargon didn't hurt either. Now, considering this, how can anyone expect to recreate such an experience using only a controller consisting of ten buttons, two mini joysticks and a directional pad? Unfortunately, this is the kind of problem that kills the simulation this game tries to offer.
When playing just about any flight simulation game on the PC, whether a jet fighter or a simple leisure plane, the instrument of choice to control the aircraft has always been a flight tick. This piece of hardware offers the control and stability a keyboard lacks. Lethal Skies is played using the PlayStation 2 controller's analog joystick. Yet, is the control as good? Obviously no, for when playing Lethal Skies, the Dual Shock 2 is deprived of any precision in control, which is fundamental to this type of game. Attempting to refuel my aircraft in mid air was an exercise in patience, for it took nearly a miracle, after many tries of course, in order to successfully guide my fighter under the refueling plane using those tiny analog joysticks. I know I can keep on dreaming but Lethal Skies is a title that would have been perfect bundled with a joystick designed for the PlayStation 2, much in the same way the Gran Turismo 3 Logitech steering wheel pushed the driving experience even further. Unfortunately, even though the PlayStation 2's choice of peripherals grows constantly, it still, to this day, lacks the addition of a simple flight stick, something that would make the lives of those attempting to play flight simulations so much easier.
Presently, playing a jet fighter simulation on the PlayStation 2 can be compared to doing surgery with a butcher's knife rather than a scalpel. Such a concept would be deprived of any accuracy, as is the Dual Shock 2 in this case. Lethal Skies is a game that I probably would have enjoyed a great deal more had I had the right peripheral. Yet, one cannot possess what doesn't exist. Hence this game was to be denied the right tool from the start, giving it a handicap most players might not be able to see beyond.