Top Gun: Combat Zones
Top Gun: Combat Zones (in Japan known as Top Gun: Ace of the Sky) is a flight simulation video game developed by Digital Integration and published by Titus Interactive for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game was ported to the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, the Windows version was released only in Europe, then in 2004 the Game Boy Advance version was released only in North America. It is based on the Top Gun film and was the final game developed by Digital Integration.
The gameplay consists of an arcade flight simulator in a similar way to games like Ace Combat or Star Wars Rogue Squadron. The game begins with five training missions where you will learn about the game mechanics and controls before moving on to live combat. It features 36 missions played across three eras, set respectively in Vietnam, the Gulf States, and the Arctic Circle. You begin with an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, but you can unlock more jet fighters as you progress in the game, which are the following: F-18 Hornet, F-22 Raptor, F-4 Phantom, JSF, YF-23, Osprey, and Harrier.
There are various mission objectives, such as destroying a specific target, providing air support for an evacuation or escorting allies and each mission has a time limit. Your jet's equipment include a machine gun, air-to-ground missiles, air-to-air missiles, unguided rockets and bombs. You can gain points for some actions like flying close to buildings, destroying a target with your unguided missiles or performing certain aerial moves. If we speak of the HUD, there is a minimap that will show the positions of your enemies and you can also adjust the camera to a third-person view or from the cockpit. The GameCube and PC versions include "simple" and "expert" controller settings.
Why It Sucks
- The game feels more like an Ace Combat rip-off due to the poor grasp of the source material.
- Repetitive missions. You only destroy a certain number of ground and air targets per level. The only thing that differentiates the levels are the backgrounds and the level design, but they don't really change at all and none of the levels are memorable.
- Your weapon loadout for each mission is predetermined and can't be modified, something that can be critical in certain levels where you need to destroy a lot of ground targets.
- Painful hit detection that can cause you to crash a lot, even if you're not too close to the ground or a structure. This gets much worse when you're trying to take out a lot of ground targets from a close distance.
- There are no technical differences between the jets available, they don't have more ammo, more health or a better maneuverability. They're just there to add some "variety" to the game.
- Generic soundtrack that will get very repetitive after a few minutes, also, it doesn't even fit well to the game's pacing, as some songs seem to be taken out of a puzzle game.
Console and Windows Versions
- All of your weapons are incredibly unreliable and poorly programmed:
- The autocannon is very weak and takes too many hits to damage your objectives.
- The air-to-air missiles can kill the airborne targets in one hit, but they barely home into the targets and you need to shoot them at point-blank range to make an efficient use of them.
- The air-to-ground missiles are even more imprecise than the air-to-air missiles because they have troubles with targets that are too close to the ground like tanks and buildings.
- Rockets are hard to use. Unlike the other missiles, the rockets won't home into the enemies, you have to land your rockets with your crosshair, something that can be very difficult if you're too far away from the target.
- The bombs are the only weapons that work properly, unfortunately, you only have a limited amount of them per level and they don't have a really big splash damage.
- None of the missiles have splash damage, if one of the missiles don't mark a straight hit, the target will not get damaged.
- Poor graphics, even for the 2001 standards. The models of the tanks and the buildings look very blocky and the textures are incredibly blurry, specially on the PC version, and if this wasn't enough, you can't change the graphical settings on the PC version, you're only limited to change the resolution. It's worth to mention that the draw distance is also poor, as most of the levels are covered with fog.
- The visual effects like the smoke and the explosions after a target is destroyed are lazily done, also, for some reason some of them just disappear out of nowhere instead of showing up their destroyed models.
- The ground targets are so tiny that you can barely see them from above, and due to the poor graphics, they can blend in with the ground very often.
- Speaking of the ground targets, some of them can be a real headache because of the perfect aiming of their weapons, and while they don't do a great damage, they can still drain your health very fast.
- The controls in the PC version are increadibly sensitive if you try to use a gamepad and there is no way to adjust the dead zones of your joysticks, meaning that the plane will handle terribly if the joysticks of your gamepad are damaged.
- Awful AI, besides the perfect accuracy of their weapons, most of them will never try to evade you, specially the enemy jets, they just seem to ignore you and sometimes they won't even try to take you down.
- Objectives are often boring and troublesome to complete due to your plane's lack of maneuverability and low ammo pool of your weapons. For example, to destroy a base you must destroy every single building in the level, but this can take a lot of time because of the aforementioned problems.
- In one of the missions the briefing explicitly tells you to fly low and fast through the city, something that you should never do with a jet fighter.
- There is a game-breaking glitch where your plane will not be able to travel around certain areas, like if there was an invisible force that prevents you to enter or shoot through that zone, and not only that, the navegation controls will get incredibly glitchy, comparable to a heavily damaged airplane. If this happens, the only thing you can do is restart the entire mission from the beginning, because it's entirely impossible to complete the objectives if this happens.
- The sound design is poor. The best example of this are the weapons, the gatling gun sounds like the firing sound of those space shooters from Action 52 and the sound that plays when you're aiming at an enemy is so high-pitched that can make your ears bleed.
Game Boy Advance Version
- You only have eight directions to aim at, and taking in count that the plane has terrible tank controls, it can even be tedious to kill a stationary target.
- The minimap is prone to fail. For instance, the buildings that you have to destroy in certain levels will not be marked in your minimap, which can confuse you because you'll never know if you have to destroy all of the buildings or only some of them.
- Unlike the home console and PC versions, all of your weapons fire extremely slow, specially the machine gun, which doesn't seem to have a fire rate above 550 RPM.
- The third-person and the side-scrolling parts feel really sloppy and sometimes it's hard to aim well in the third-person game style.
- Despite the poor plane maneuverability, the controls are pretty easy to get used to and there aren't many issues with them.
- Surprisingly, the PC version runs very well on modern resolutions and operating systems, something that is rare in old PC games.
- The main theme of the game is awesome.
- While some of the songs are quite generic and repetitive, there are other ones that are actually good and catchy.
According to Metacritic, Top Gun: Combat Zones received "mixed or average reviews". Reviewers noted that, aside from the title, the game has no relation to the film, causing that some of them said that the title was misleading and that the developer studio just added the Top Gun name just to sell. However, Shane Reed of the Play said that the spirit of Top Gun certainly shines through thanks to slick replays and strategically placed 1980s rock music, despite the lack of characters from the film.
Most of the complaints focused on the game's minimal storyline, the poor graphics and awful visual effects, the lack of variety and, in some cases, the cheesy and repetitive soundtrack and the bad sound design.
The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine gave the game a score of 60 and considering the game as "the closest thing to an honest-to-God flight sim a PlayStation has seen".
PSX Nation was way too hard, giving the game a 15/100, stating that "The story isn't there, the gameplay is very boring, the graphics aren't good and the control will leave you craving for the blood of a programmer."
GameSpy gave the GameCube version a 72 out of 100, saying that "The lack of a strong storyline or multiplay hurt the game, though, as do the controller options, which leave you with a choice between the far too simplistic and the overly complex."
GameZone gave it a similar score of 70 out of 100. In words of the website, "Entertaining at times, frustrating at others, Top Gun never really picks gamers up and takes them away", they also said that "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."
- Game Boy Advance version was developed by Titus Interactive
- Later the GameCube version was re-released by Mastiff in North America