Top Gun: Fire At Will
|a game by||Spectrum Holobyte|
|Editor Rating:||5.8/10, based on 3 reviews|
|User Rating:||7.5/10 - 4 votes|
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|See also:||Flying Games, Top Gun Games|
A game that is dangerously close to entering the danger zone, Top Gun: Fire At Will is an early PlayStation One game based on the popular 80s movie Top Gun. You won’t find Tom Cruise here, or most of the action the series is known for; instead, what you’ll get is a competent yet repetitive shooter that will keep you entertained for a while.
Even if it is because of its presentation alone, Fire At Will is still a fun game that can be played in short bursts, all thanks to its cheesy yet lovable cutscenes. With so many great dogfighting games available on the PS1, is Fire At Will worth your while? Let’s find out.
Dogfighting Made Easy
There are some great games that aim to capture the frantic action of aerial combat: just on the PS1 alone, the Ace Combat series has been known for its fun arcade-style gameplay that includes just the bare minimum to be considered a simulator. Let’s face it: piloting a combat jet isn’t as easy as the movies make it seem.
Considering that, most players would be most inclined to play an arcade shooter when it comes to jet games, and that’s just what Top Gun: Fire At Will delivers. The game features a thin plot that’s just a backdrop for the arcade-style stages that will take players all around the globe, fighting a roster of bad guys known as the Cadre.
All of the classic 80s baddies are here: from Cuba to North Korea, Fire At Will will take you to a variety of locales, where you will engage with enemy fighter jets in some slow-paced dogfighting shenanigans.
Not So Supersonic
When you play a combat jet game, there are a couple of basic things we’ve come to expect: 1) fast-paced action, and 2) enemy fighters. Fire At Will has some of the most basic AI ever seen in a game like this, and the sluggish pace of its combat will make you feel like you’re riding a paper plane.
There’s a clear distinction between the PC and PlayStation versions of the game that we should mention: the PC version is more of a simulator, whereas the PS1 got a more action-oriented game. Take-offs and landing are removed from Sony’s console, and the amount of enemies has been doubled. If you’re looking for a more action-based experience, then definitely go for the game’s console port.
Capturing the Actors
First things first, no, you won’t see Tom Cruise in this game. Instead, actor James Tolkan reprises his role as commander Stinger (although he’s named Hondo in this game, for some reason.) Fire At Will uses real actors to portray its cutscenes, in a way similar to the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series.
Although these cutscenes can be a bit cheesy, and the acting in them is kind of a mixed bag, they serve their purpose well enough. In fact, these cutscenes can be considered the highlight of the game, as they’re the only thing here that shines with originality.
Top Gun: Fire At Will fails to capture the fast-paced action of the film, even if it delivers a somewhat enjoyable arcade shooting experience. The boring AI and uninspired presentation won’t win this game any awards, but the fun cutscenes featuring James Tolkan will please fans of the original film.
- Charming cutscenes
- Nice performance for an early PS1 title
- Unbalanced proportion of simulation and arcade-shooter gameplay
- Low-quality visuals all around
- Terrible AI makes every encounter boringly easy
Download Top Gun: Fire At Will
With Wing Commander IV being such an underwhelming affair, it's nice to see that interactive movies can work if you don't try and do anything too ambitious and keep the fmv (Fuzzy Motion Video) to an absolute minimum.
Top Gun succeeded where Wing IV failed because it didn't allow the fmv to overwhelm and impede on the gaming experience. Spectrum Holobyte proved that, used sensibly, fmv can be vfm if you keep it short and sweet.
It's worth pointing out that Top Gun wasn't actually marketed as an 'interactive movie', but as a flight sim that was based on a film that was released ten years ago - everyone's expectations were therefore not tremendously high. Wing Commander IV, on the other hand, was very much sold as an 'interactive experience' that "starred" Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell - and cost a whopping $10 million to produce. In this case expectations were unfeasibly high because of the money involved and inevitably people were disappointed (as they were with the budget-busting movie Watcrworld), because they couldn't see where the money had gone.
Maybe Wing IV isn't such a bad game after all (Chris admits to loving it) and perhaps it was just a victim of too much hype. MicroProse have proved with Top Gun that interactive movies as a genre can work, you just have to remember that ultimately games players want to play a game and not sit staring at ten minute 'segments' of flickering fmv. If they did. then pcs would come with an mpec card fitted as standard and Mark Hamill would be a very busy man.
Have a yearning for an action game with a little more spice? Like your shooting mixed in with a touch of strategy? It could be that Top Gun: Fire at Will is the game for you. Spectrum Holobyte has been famous for producing some of the finest PC flight simulations around, but this marks something of a departure for that company. An action shooter for the PlayStation, and soon for the Ultra 64. Of course, the initial premise of Top Gun may seem more than a little familiar. Fans of Namco PlayStation games may recognize this as looking more than a tad similar to Air Combat. It also bears a striking resemblance to the less well-received Agile Warrior.
The action is very much mission-based. At the start of each level you are given a specific objective, or often, a specific number of targets to "acquire". After that, the game becomes pretty much a free-for-all in the skies as you tear through enemy airspace, making impossible turns and generally having a lot of fun. Where Top Gun differs from the other games mentioned is in its attention to detail in both backgrounds and enemy animation.The planes are huge, detailed and impressive. The ground targets, while very difficult to destroy, are a lot more interesting in gameplay terms than the aerial vehicles, requiring more skill, patience and strategy to attack.
The action-orientation is enhanced by the inclusion of "boss" planes at the end of each section.These behave in a very aggressive manner, spewing missiles and death in a very uncomfortable fashion.
FMV scenes help generate a movie-like atmosphere, helped along by the dulcet tones of James Tolkan, the commander-guy in the original Top Gun movie, as well as a few characters who pop in and out of the action (largely to tell you how dumb you are).
All in all, an exciting and impressive release, and we're looking forward to a finished version.