Impressions: Top Gun

Top Gun the video game (and not the classic one – the 2010 release available on Steam and PSN) is almost as good as watching the actual movie. You get some of the memorable one-liners, familiar characters, and even multiple trips into the Danger Zone. Okay, more than a few, as this anthemic fan-favorite tune plays more than a little frequently during play. But you won’t get Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, or anything like that in this adaptation of one of the 80s most popular movies. All you really need are some good buddies to watch your six as you make your way through this action-packed (yet admittedly shallow) arcade-style flight sim.

As Maverick, you’re joined by wingmen Goose and Merlin as you work your way through quick, breezy missions. A quick prologue ensures players learn why, exactly, Maverick enrolled in Top Gun Academy, acting as a sort of tutorial to ease players into the swing of things: how to take on enemies, fly like a pro, and ultimately earn your keep as part of the RIO pack. It’s nothing particularly difficult. Departures like Tom Clancy’s HAWX come to mind. Maneuvering is nowhere near as difficult as, say, more realistic sims. It’s obviously built with one goal in mind: to blow up as much as humanly possible.

For early levels you’ll find yourself plowing through mission directives like a hot knife through butter, but later on, especially in the now seemingly-infamous Indian Ocean levels, you’ll run into more than a few issues. If you can’t flawlessly dodge missiles, destroy targets, or perfectly maneuver the not-so-friendly skies during these missions, your fun levels will crash and burn…like you will. In the end you’ll find you can graduate Top Gun Academy with flying colors if you can muster enough patience to try and retry these more austere levels again and again until you can do them in your sleep. Knocking Iceman and interacting with the crew from the movie really did seem to alleviate some of the frustration, though I suppose Top Gun junkies and hardcore fans can use these niceties to push through the hardest parts and enjoy the game more.

I found I had the most difficulty keeping my craft viable in the air and not accidentally flying upside down or running straight into a target lock. It was also a bit of a shocker to practically fly through (literally and figuratively) the earlier levels, only to be met with such a steep difficulty curve. I also found a dizzying level of mediocrity permeating the stages – too often it consisted of getting to point A, eliminating Soviet targets, and continuing on. It’s obviously a barebones arcade adventure, but the “Danger Zone” constantly playing during heated battles did kick things up a notch.

Beyond trudging through the occasionally dull and repetitive campaign (though spiced up with memorable movie moments) you can venture onto Horde or simple multiplayer modes. Horde mode is exactly what it sounds like: RIO and Maverick against several different Soviet fighters for some simple shoot-’em-up action. Multiplayer offers the same modes you’re likely used to seeing in other games – first-person shooters and whatnot. Team Deathmatch is a staple. Top Gun mode has you teaming up with other players to blow away the baddies. Both modes are fairly fun to mess around with, if you didn’t find too many players, but with a couple friends I gleaned more enjoyment from the game than from much of the shallow campaign.

Top Gun the videogame doesn’t exactly dazzle, but it’s a fun, silly little romp that’s perfect for fans of the movie or arcade-y flight sims in general. It’s not going to win any awards in the visuals or audio departments (unless you’re going to award it for “Danger Zone”, which plays endlessly throughout) or feature any of its famous superstars, but it’s a decent enough value purchase for those looking for a little HAWX-styled fun. There’s even multiplayer for that extra wingman action, and were surprisingly fun. About the only thing it doesn’t have (apart from Tom Cruise or Val Kilmer) is any shirtless volleyball action going on. Like the movie that it’s based on, just don’t go looking for any real depth here. Do you feel the need for speed?

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