In 1986, Top Gun was a wild success, grossing more than 350 million dollars worldwide. For that generation, it was action-packed, romantic, and badass. Yet when seen by modern eyes, it seems to have completely failed to stand the test of time. Romantic action movies, 80s music production techniques, mustaches, and even Tom Cruise himself all seem like relics of a completely different time, desperately uncool today. Which is why it may seem odd that Paramount Digital Entertainment and Doublesix have teamed up to release another Top Gun game downloadable on the PlayStation Network, and even one that claims to expand the story of the movie! Unfortunately, the product we’re given has decent game play but rather low production values, and it delivers the story of Top Gun in an incredibly awkward way.
Jack Epps, Jr., one of the two original movie screenwriters, was even brought in to write this game, and “expand on the relationship between Maverick and Iceman.” The story you get in this game is unfortunately a bizarre clump of every famous quote from the film into as small a space as possible. The story kind of summarizes the film, adding in a Russian aviator named Ivan as a sort of silent antagonist after Maverick graduates from Top Gun.
We get the story mostly through cutscenes, all of which are simply jets flying next to one another with small pictures of who’s speaking in the upper corners of the screen. The pictures are given a shaky effect as though they were live feeds of each pilot’s cockpit, but there’s no other movement, and no lip sync for the few cases in which the speaker doesn’t have a flight helmet and mask on. It feels cheap considering the console it’s on, and though it may only be a download title, the price tag still reads $15, rather high for the PSN. The graphics are generally lackluster as well, when compared to, say, Tom Clancy’s HAWX of last year, a full-budget arcade jet fighter. Top Gun was a big-budget blockbuster, and it deserves a little more production value in its biggest video game adaptation since Konami’s original NES version.
Now, the real bombshell, the most awkward part of this video game. Maverick does not speak. Why? It’s understood that he can’t look or sound like Tom Cruise without spending money on likeness rights, but no one else in this game sounds like themselves, either (Slider sounds like he’s from Texas, and Goose sounds like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). Imagine the awkward workarounds every cut scene has to go through to make sure that Goose or Merlin always talks instead of Maverick. Imagine the big movie quotes that constantly have to come out of the wrong mouth to serve this purpose. He’s not Gordon Freeman!
The campaign is short. Maybe the somewhat repetitive game play couldn’t have supported a much longer campaign without boring players, but there’s no getting around how little playtime one gets for the money. An additional Horde Mode allows you to simply take on wave after wave of enemy fighters to the tune of “Highway to the Danger Zone,” and that lasts you another half hour or so before it gets old.
Having said all that, the game play itself is perfectly functional with only a few exceptions. Dogfighting is fast-paced and exciting once you’ve gotten through the first few pushover levels, and as long as you don’t mind the arcade-iness of it, you’ll have a decent time. My only complaint is that the flares you must use to dodge all incoming missiles are mapped to the left button on the D-Pad. You use it every other second, and every time you have to move your left thumb off the analog stick to press it, very inconvenient. The L3 button would have made this less irritating.
Unfortunately, due to the game’s server issues, I was never actually able to compete in an online multiplayer match. There were rarely more than ten people playing online at any particular time, but both server population and server errors should get better over time. There are only four maps, but the map is rather irrelevant when the game is fought entirely in the sky anyway. Seems like a fun addition that should add hours to an otherwise short title, but I could never successfully log in.
Though the game gives decent arcade jet fighter game play, and doesn’t totally ruin any nostalgia you may feel for the movie, $15 is not the right price for this product. The campaign is very short, the game doesn’t add anything to your Top Gun film experience, and there are much better jet fighting alternatives to choose from.
Top Gun is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Language and Violence.