No goose, no good.
I'm not gonna pull your chain, beat around the bush or humor you to keep your attention for the duration of this review. Hopefully, your insightful gamer-sense is tingling like you just swallowed a jellyfish or something. If not, it should be. Frankly, if you turned your browser to another review, I would applaud you. Top Gun: Combat Zones is just another one of those things you want to run over and leave for dead on a deserted road somewhere. Roadkill, there we go. That's the perfect name. This game is about as useful to a gamer as fresh roadkill.
Titus' new arcade style flight combat mess is an all around bad game, from the plot all the way down to the control.
The story is pretty lame and has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. The Combat Zone is a glorified VR training program set up to improve a pilot's performance in the field. It recreates and simulates popular battles from history. Skirmishes from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and others make up your settings. That's pretty much it. No real goal and no real story since it's only a training program.
You fly through a series of 36 linear missions over 4 locations while engaging in air-to-air and surface-to-air battles. All this means is that you will be visiting the same four lackluster areas 9 times apiece. The missions have no cohesion and are thrown at you very randomly, bouncing you around the globe with no hint as to why. Since the story is nonexistent, don't expect any between mission dialogue or cinemas to glue the missions together. The whole game plays like consecutive quick start missions. It doesn't really inspire you to play at all.
And why do you pilot modern day aircraft if the VR training is from battles that took place over thirty years ago? Not only are the crafts chronologically displaced, but their numbers are few. You'll fly the Navy's F-14, F-18, F-22, and a couple others. This hardly compares to Airforce Delta Storm's massive list of planes.
The weapons are simple. You fire rockets, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles and drop a few bombs. Pretty standard fare for a modern day flight game. But the explosions are missing that fiery, destructive flair you want to see after shooting several missiles at one target. No pilot worth his weight in memory cards is gonna be satisfied with the paltry firecracker explosions Top Gun dishes out.
The remaining graphical features are weak. It's hard to make out enemies on the ground because there's no texture detail. The planes can't hold a candle to Airforce Delta Storm's intricately detailed crafts. Heck, even the 'before mission' briefing map is featureless. This is probably one of the most important aspects of the game since it's dotted with objectives. The problem is, you can barely see them. At least the lens flare from the sun is decent.
Although Top Gun's shortcomings are many, there is one that dwarfs them all - the mind-burning control. Pitch, ascent and descent are all controlled with the left analog stick, while L1 and L2 handle your turning from left to right. This is absolutely backwards! Pitch should be controlled with the triggers and turning with the left stick. The default configuration is nearly impossible to use comfortably. I never got used to it. Since it's all on the same stick, I often found myself upside-down or doing a barrel roll at the most inopportune moments. There are a few alternate control configurations, but all of them use the left analog stick in the same way.
To make matters worse, they decided to throw in special maneuvers to help aid you in avoiding enemy fire. By pressing L3, you can perform special braking maneuvers, jinks, half-rolls and a couple others. But again, heaping all this on the left analog stick just compounds the control problems, as you're frequently doing many more stunts than you should. Needless to say, the result is a lot of senseless crashing and burning.
The audio score is nothing to write home about. It's fine. The engine sounds work well for the game, missiles and rockets whiz by with adequate sounds and explosions bang and boom the way they should. The sound is probably the best part about the game.
Top Gun: Combat Zones is not worth a purchase, a rental or even a glance. 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. Even Tom Cruise should pass.