Top Gun: Hard Lock

TopGunHardLockThe military jet action game Top Gun Hard Lock is inspired by the 1986 Top Gun film and concentrates on battles and action filled scenarios with not much character development on the Top Gun Academy pilots. Players can hear familiar Top Gun phrases, which are a bit overdone and repetitive, as game developers mainly hit their target by creating a fun, exhilarating combat game.

Flight sim fans might miss details like detailed airspeed and other settings, but the essential navigation and weapons displays are there. The sense of space and movement capabilities correspond well with the simple controls. The color schemes and icons are prominent enough for easy communication while the control button schemes flow nicely between speed and weapons.

The 14 playable licensed planes include the F14D Super Tomcat, F22 Raptor and F/A-18F Super Hornet. The planes have a sharp detailed visual representation while the fairly grainy environment and background visuals reflect the dry, arid Middle Eastern settings where debris and airborne particles would be common, especially in flight. The pixellated backgrounds initially distract, but it’s easy to adjust then focus more on the military targets.

The single player mode features 15 campaign missions, which take about 30 minutes each to complete. Each mission has several components involving defense, ground unit, target hunting, dogfights, and covering allies using standard cannons, missiles and cluster bombs. The optional secondary missions reward players with additional allied support including aircraft and ground units. Other rewards include a larger target area for the special lock-on feature.

The Danger Zone mode features single player fight against increasingly sizable enemy groups. The weapons, navigation, and maneuvering capabilities change as players progress while providing appealing variety and unpredictable with each challenge. The online multiplayer mode contains the same elements and interfaces, but underwhelms due to lack of participation from other players.

The featured hard lock system lets player engage enemies in a closer camera angle. Just maneuver then align to target enemies and keep them in the target sights. Game developers incorporate a nice buffer zone when activating this feature and hitting the corresponding buttons once engaged, so exact precision helps, but is not required.

Easy right? This feature has obvious battle advantages…just don’t let the enemy turn the tables. Players can avoid most defensive scenarios as their skills and control familiarity increase, but even enemy missile locks don’t necessarily mean the end of the line.  Special air combat maneuvers (ACMs) can help players out of tough situations when they move their controls (left and right analog sticks) according to the prompted icons. ACM variety and difficulty increase with game progression.

Dodging missiles with special moves or flares can be challenging and satisfying. Timing is everything here as avoiding close encounters increases the exhilarating gameplay. Other common challenges include adverse weather plus radar-jamming planes and radar stations.

The driving rock/guitar filled music soundtrack provides additional appeal and the impressive sound effects are well-timed and exciting.

The entertaining gameplay and creative scenarios in this recommended (*** out of four stars) provide fun flying battles for players skilled at various levels. Also available on PC and Xbox 360.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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