Reviewed: August 25, 2010
Released: August 17, 2010
Somewhere in the world Tom Cruise is crying right now along with the rest of the cast and crew of Top Gun, that iconic 80’s movie that made every guy want to become a Navy pilot and every girl want to date one, or at least attend those sweaty volleyball matches. There are two ways you can go when you create a game and name it Top Gun. You can either base it on the actual Top Gun fighter pilot school and go from there, or you can try to resuscitate an aging pop-culture phenomenon and milk it for one final $15. Since this was a project designed by Paramount Digital Entertainment, the people who made the movie, you can guess which way they went.|
There have been numerous flight combat games over the years ranging from mind-blowing simulations to heart-pounding action-combat games. Ace Combat is probably the franchise most gamers are familiar with but more recently we have the H.A.W.X franchise paving the way into 21st century aerial combat. We all know how these games are supposed to look and how they are supposed to play, so if you are going to introduce a new game into the mix it had better be at least as good as what is already out there.
Sadly, Top Gun is not only a trip down memory lane as far as reintroducing us to Maverick, Goose, Slider, Viper, Iceman, and a host of other dangerously corny call signs, it also takes us at least a decade back in time when it comes to gameplay and overall technology. Seriously…this is the best the PS3 can offer? Even for a downloaded game I am insulted. Titus released a rather average Top Gun game for the GameCube back in 2002 and it was light-years beyond this lame duck.
Paramount might make great movies but they need to stay out of the game business. They literally cannibalized the script from Top Gun to put all the key sentences and catchphrases into the game, but totally out of context. They’ve even messed up the order of key events – not that it really matters. We aren't playing this for the story even if the game insists on beating us over the head with it. Conversations that took place in the locker room now get volleyed back and forth over com chatter. You play Maverick (of course) who doesn’t utter a single word – even when spoken to directly. Goose, Hollywood or whoever happens to be in your backseat will answer all questions and confirm all orders.
The good news is that you can skip all these thin letterbox cutscenes with a press of a button. The bad news is that just gets you into this lame game even more quickly. It’s hard to mess up a flight action combat game but Paramount managed to do just that. On the surface it’s all pretty basic. You have missiles that magically replenish over and you have guns with infinite ammo and body armor that magically heals itself if you avoid combat. I knew they had nano shield technology in 1986. I need to update my conspiracy blog…
You fly around with the left stick and look around with the right playing from near or far chase views or from inside the cockpit. L1 and R1 work the rudder for a few missions where you have to fly flat and low under the radar while L2 and R2 work the throttle. The D-pad allows you to give orders to your wingman such as Hold, Watch My Back, and Attack My Target, none of which makes any real difference in the later levels when you actually might need some help. There is even a CFI mode, which is basically that third-person combat camera that includes you and all the nearest enemies in the view. It looks cool but it’s a real bitch to get your bearings. I ended up in the ocean or in the side of a mountain so many times I stopped using it once I got the trophy.
My single biggest complaint with the controls is assigning Flare to left on the D-pad. How in the hell am I supposed to be steering my plane to avoid a locked missile when I have to remove my thumb from the stick to tap the D-pad. L3 or R3 would have worked just fine or at least give me the option to configure my own controls.
Top Gun is pretty short. You can finish the game in 3-4 hours assuming you can finish it at all. I literally gave up after about 30 minutes of failed attempts on the final mission. It is so ridiculously hard, and not because of the AI or gameplay, but because of the idiotic controls and lack of wingman support. With a fleet of ships launching missiles from below, dozens of planes in the sky shooting at me, and electronic-jamming bombers that you must take down with guns only before you can shoot anything else…well, let’s just say I have better things to do – like jab a pencil in my ear. The Hoard mode is basically a single-player survival where you go up against endless waves of enemies…just like the story mode only there is no bad dialogue and no end until you die.
There is a multiplayer mode for up to 16 pilots to battle it out. I found only a handful of people playing the game the first week after it released and judging from other press scores and the overall sentiment toward this game from critics and gamers, I doubt that online number will be growing anytime soon. If you can find anyone playing it the various multiplayer modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Top Gun, Bombing Run and Capture the Flag are certainly more fun than the solo game since you are fighting other humans who are all limited by the crippled controls, and your teammates might actually help you out.
Graphically, the game is a slight step down from that Gamecube title from 2002. In that game you had cool bombing runs and interesting stuff to look at at. Here, you are mostly flying over desert, mountains, or ocean, so there is not much opportunity for details or textures. You seldom get close enough to the ground to study them anyway, but the cutscenes to reveal some primitive, no detail, flat textures for ships and other planes that are not worthy of the PS3. It honestly looks like somebody enlarged a PSP game.
The sound package isn’t much better. You get the Top Gun Anthem playing in the menus then some generic 80’s guitar rock for the combat. Kenny Loggin's Danger Zone finally shows up for the final mission, but it repeats so much you wish it would stop. The guns and missiles sound okay when launching and the explosions are thunderous with some great surround positioning for the effects, but you’ll cringe every time a voice actor opens his mouth to recite some line of dialogue from the movie. And when they do branch from the script to some original material you get classic lines like, “I’ll have you cleaning toilets with a toothpick!” Huh? They include just enough profanity to get the Teen rating, thus alienating the only audience young enough to tolerate this game.
I can sum up Top Gun with a single word. “Embarrassing”. “Unnecessary” also works. We don’t need this game. H.A.W.X 2 is just around the corner and there is a new Ace Combat on the PSP that destroys this game. The fact that they are charging $15 for this lemon…I can get the Blu-ray version of the movie for $10. If you need some flying action to hold you over until next month then go check out the bargain bins. Any flight game that has ever come before this is better.