Top Gun 2 out-guns it’s predecessor in this testosterone fuelled sequel based on the movie.
Much like the first game, it opens with the familiar Top Gun theme tune, used back in the 80s in every electronics store to show off the then state-of-the-art Nicam Stereo. It sound just as good here too, and sets the atmosphere up well.
Those damn communists are at it again, and it’s your job to put a stop to them in your trusty jet fighter. This time around, you can choose from three fighters, the familiar swing-wing F-14 Tomcat used by Mr Cruise in the movie, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon (or Viper) and the Blue Angels favourite the F-18 Hornet. Each has it’s own set of powered up weapons which can be unleashed, including smart bombs and missile barrage, as well as flares. The primary weapons though are the machine gun and side-winder missiles.
Like the first game, all realms of realism are thrown out of the window. If you are expecting some kind of flight-sim meets action game then you’ll be disappointed. This, much like the classic Afterburner arcade, is a balls-to-the-wall action shooter. Presented on rails, you are continuingly moving forward and it’s your job to manoeuvre around the screen to avoid incoming attacks from wave after wave of MiGs, and of course target them to take them down.
In the first game, areas of the screen were divided into danger zones, and when those areas flashed up, you had to move into the adjacent empty area of the screen. This was a cumbersome gameplay mechanic, and for me detracted from the game experience hugely. Thankfully this is absent from Top Gun 2, and instead requires your own thought for when to react and out-manoeuvre incoming missiles.
The game is broken up into seven missions, and each throws a ton of enemies at you, as well as an end-of-level boss. If you are lucky enough to have any shield left then you might succeed, but some of them are pretty tough. Thanks to the fast pace of the game, the big explosions and the rock soundtrack, there is a lot of arcade style fun to have here. The accelerometer works perfectly to dodge up, down and left to right. Missiles come hurtling towards you, and you’ll only have a second or two to decide which way you’ll tilt to avoid them. The barrage of tracer fire is the hardest to avoid though, so taking out any aircraft before they turn towards you is paramount. For the most part the controls work well, but there are a few things that hurt the experience. For both your primary weapons you tap the relevant button on screen. Holding down the left side to shoot your guns, or tapping and holding the right side to get a lock then release to fire missiles. However, the area of the screen allotted to these buttons is a little unforgiving and it’s too easy for your finger to slip off during the intense dogfighting, only to realise that you haven’t been firing at all. Another problem is the placement of the aiming reticule. Instead of being placed a few millimetres above the aircraft, it is smack bang in the middle, so for much of the game your proposed target will be covered by your aircraft. It’s not a huge problem, but is an easy fix.
The seven missions of the game are presented on an overhead map, but the progression of the game is still linear. It would have been nice to be able to play any one of the missions in any order, to increase longevity, as players may get turned off when having to replay levels over and over, which can get very repetitive. While there are variations in both enemies and bosses, the gameplay is essentially the same and could get old for some gamers. Thankfully the fast pace keeps you on your toes for the most part.
Visually the game looks better than the first outing. Not a huge step up, but the fighters look better. The environments could do with a little work as they are bland and low resolution. Surprisingly the game does suffer from big frame-rate drops during intense explosions, particularly when you unleash a smart bomb. Even on an iPhone 4 the game stuttered. The biggest problem for me is the return of the terrible character art from the first game, which looks to be illustrated by a talentless art student. Yuck!
Overall then, Top Gun 2 is a fast paced action shooter which fulfils a need for fans of classics such as Afterburner. It’s not going to blow you away with originality, and there are a few flaws that may put you off. But, the intense action and rocking soundtrack can be an addictive formula, if you’ve got the skills!