Top Gun – Review

Title   Top Gun
Developer  Doublesix
Publisher  Paramount Digital Interactive
Platform  PSN, Mob, Mac, PC, iP, PS3
Genre  Arcade flight shooter
Release Date  8th September, 2010

TopGun; possibly the most well known movie about pilots in existence although, to be honest, there aren’t many out there and I personally preferred Hot Shots but still, the point is that back in 1986, Tom Cruise played the same character as every other film he’s been in, only this time his nickname was Maverick and he got to fly planes really fast.

Anyway, back to the point. 24 years later, Paramount Digital Entertainment have decided that it’s time for yet another game based on the popular movie, this time on the PS3’s Playstation Network and PC. The game follows the plot of the movie, where gifted trainee pilot, Tom Cruise – I mean Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his RIO (Rader Interface Officer), Nick “Goose” Bradshaw are enrolled in the United States Navy’s Fighter Weapons School. Seeing as this is an arcade release rather than a full £40 game, it’s no surprise that the original cast haven’t reprised their role and it shows. The voice acting is pretty poor but, then again, I can’t think of a single flight simulator or arcade game that has anything more than passable dialogue.

Along with keeping the plot faithful to the movie, Developers, Doublesix (Burn Zombie Burn!) have also – unfortunately – kept the music faithful as well, with a cheesy 80’s synth rock overload slowly melting your brain from the inside as you fly; the sort of music that has highly arpeggio’d synthesisers and guitar bends every 0.3 seconds. I know a lot of people will probably say “well it was good at the time” but, let’s face it, no 80’s synth rock soundtrack has ever been good. Look at the likes of Terminator – the music was fucking horrific and not in the way it was meant. I can understand that they wanted to be faithful to the film and that being a small release meant that they couldn’t pay royalties for some of the licenced tracks in the movie, but it sounds like there’s only one, very annoying song in the whole game, looped ad infinitum. Luckily, during dogfights, the music can hardly be heard, but during the menus, it borders on aural torture.

He couldn't handle the cheesy synth rock either

Moving from the audio and into the visual now and for an arcade game of around 250MB, TopGun actually looks rather nice. Sure the textures are basic, but there is enough detail on each plane to keep it interesting, and the animations are also very smooth, from the brake flaps opening and closing to the speed lines that appear around your craft as it goes into boost. As for the landscapes, when you’re high in the clouds, the levels look good, especially the harbour level, which features a gorgeous blue sea. When you’re flying low however, the levels are quite bare and the structures all share the same peculiar size problem that the first HAWX suffered from, whereby they’re less than half the size of the planes, but again, based on the size of the game, this can be forgiven as most of the dogfights take place high up anyway (as you’d expect from a flying game).

As previously stated, TopGun is an arcade game and that becomes very apparent in the gameplay. Unlike more simulation based flight games, TopGun provides you with infinite ammo and flares – although to stop the game being a total cakewalk you can only fire four missiles before having to wait for your arsenal to restock; likewise for flares which have to replenish after every burst. Also, as well as infinite ammo, all fighters are equipped with a boost, which gives you a healthy dose of speed when needed. Again, there is a more or less infinite supply as once your boost meter is depleted, it slowly fills back up.

One of the most arcade-like additions to the gameplay however, is the fact that your health bar also replenishes if you avoid taking damage for a few seconds. While that sounds easy to do, you’d be surprised as there is an almost constant barrage of missiles being fired at you throughout each mission, which brings me on to my two main complaints about the game. First of all, there is a very strong feeling that the AI is ‘cheating’ throughout the game. You’re always limited to a few missiles at a time, however the enemy seems to be able to launch as many as they want, whenever they want and this, combined with the fact that you can only launch one set of flares every 2-3 seconds, means that you often find yourself being hit by more often than you can fire them. The next complaint lies in the button mapping of the flares.

For the most part, the controls are pretty good. The L2 and R2 are your brake and boost controls respectively, L1 and R2 allow you to gently turn your plane, the left analogue is your pitch/roll control while the right controls the camera and the four face buttons control your weapons and CFI, which allows you to see the battlefield from a wider, more cinematic perspective. Up, right and down on the D-pad are your wingman commands and, here’s the problem, left on the D-pad launches flares. As I’ve already mentioned, flares are very important and are almost constantly in use which means that during each dog fight, you often find yourself giving up on a sharp turn to lock onto an enemy just so you can release flares and stop yourself being blown to kingdom-come. Why such an important feature wasn’t mapped to either of the analogue sticks or a face button I don’t know.

As well as a singleplayer mode, TopGun also features online multiplayer which provides the standard 16 player deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag modes that most games seem to include nowadays, plus a few extra modes called Bombing Run and TopGun.  However, finding matches for these game types is borderline impossible with the few (the largest games I’ve played still only had 6 players, including myself) people willing to play online sticking firmly to the two deathmatch modes. While the controls of the game are identical to the single player, the online side of things just seems very dull, with team mates preferring to crash their planes into the floor at as close to 90 degree angles as they can rather than actually playing the game. I imagine that in a full match, with everyone focused on destroying each other, rather than leaving a plane shaped crater in the ground, TopGun would be quite fun online but at the moment, it’s severely lacking.

  • Captured the arcade feel perfectly
  • Has that ‘one more level’ addictiveness
  • The planes handle relatively well
  • Easy to pick up
  • Broken flare button mapping
  • Mind numbingly annoying music
  • AI sometimes feels like its cheating
  • Online is empty

On the whole, TopGun is a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive arcade style flight game, with a smooth and steady learning curve and fun dogfights. However, there are a few major flaws such as the incessant music and dodgy button mapping that stop TopGun reaching its true potential. Instead of soaring like an eagle as it should, it limps along like a sparrow that next door’s cat has just toyed with. The potential for true flight is there, but right now, it’s a little too broken.

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  1. Ste says:

    One for the Lemon thread on the forum? I think I had a TopGun game on the Mega Drive. That was rubbish too!

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    Neat concept and one that I’m surprised has taken so long to appear. Shame about the cheating AI though…one of my pet gaming hates! Great review.

  3. Samuel Samuel says:

    “The voice acting is pretty poor but, then again, I can’t think of a single flight simulator or arcade game that has anything more than passable dialogue.”

    I can think of a couple. Ace Combat V: Squadron Leader, and Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator both leapt immediately to mind, but admittedly, I play most games in the genre when they come out, so I would notice the exceptions. On the whole you’re right, voice acting tends to be overlooked in flying games.

    If this were on the Xbox, I would be all over it. I love these sorts of game. However, I don’t have a PS3, and I reserve my PC for the realistic flight simulators. Arcade fliers tend to be designed around a console control pad, rather than a proper flight yoke, and finding that my expensive yoke feels unnatural with a flying game is deeply irritating and ruins the experience right from the start.

    Canny timing releasing this now though, with H.A.W.X. 2 coming out and the next Ace Combat just announced so that interest in dogfighting games is pretty high.

    Good write up, Pix, you’ve made me want to play this at some point now, it’s just a shame about the game not being on XBLA.

  4. Ben Ben says:

    I had Top Gun on the NES, this doesn’t sound like it’s much better, which is a shame.

    No highway to the danger zone? Disappointment x 10

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    You know what flight game I miss? M.A.C.H. 3 on the old laserdisc arcade games. I adored that, and adored Firefox too… I think, looking back, I had a penchant for flight games which ran off laserdisc. The closest I get to flight sims is when I jump off steps and throw my arms out to the side in the hope that I’ll actually take off.

    I’m not sure I’d play this game, it’s not that Tom Cruise puts me off… or that it’s Top Gun, which I massively disliked (does anyone else think Kelly McGillis is a drag queen??) it’s just… I dunno… it looks hokey to me. Perhaps it’s supposed to be hokey, in which case it’s doing a superb job, but I’m not really keen on shooting down enemy aircraft unless it’s photorealistic. If you’re going to do something adventurous, I want it to be as realistic as possible… which is why those inflatable women with yellow plastic hair and a facial expression that looks like an elephant has trod on a watermelon just fascinate me. Men have sex with those things to give themselves the impression of real sex… and this Top Gun game looks like that to me. All the time I’d be thinking “this isn’t real”.

    Good review though dood, shame about the game… just not my cup of tea I’m afraid.

  6. Richie richie says:

    It’s hard to get insurance when you work in the DANGER ZONE!

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