I’ve never actually watched Top Gun but I know of all the quotes and memorable moments in the film, so the novelty of this game isn’t entirely lost on me. However, I have played many dogfighting games and other flying games, so I know where this game stands among the greats. Although the flying is fun, it’s sadly a sub-par dogfighting game that makes me want to watch the film to see just how it compares.
Top Gun isn’t the worst game out there but it’s nowhere as near as polished as it could be, to the extent that it feels unfinished. An example of this is that you’re left waiting for the texture pop-in to happen for a good few minutes. Then, you wait a few minutes more, until you have to finally accept that this is how the game actually looks. There’s literally no detailed textures on anything other than the jets themselves; the ground is a single texture, the few buildings that are dotted around look like grey boxes, and the environment feels like a big, empty space. Even the explosions look like something from a PSP mini.
Thankfully, the gameplay is fun. For a while, at least. There’s a good choice of six jets, each with different stats and three different types of missiles: short, medium and long range. Flying the jets is a blast, although the controls take a little while to settle into. The aiming system is relatively easy, with the game requiring you to lock on to a target and fire your missiles. Firing your guns is completely different; you have to aim at a small reticule in front of the enemy, due to the fact the enemy is travelling at high speed. You’re also able to command your wingman to defend, attack or stay, and you can fire flares to avoid missiles.
During the missions, you’ll have to take out a mixture of enemy planes and ground targets, which is fun at first, but simply shooting enemy planes becomes dull and repetitive. There are other parts in the missions that break up this bland gameplay, such as going under the radar and following a route of waypoints, or finding jammers that are blocking your missiles. Then, suddenly you’re back in the midst of a battle, and once you’ve disposed of the enemies you’ll most likely hear “Wait, I’ve got another on my radar”. This happens in nearly every mission, and there is little variety apart from the different environments.
The plot follows Maverick and co. as they do some training missions (in which you’ll use dummy missiles, but somehow still take damage) and then progress onto actual missions. It often feels like there are large chunks of the plot missing, and if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ll have a hard time piecing together what has happened. There’s a prologue mission, three Top Gun training missions that fit in with the plot, and then several real missions, which make a total of… a few hours.
Then there’s the voice acting; another thing that feels unfinished and undeniably the worst thing about the game. You’re introduced to the oncoming battle with a cutscene, where the planes tremble as they fly along next to each other. A few lines of dialogue are passed between the pilots, wingmen and the people back at base. These are extremely boring, with repetitive dialogue that sounds like it has been pasted together, giving off a robot-like effect. Then later in the game, you’ll see the same piece of dialogue used again to patch together a different cutscene.
The characters show little emotion, and you don’t feel as though you are connecting with them on any level. Merlin is the worst (and the most common); he just doesn’t feel real. Often, you’ll hear him say things three or four times in a row, which you’ll tire of faster than you can say “They look like ants from up here – dead ants”. Four times. Maverick doesn’t even have any form of voice acting – although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, judging by the other pieces of voice work. Thankfully, the music always suits the frantic and fast paced action.
The multiplayer is fun, when it works. It’s basically the same dogfighting mechanic as the campaign, but with less enemies. The only thing it lacks is a wingman to command, but unfortunately, the flares have carried over. If you can master the flares in multiplayer, it becomes very hard for someone to hit you with a missile, and this can become infuriating when the enemy is flying around like a moth at a light and you can’t hit them with your mounted guns.
- Flying the jet is a blast… at first
- Maverick has no voice acting
- The texture pop-in still hasn’t happened after a week
- Maverick has no voice acting
- Quickly becomes repetitive and bland
- Plot? What plot?
- Dreadful, repetitive voice acting
- “They look like ants from up here – dead ants”
Only after writing 900 words about Top Gun do I realise my disappointment. The good points soon turn into repetitive bad points and the game is not complete. I was enjoying an average game until I got further into it, and now it has sunk in that Top Gun is just a bad example of a dogfighting game. I’m sure diehard Top Gun fans could get something out of this – if the voice acting and poor plot doesn’t ruin for them. The game didn’t even make me want to quote Top Gun once in this review. It’s just not good, even if you feel the need… the need for speed.