You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have Top Gun: Combat Zones. First and foremost, have no illusions, you are not Maverick and there is no Goose. The only commonality this game has with the hit 80’s movie depends upon whether you’ve seen the movie and played the game.
Some people disliked that the plot of the game has no substance and hated that sterile feeling the narrator gives you before you embark on a mission. I like that aspect about the game. It made the missions more realistic to me and is the type of attitude that resembles the controls of your aircraft: cold, unyielding, sterile. You have to know what you’re doing in order to succeed in this game. This is no simple point-and-shoot.
At first it’s difficult to get a hang of flying and shooting, more so then on previous flight sims for the PS1 such as the Ace Combat games. But once you get the right configuration, which can be changed to one of four presets in the options menu, the game becomes more interesting. Well, it’s more interesting than flying around getting killed as you try to remember what buttons do what anyway.
If you’re not a fighter pilot by heart and you care about plot and theme, then the only incentive to continue playing Top Gun is to uncover new the planes you get to fly. If you’re a good fighter pilot you get the opportunity, throughout the course of the game to fly an F-4, F-14, F-18, F-22, Osprey, YF-23, JSF and a Harrier. The better you are, the more these planes are uncovered. Your merit as a pilot relies on you score per mission and whether you complete a mission with a bronze, silver or gold star.
Instead of being a turn on, this whole merit structure about the game was a big turn off. My motto is simple. I paid $50 for the game; let me play with all the airplanes I want!
One pleasant aspect of the game was the graphics. I was impressed by how crisp everything looked. Especially when you break through the clouds to attack a convoy of trucks, the amazing detail is apparent. As the cloud cover gets thinner, the ground gets clearer. It’s all very impressive.
Your arsenal of weapons includes a limited amount of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and unguided rapid-fire rockets, as well as the standard cannon. The sounds of the weapon actions are great, but unfortunately clouded by the cheesy music. My advice is you turn the soundtrack off.
Top Gun let’s your fighter jet perform tricks to evade being shot down which earns you kudos, which will let you get more planes later. The maneuvers are Jink, Barrel Roll, Half Roll and the Airbrake Maneuver. All these tricks are performed through cleaver use of the left analog stick and the use of other keys.
The fact of life is that Top Gun offers some new cool features and decent graphics, but flies low on the interest scale because at times you feel like you’re working to get the new planes, instead of just playing. It earns 4 GiN Gems because it is the most realistic flight simulator on the PlayStation 2 platform. Heck, I thought all realistic flight games were confined to the PC. It earns my respect despite the difficulty level, which I assume is because it’s actually pretty difficult to fly a real plane in combat.