"For the Fans"
With last year's release of the underwhelming Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, it is a good thing that there is another developer out there ready to take on arcade styled jet fighting games. Developer Headstrong Games has secured the Top Gun franchise to give us Top Gun: Hard Lock, the newest addition to the genre.
Top Gun: Hard Lock is essentially an Ace Combat clone. It seems Headstrong Games has reversed engineered much of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon's gameplay, but they dumped the edgy ridiculousness of it all and gave us the flavor and spirit of the original Top Gun film. This isn't going to be flight sim territory either – Hard Lock carries over the popcorn-munching action of the original film. It's a game full of quick dogfights, huge explosions, and action at every angle. Missions consist of mostly blowing things up and taking down planes. The additional dogfight system (pretty much lifted from Assault Horizon) gets players up and close with bogeys, where then an autopilot will take over, turning the entire dogfight into sort of a Rebel Assault experience (if anybody remembers THOSE games). If you're seeking a shoot-'em-up that doesn't require too much thinking, Top Gun: Hard Lock is it. Without having to worry about your ammo supply, or tracing bogeys across a navigational map, there is still a very legit game here that doesn't falter in providing and doing what it's supposed to do.
While Top Gun: Hard Lock is full of mostly brainless action, the biggest fault really lies in the repetitiveness of the missions. You'll be accomplishing missions in much the same way every time, and it tends to get very dry across the long campaign. This isn't to say the missions are bad or boring in themselves, but put them together and it's the same thing over and over again. Graphics are a touch gritty too, and while they aren't bad, nothing seems to be completely in focus; everything looks soft, nothing is sharp and bright, and textures are blurry.
The most important thing about it all is that the true Top Gun spirit is here. Pilots talk to one another in 1980s movie fashion, there are cameos from some of your old favorites, and there are liberal doses of the original theme played throughout. Mega-fans of the movie are going to love Top Gun: Hard Lock, because it really holds the same spirit and levity of the film. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon attempted to make an old series edgy and cool and failed. Top Gun: Hard Lock is its own thing, paying perfect homage to its source material. There is even a mode called "Danger Zone" where you'll take on wave after wave of enemy planes in a sort of survival mode.
Multiplayer mode is pretty decent too, as it allows 2-16 gamers at once to play either a team co-op or deathmatch mode. There are also a few additional online modes such as an aircraft escort mission (for those who like that kind of thing), along with a base defense and carrier strike modes.
If you're looking for an arcade jet fighter game, then Top Gun: Hard Lock is a perfect fit. It's not the most refined game in the world, but it has its fun moments and does what it needs to do. As a great homage to the original movie, Top Gun fans will want to check it out, while those looking for a more realistic jet game will probably want to go looking somewhere else. At the end of the day though, there just isn't a whole lot of meat on Top Gun: Hard Lock's bones. While it may be an entertaining venture for a few hours, for most gamers Hard Lock is going to become mostly disposable very quick.
GameDynamo's Score for Top Gun: Hard Lock (X360)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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