Flight action games may not be for everybody. You’ve got to commit to inverted controls, enjoy the thrill of dogfights and understand that human interaction will be seldom or nonexistent. Top Gun: Hard Lock focuses strictly on aerial combat. You won’t find any cool cut-scenes in this game or even an opening animation worthy of note, but fans of the Tom Cruise flick will get a few awesome movie references and have a chance to race through the airways at Top Gun speed.
Top Gun: Hard Lock hits its stride when you’re soaring through the air, listening to music from the 1986 motion picture. Lyrics not-included, the instrumental from “Danger Zone” helps to keep the energy alive during your first training mission. You’ll be reacquainted with movie characters like Jester and Maverick. And, the voice over for Maverick sounds similar enough to Cruise to sell the deal.
While performing flybys, revving up you afterburners and going toe-to-toe with the legendary Top Gun ace, Maverick, provide a few thrills, the Hard Lock gameplay gets monotonous after your first few missions. You’ll shift from dogfights to attacks on enemy bases with ease, but the locations all seem like slightly varied brown boards.
The before and after mission experience is about as bland as it gets. Gamers will only see text on the screen, with some voice over to setup each scenario. Namco’s recently released Ace Combat Assault Horizon, tried to give gamers a little more depth to aerial combat by exploring the people who flew the planes. While the story may not have been memorable, it was enough to keep you plowing through each aerial campaign. It also broke up the monotony of going from one dogfight to the next.
However, the dogfights in Hard Lock succeed more than in Ace Combat Assault Horizon. In Assault Horizon, getting a lock was a little too easy. Each board felt like a game of lock, shoot and repeat. The AI in Top Gun: Hard Lock does an excellent job of breaking out of your lock so that you’ll have to really fight for each kill. Instead of an instant kill with every lock, you may just nick the wing or lose your enemy all together. The game tends to hand hold when you lose your target. Players will be prompted to hold down their thumbsticks in a particular direction to perform a skill maneuver. These moments are akin to cinematic actions, but don’t feel as cheap. Once prompted to hold down your thumbstick, a gauge will appear to report the effectiveness of your turn or barrel role.
Use of your machine guns feels more authentic in Hard Lock. Players won’t always feel like they have to resort to missile attacks. For land targets, you’ll have to go in close to use your short-range air-to-land missiles. These can be tricky at first, but players won’t run out of missiles. The short-range missiles use a gauge that refills relatively quickly.
Top Gun: Hard Lock is a passable flight action game, but it’s thin on content and variety. This game is more fit for casual gamers who are fans of the movie.