The nostalgic memories do not take long to start flooding back. From the moment you start Top Gun the video game and the themes’ guitar riff kicks in, you know exactly what is coming – fighter planes, macho voice acting, and of course explosive, breakneck speed action. The game itself loosely follows the story of the movie. I say loosely as it covers the basics – you get prologue missions, Top Gun Academy missions and then onto the Indian Ocean missions. There are also key points from the movie that are briefly mentioned, such as the death of Goose and the ongoing rivalry between Maverick and Iceman. These references are all kept brief and to the small cut scenes before each of the missions, so there are reminders continuously popping up from the start of the game that you are indeed playing a game that is tied in with the movie of the same name.
Before we all start to panic about games based on films, and of course the other way around, all being terrible, let’s give it a chance. The gameplay is probably exactly what you are sitting there imagining it to be. At the beginning of each mission the player chooses their plane,Â which at the start is a choice of one.Â But there are a further five waiting to be unlocked and, once they are, you can choose any of the six total planes, such as the F-14, F-16, FA-18, MiG-29, MiG-31 and the SU-27. Each of them have their own attributes, speed, handling and such. Each plane also comes with around five paint jobs each, allowing you to add a bit of personalisation to your fighter. From there you also choose your missile load out. These also have attributes such as range and manoeuvrability, meaning you can either go for either a close range or long range combat style.
As you work through the campaign you are treated to a short cut scene. The Eighties inspired dialogue is delivered by voice actors trying to be the characters from the movie and unfortunately it is pretty bad. But it does what it needs to do in that it keeps some kind of a story stringing the whole thing together. After the cut scene you are thrown right into the action with your commanding officer or wingmen informing you what you should be doing. The first main set of missions are based around you learning how to fly and fight in the planes in the Top Gun Academy and the man giving the orders is Jester. The controls are all pretty easy to get the hang of, with the left analogue stick being your main control input, controlling both the pitch and yaw of your plane. The L1 and R1 shoulder buttons control your rudders for more precise turning, perfect for lining up your cannon shots. L2 and R2 are your air brakes and thrust respectively. The combat is kept as simple as the flying itself, with only two weapons to choose from – cannon and missiles. Cannons you aim manually at a target and let rip, where as missiles you need to keep your target in sight for a few seconds before locking on, at which point you can fire. It’s all very arcade-like and this not a bad thing as it suits the game perfectly. Adding to that you have an endless supply of ammunition. You do however need to wait for your missiles to rearm after firing. The other vital combat control you need is flares. As will happen regularly, other planes will lock on and fire missiles at you and that’s when you need to fire of your flares to evade the incoming fire. All of these controls combined make the game a simple flight combat game to play.
The missions themselves are one point that kind of let the game down a little. There are really only two locations in the game: a rocky canyon – the scene for the Top Gun Academy, and the Indian Ocean missions are, funnily enough, over the Indian Ocean. Over these two locations, the majority of the missions involve a series of events that follow this pattern – fly to way point, engage and destroy ground targets, followed by fighting off the attacking enemy planes. If it is not this pattern, then you are defending a friendly target from attacking forces. Your mission is usually one or the other and I understand they could not stray too far from this if they wanted to keep a link to the movie. But this being a game, a little more variation in missions would have been nice.
So can anything save the game from the slightly repetitive campaign missions? The answer is yes. I went into the multiplayer mode not really expecting much at all. You can set up your online profile in the options, choosing from any of the games six planes without having to unlock them, before choosing the planes skin and missile load out. You can also choose your pilots helmet and you can unlock a larger choice of helmets by playing the single player game. Then you are into the game. Matches are easy to find and get into. You have regular every man for himself death match, team death match and even capture the flag. The controls are all identical to the main game but getting involved in an up to sixteen player death match, be it team or everyone for themselves, is not only a lot of fun but very hectic. It’s always in your mind that while you are attempting to line up a shot, there is a good chance that there is another player attempting to do the same thing right behind you. Another thing that you learn playing the multiplayer mode is that your flare release button is now your best friend. It got to the point that when I turned on the game, I would go directly to the multiplayer mode because it is so much more fun than the single player game.
Graphically the game looks okay for what there is. Like I mentioned before, there are really only two fields of war – the red rocky desert canyon of the Top Gun Academy training arena and the main combat area of the Indian Ocean – and although in the later they try to mix things up by changing the time of day, so although it is the same location, it gives a touch of variation when it comes to the looks of things. But the addition of a few more locations would have been beneficial. The scenery itself looks good enough when you are screaming through it at speed in your plane. However, when you slow down and take a closer look you notice one or two flaws and a few rough edges here and there. The planes are the main focus of the game though and they are all well done, looking like they should. When it comes to the sound, it’s hard to go wrong here. The music taken from the film is spot on and the planes, both engines and weapons are all handled well and sound like you would expect them to sound. The only let down is the sometimes dodgy voice acting, but you could argue that it is in fact perfect,Â being as cheesy as some of the lines in the movie itself.
So overall Top Gun the video game is a mediocre arcade style fighter plane game which is saved from being a repetitive aerial based shooter by the inclusion of the really fun multiplayer mode. Although it is still basically the same gameplay, the fact that you are fighting against other players makes the game infinitely more challenging and a lot more fun. People who fondly remember the movie back in the Eighties and are looking to have some nostalgic fun, or those looking for a quick blast of fun in an arcade style flight combat game, then despite it’s few flaws, this could be what you are after.