You would need to be at least 24 years old to have even been alive when Top Gun released in theaters. Sure, that isn’t that old — at least, that’s what I tell myself — but it does point out how, well, arbitrary a new game using the license feels 24 years later. It’s not a film that holds any particular amount of modern day relevance, outside of recent explorations of the bizarre undertones present in sweaty all-men volleyball matches. It’s fitting then that Top Gun’s gameplay also holds little modern day relevance, relying instead on tired arcade shooter conventions from multiple console generations ago.
You already know what the missions in Top Gun are; it’s to the point where I considered adding a paragraph break and letting you all guess before I could tell you how smart you are for figuring it out. You’ve got objectives that require you to take out gun emplacements, missions that require you to shoot down tons of enemy aircraft, missions that require you to escort a wounded fighter, and missions to kill a specific target. If that sounds familiar, it’s because those are the same game types that have been in flight combat games for about two decades now.
It would be less annoying to see such predictability if the game weren’t such a chore to control. You can only lock on to one target at a time with missiles and guns no matter how many active missiles you have at the ready, and you have to be within a few kilometers to get an active lock most of the time. It’s not that Top Gun is difficult by virtue of these things; it’s just boring because of them. While there are ostensibly a few different objectives you might have to achieve, ultimately, missions become exercises in flying toward something in as straight a line as possible, locking on with missiles, firing, and repeating. If you miss, you’ll overshoot your target and need to get some distance between you and the offending whatever and make a wide 180-degree turn to take another shot.
Paramount has stressed Jack Epps Jr.’s involvement in Top Gun. While Mr. Epps was indeed one of three writers involved in the script for Top Gun, his presence barely registers here. In fact, what little new “story” there is in the game errs more on the side of Viva Rock Vegas than Top Gun — it’s awkward and embarrassing. Top Gun takes bits of exposition and dialogue from the film and places them often without any context whatsoever during the in-mission cutscenes — including the out of nowhere occurrence of the “Flat Spin Moment,” which happens after a mission but ends without showing what happens and picks up again after Maverick has returned to flight school following Goose’s death. In the movie, this part is sad. In the game, I was just excited I didn’t have to hear Goose anymore. The voice acting in Top Gun sounds like a live reading of the movie’s script by the cast of Dragonball.
But then, at least Goose speaks. While you’ll be playing as Maverick, you certainly won’t be speaking as Maverick, to the point where your Rio will accept compliments on your behalf. I guess if I were Maverick, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone in this game either.
The best part about Top Gun is the multiplayer, which is… just OK, actually. I had some trouble consistently finding games, but when every player is at the mercy of the same so-so controls, some fun can be had. That said, it’s difficult to expect that a strong multiplayer community will spring up around Top Gun, unfortunately.
Top Gun is short, not particularly attractive, has awful voice acting, and costs $15. If you’re absolutely desperate for a flight combat game, Top Gun might seem attractive, but there are better F-14 starring titles to choose from on PSN.