Top Gun Combat Zone
Review of Top Gun Combat Zone
For those of you who’ve been living in total isolation these past few years, here’s a quick introduction into the phenomenon that is Top Gun. An archetypal 1980’s film, starring Tom Cruise and the gorgeous Kelly McGuiness, it’s story line revolved around the famed American flight training school at Miramar where pilots vied to become the best, to become the ‘Top Gun’. The PSOne has already had a Top Gun licensed game, and now it’s time for a PS2 version...
With Titus having spent so much money acquiring the license for this film, you’d at least expect them to make decent use of it. Those of you expecting lots of film clips, acted briefings, etc will be sorely disappointed. Not even the ‘bad ass’ flight sergeant used in the PSOne game makes an appearance, makes you wonder why they bothered to call it Top Gun in the first place. The only thing the game shares with the film is the location of the training missions, namely Miramar in the USA.
This issue aside game play is straight forward and involves the time honoured tradition of ‘if it moves or it’s an enemy then shoot it’, with some secondary objectives which may include the protection of allied aircraft or troops, or the destruction of enemy bases thrown in for good measure. There are two game modes being Campaign and QuickStart. Campaign mode takes place over three different eras, Vietnam, the Gulf and the Arctic. Before attempting wartime missions in each era, five training missions take place at Miramar. Although these just about justify the Top Gun licence they can be exceptionally annoying, since they must be completed before starting any wartime missions. Just getting stuck here will stop progression to the next war zone in it’s tracks – frustrating when your just dying to know what the Gulf or Arctic landscapes will look like. QuickStart mode is ‘exactly what is says on the tin’. Select your plane, select the landscape and time of day, time limit and finally the combat type, then take on the enemy on your terms. Extra aircraft, landscapes and combat types can all be unlocked by progressing through the Campaign mode.
Flying the aircraft is pretty easy and can definitely be classified as an arcade shooter rather than a true flight sim, no nasty complex flight model here. Yet, in some respects, it manages to exclude some aspects from both genres giving the impression that it hasn’t really made up it’s mind what it would like to be. For instance the HUD used in the game is a nightmare, there are no artificial horizon lines displayed making it is very easy to get completely disorientated at high altitudes. Maybe the designers considered them to be too ‘simmy’. The radar is also a rather nasty piece of work, but in this case a more arcade approach could have been taken, with it showing the currently selected target together with its type or height. Without any height information dogfights become a case of continually trying to find the enemy rather than fighting them, and hence become very, very dull. Just a few improvements here and there could make the game a much more enjoyable experience all round.
Graphically the game does well. There is no slow down and it zips along even when the afterburners are at full thrust. Ground detail is good and varied, with all the buildings being true 3D structures, not just fancy overlaid textures. This means that they remain good even when very close to the ground, not becoming pixilated and unrecognizable (see Ace Combat 3 for a demonstration of this...). All the planes are nicely detailed, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get close enough to them to appreciate it. However, the game does suffer from the dreaded ‘fogging phenomenon’. Draw distances are poor but this doesn’t really adversely affect the game, better that it runs smooth and fast than slow and jerky. Gunfire and explosions are a bit of a let down. Fire a missile and watch as it flies away leaving a satisfying vapour trail, only to explode like a damp squib when it hits it’s target. Shame really, when games such as ‘Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix’ show what can really be done...
The same comments can be pretty much applied to the game’s sound. The aircraft sound good, with the roar of the afterburners kicking in. During dogfights, the enemy planes can be some times heard flying very close, even though it’s impossible to find them, but explosions are again just not meaty enough. Music is nasty rock stuff, which is better left turned off (as usual with most game music, even GT3...no nasty e-mails please...), though it does suit the atmosphere and the whole ‘Top Gun’ thing.
Overall it’s not a bad game, and if arcade shooters are your thing then you’ll love it. With just a bit more effort in the right places, it could have been made so much better, and more use could have been made of the Top Gun licence. Do not underestimate the game’s difficulty. This is not an easy game, mainly due to the ground attack nature of many of the missions. One wrong move and you’ll end up a being nasty mess on a hillside somewhere in North Vietnam...
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Top Gun Combat Zone' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by James Goode © Absolute PlayStation
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