reviews\ Nov 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Top Gun: Combat Zones - GC - Review

Before Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, and that guy from Revenge of the Nerds made Top Gun a household name, the US Navy initiated the air combat program of the same name during the Vietnam War.  Top Gun’s purpose?  To maintain American dominance in the sky and teach young flyboys Air Combat Maneuvering.  In Top Gun Combat Zones, your mission is simple.  Find your enemy, blow them to smithereens, then blow them up some more. 


Top Gun is a mission based air combat sim game.  Pilots begin the game flying an F-14 Tomcat through a series of training missions to get you a little more comfortable in the cockpit before you patriotically unleash fury on third world countries. 


The training missions all take place at Miramar base, the Naval training facility for future Top Guns.  There are five or six training missions to complete before moving on to each campaign, and they entail either blowing ground targets, such as tanks or anti-aircraft guns, or blowing up air targets, such as helicopters or fighters.  Each mission is timed to prevent lollygagging around the skies and admiring the view, and time comes into play quite often. 


After completing the training missions, it’s on to live combat, which is eerily similar to the training missions that were just finished.  Pack your bags and don’t forget insect repellent, because your first destination is the non-specific region of Southeast Asia.  Here you’ll see lush forests crawling with POW camps, tanks, gunboats and more that are all at the mercy of your superior arsenal.  Most missions involve taking out the immediate threats, then leveling the enemy’s base.  Don’t forget some sunscreen for the next campaign which takes gamers to the lovely region of the Gulf State.  Here, the lush forests are replaced with deserts and gunboats are replaced by scud missile launchers, but the missions are generally the same.  Find the enemy, and wipe ‘em out.  Bring some lip balm for the last destination on your world tour of destruction because you’re going to the Arctic Circle.  Missions in the Arctic Circle include protecting allied tankers, liberating oil rigs, and vaporizing the enemy.  The places may change, but the idea remains the same, obliterate the bad guys and get back in one piece in time to play some beach volleyball.


Showing the enemy what you’re made of involves several types of missiles, bombs, and a lot of machine gun fire.  Air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles have a lock-on feature that is initiated by positioning the targeting reticule over the intended target.  Once the locked-on sound beeps, let ‘em have it with the B button.  Pesky anti-aircraft guns are a waste of missiles, so fill them full of machine gun lead with the A button.  There’s not much more to it with the weaponry, its straight-forward mass destruction.


Flying your metal bird of destruction is easy and one of the strong points of the game.  Thrusting and braking is done with the L and R buttons.  More advanced maneuvers, such as barrel rolls or jinks are only a Z button away.  The controls are simple enough for anyone to pick up, and flying across the landscapes is incredibly fun.


Of course flying across the landscapes wouldn’t be any fun if they didn’t look good, and the good people of Titus did a fabulous job with the graphics.  The game runs smoothly and the terrain looks great (before you blow it up), which is pretty much all you need for a good-looking combat flight-sim.  The game can be played from a third-person perspective or right from the cockpit, depending on your preference. 


Perhaps it’s all the sonic booms over the years or just the need for a good hour with Q-tips, but it didn’t really seem like sound was a top priority in Top Gun.  There’s really not much to say about the sound except that it’s all below average. 


There are a few other minor gripes pilots will have with the game.  When one objective of a mission is complete, the game will launch into a short cutscene and introduce new enemies that just happen to pop up in an area that you just leveled.  Not only does it disrupt the flow of the game, but it makes the game very incongruous and leaves supposedly important missions feeling more like errands.  Add to that the complete absence of plot or story, and the game never really jumps out and grabs you and becomes repetitive.  The last and ultimate gripe with Top Gun deals with the entire lack of taking off and landing your aircraft.  How can anyone think they are a highly trained combat pilot without any landing skills? 


Top Gun excels with its solid gameplay and great graphics but lacks enough variety to make the game replay-able.  The game is about on par with the Air Combat series, and is worth a rent for flight fanatics. 


Top Gun Combat Zones is rated E for everyone.



Gameplay: 8

Top Gun is air combat simplified.  Flying through the missions isn’t terribly difficult, and the changes in scenery are welcomed with open arms.


Graphics: 8.5

Aside from the poor looks in the presentation, the game is visually adept.  Flying near buildings, under bridges, and over water is a sightseer’s paradise.


Sound: 4

The sound effects of Top Gun aren’t a strong point of the game.  Some of the music sounds similar to the traditional Top Gun theme from the movie, but there’s no Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” here.


Difficulty: Medium - Hard

Some missions are tough, but the game can probably be finished during a rainy day. 


Concept: 5

Top Gun is a basic mission-based air combat game.  There aren’t any frills and not too much variety in the gameplay.


Overall: 7

Entertaining at times, frustrating at others, Top Gun never really picks gamers up and takes them away.  There isn’t much value in the game after it’s beaten once, so potential purchasers should take the next flight to the rental store before buying a copy.


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