Digital Integration unveiled their Top Gun: Combat Zones at the Eastbourne Air Show back in the summer - a lovely sunny day, one of the warmest of the year. Several months later, and the games up for review, and outside it's a cold grey day, it's windy and raining, snow seems likely, and it's probably the coldest day, ever!
Luckily Top Gun: Combat Zones reminds me of the warm summer (yes, there was one, I seem to remember) with it's lovely sunsets that feature in some stages of the game. You get to take the role of pilot in one of a number of varied fighter jets to choose from, including F-14 Tomcat, Osprey, Phantom and Harrier.
The game gives you a choice of Quickstart and standard game modes - the quickstart lets you play with any planes on any of the areas, in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions that you've unlocked in the main game. Training missions, or the Academy as they are known, let you get to grips with both the controls and the specifics of what you'll need to do before you're properly let loose on the missions.
More planes and combat zones become unlocked the further you work your way through the game, with all of them unlocked and available for the quickplay mode once you've completed the game, and with some of the targets very near to the edge of the zones, it'll take a fair amount of practice to get it right without just drifting out and ending your mission.
Being heavily focused on the arcade aspect, means that the game makes use of a points system - you get points for simply still being in the air and not shot down, plus points for impressive moves, flying close to the ground and tops of objects, and for First Blood, which is when you're quick off the mark at the start of a mission and beat all the other planes in to getting a strike on the opposition.
The controls take a bit of getting used to - the first few minutes you seem to be a bit out of control of the jet, and are pretty likely to fly it straight in to the ground, but you'll soon be pulling off barrel rolls, air brake movements, and generally looking like a fully trained fighter pilot. After each mission you get to watch your action again via movie style footage, which makes use of lots of cinematic camera angles and motion blur, and shows all the highlights of you're death defying flight.
Sadly there's no direct tie-in with the movie - there's none of the music, and no acted footage, which could be quite a letdown for fans of the film - Combat Zones really would have benefited from having a direct tie-in with the storyline from the film, and would have elevated it from just an arcade flight-sim to more of an all round experience of living the life of one of the pilots.
Top Gun: Combat Zones is an enjoyable title with good graphics and plenty of gameplay which will be loved by anyone who likes their jet fighter games. However with the lack of an overall story to the missions, you could start to feel that one mission is pretty much the same as the next, and not feel like completing the game - still, it'll pass the winter evenings, and provides good fun flight action, with plenty of opportunity to shoot enemy aircraft out of the sky.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Virgin Interactive/Titus
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Top Gun: Combat Zones from Amazon