Top Gun PS3 Review
Depending how old you are, you may possess one of a number of possible affinities for the 1986 movie Top Gun; either you view it as an all-time classic, constantly busting out “Danger Zone” during parties while insisting that your girlfriend refer to you by one of the movie’s masculine monikers, or you find yourself confounded by your dad’s film tastes while silently observing how Tom Cruise puts off his date in order to have some toweling-off time with his male cohorts.
If you were around during the NES era, you may also remember Top Gun’s infamous 8 bit adaption, where gamers worldwide failed to make it past the first level due to the required landing segment. If you were one of those unfortunate people traumatized by this, you’ll be happy to know that this latest PSN edition of Top Gun has done away with landing segments altogether, instead creating an experience exclusively composed of missile locks, after-burning, and one-upping your fellow wingmen at every turn.
The bad news is that this is a licensed movie game, and we all know how those usually turn out. With such old source material, however, could Paramount Digital Entertainment’s revisiting of the Top Gun franchise be as faithful and entertaining an adaption as the recent Ghostbusters game? Or is this another lackluster cash-in that’s about fifteen years too late?
As expected, Top Gun follows the same plot as its movie counterpart, where US Aviator Pete Mitchell (codename “Maverick”) and his partner Nick Bradshaw (codename “Goose”) take part in the Top Gun academy, hoping to graduate and be part of America’s greatest air force and face off against legendary Russian fighter pilot “Ivan”. The game puts players in control of Maverick through his training days, gaining the respect of his fellow pilots, the tragic loss of his best friend Goose, and his battles across the Indian Ocean against the Russians, where the skies become a proverbial highway to the danger zone.
The game’s missions exclusively focus on jet flying, eliminating all of the movie’s filler like Maverick’s affair with Charlie (who believe it or not, is a woman) and his sweaty all-male volleyball matches. Whether this is a good thing or not will probably depend on the individual. In any event, flying is Top Gun’s top mechanic, and it controls well enough, featuring piloting controls as standard as car controls in a racing game; you’ve got machine guns, lock-on missiles, the ability to slow down and speed up, veer left and right, and flip upside down. Curiously, the game lacks a cockpit perspective, instead keeping a third person view behind your paper mache aircraft at all times.
Despite the open areas, these skies are anything but friendly, as you must fend off against enemy fighters, mounted guns, battle ships, and…well that’s about it. Before you go off being a hero, you must spend half the game in training, as Maverick and Goose have to prove themselves as capable pilots, which means taking orders from their superiors during each stage. These objectives, which also carry over to the main campaign, involve flying around and shooting things, and…flying around and shooting more things.
To put it simply, Top Gun is a boring game. While the jets control well enough, the gameplay is consistently bland, forcing players to slowly strafe around in circles in order to lock onto enemies and blast their butts to the bottom of the ocean with some well-placed missiles. Any foe who attempts to pay you back can be evaded with anti-missile flares, your trusty wingman, or a simple evasive maneuver. Even with five enemies mercilessly blasting away, your aircraft automatically replenishes health, missiles, and flares after a few seconds. The game’s sole innovation is the CFI, a fixed perspective that shows the closest opponent relative to your aircraft. In theory, this gives players a chance to easily locate their next target, but in practice it is also cumbersome to control your ship during this camera view, often resulting in death by crashes.
On the visual side of things, Top Gun is nothing special. While not as offensive as other low budget PSN titles, the muddy textures on rocks and planes do little to impress. On the audio side, you’ve got beloved tunes such as the Top Gun Anthem and Danger Zone, among much of the movie’s instrumental tracks. The problem is that these tunes are repeated relentlessly, which even the biggest diehard fan will find excessive. The cutscenes, which feature still portraits of faces reading the movie’s script back-to-back, are incredibly stilted in both presentation and tone. Oddly enough, Tom Cruise’s character is completely silent in the game, no doubt a decision made to appease the actor and his utter hatred of all things video games.
In the end, the very existence of Top Gun is a confusing one, as there was hardly any demand for a modern video game based on the aged franchise. Strip away the camp value of the movie, and there is nothing left but unimpressive dog fights that have been polished years ago by other jet-based games like the Ace Combat series. Hardcore fans are better off watching the movie on DVD while playing a drinking game – a shot every time there’s a hint of homoerotic subtext. Make sure to bring a designated driver if it’s at a house other than your own.