|System: PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Doublesix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Paramount Digital Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 17, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
Top Gun for the PSN immediately brings one question to mind: what audience range were the developers going for? A fair few younger Playstation 3 owners arent going to be old enough to remember the 1986 film of the same name, if they were even born when it came out, let alone know what a MiG even is, leaving game sales based on brand recognition seriously decreased from the outset.
As an average looking arcadey-flight game, theres little else to go on for the younger air jockeys. So where does that leave older gamers, who actually remember the movie? As it turns out, kind of in the same place. Top Gun isnt a terrible game but in todays world it feels more like an antique than ever and Im not just talking about the movie license, either.
This is true for a few reasons, although the biggest is that unlike most other franchise-related games to come out way after the fact (rare though they may be), Top Gun doesnt bother modernizing the game for todays era. I actually applaud the developers for this. While not a straight up 㣴s homage by any means, Top Gun loosely follows the (flight-related) parts of the films storyline, has a commercially rippin period guitar soundtrack, and has you fighting off Soviet fighters. Again, one has to assume that the developers were counting on a certain number of people who remember life before the fall of the Soviet Union to play this game, otherwise the decision to go 㣴s authentic doesnt make sense, particularly since there have been several other Top Gun games that have had nothing to do with the film. But its an admirable decision to go forward with fighter pilots actually piloting real aircraft into real dogfights instead of the danger zone being Afghanistan and the aircraft being unmanned drones.
Sadly, for what I can only imagine isnt a huge audience, setting the game firmly in the grips of a Soviet conflict may also be a double edged sword for the game. With no modern-day ties to speak of, one certainly cant compare todays helter-skelter military policy in any way to that of the Cold Wars, so there is little to keep the game relevant for anyone but fans of the film, who probably arent going to pay $15 for an average flight combat game based on a name alone. Worse, theres the game mechanics themselves; Top Gun plays decently enough, but theres pretty much zero here that you havent seen before in some other game. Honestly, flight action games are done so well by Project Aces, the flight game equivalent to Gran Turismos Kazunori Yamauchi (Aces are the masterminds behind the Ace Combat series), I dont even know why any other developers bother anymore. I suspect that Doublesix put Top Gun together as a labor of love on a shoestring budget, but a labor of love just doesnt cut it these days if youre not bringing much, if anything, new to the table, especially not for $15.
Anyway, for those of you who know the story of Top Gun, the game basically follows that. For those who dont, you spend roughly a third of the game in combat training at an elite fighter pilot training school where you train to become the best of the best. Then you go off and shoot down some Soviets whove violated airspace over the Indian Ocean. The rules of engagement are simple, and if youve played any kind of flight sim before, youve already seen them: escort, survival, and dogfighting. There are three stages to the game (a prologue, Top Gun itself, and the aforementioned Indian Ocean sortie) with an assortment of levels among them, and, given that you have a wingman, theres a basic squad mechanic, so you can have your buddy stick with you, attack the enemy, or defend you. Rather than relying solely on fancy maneuvers (more on that in a minute), you can also fire off flares to evade missiles, which will become necessary in the later parts of the game. Needless to say, the dogfighting can get pretty intense.
It might not be a lot, but Top Gun does have one interesting mechanic up its sleeve, a targeting system of sorts that ostensibly moves the camera out back of the fixed perspective to let you see your planes acrobatics as youre performing them. This is more than just a gimmick, since once you learn how the controls respond to pitch and yaw, you can (and will need to) rely on this little trick to circle back on bogeys trying to evade you. Yes, you can also lock on with missiles using this rechargeable maneuver. Plus, it looks decent enough for what it is, basically like the replay mode in Ace Combat. Other than that, the game is bland, if not terrible.
To Top Guns credit, dogfighting can get tense when the sky is filled with bogeys and youve got untold missiles on your six. But for most fighter pilot fans, $15 is going to be too much for a game that offers too little, particularly one thats based on a movie that a sizeable number of gamers arent even aware of.
CCC Freelance Writer