If an F-16 jet fighter blows up in the sky and there’s nothing remotely interesting about it, does it make a sound? That’s just one of the many questions you’ll be asking yourself while playing Heatseeker. Others include “Why do all these missions feel the same?” and “What would’ve happened if Goose had never died in Top Gun?"
Okay, so that last one isn’t really Heatseeker-related, but you’ll forgive us if our mind wanders towards slightly more interesting jet fighter entertainment. It’s just that every part of Heatseeker is so bland and uninspired. From the generic pre-mission briefings to the unrewarding post-mission stats screen, there’s nothing here that will grab your attention for very long.
That’s especially true for the core gameplay: The arcade-style jet fighting these missions are built around. You’re given unlimited machine gun fire and missiles that, when used up, take just a few seconds to replenish. The game throws quite a few enemies your way, so at first using this infinite arsenal to blow up anything in your way can be somewhat fun. Then the sad realization sets in that you’ve been playing the same type of mission over and over… against the same cliché enemies… using the same handful of clumsy attacks.
One part of the game, called the “Impact Cam” - a Burnout-style view of your enemy’s crash - adds some flair to the early levels, but eventually winds up doing more harm than good. This is because your plane goes into cruise control during these scenes, and when you regain control you see that the large group of enemies you just had on your screen have now flown past you. Going back after these targets is more of a chore than it might seem thanks to the poor controls. You guide your jet with the twitchy PSP nub, so there’s a constant struggle to get your machine gun targeting reticule just right. The lock-on targeting of your heat-seeking missiles works almost at random, and the HUD isn’t terribly helpful, either. Instead of a visually friendly gauge, the altimeter is shown simply as a blur of shifting digits in the corner of the screen, making it far too easy to crash into the ocean when you’re diving after a boat.
Not making things any better are the sub-par graphics and cheesy 80s rock that drones on during the entire game. The visuals aren’t too much of a problem in the air, but during frequent cut scenes taking place on ground, you can really see how blurry the textures are, and the lack of any detail on the buildings. On the other hand, at least the music is consistently bad, so you won’t be missing anything by turning the sound off.
But aside from the music, there’s nothing about Heatseeker that’s frustratingly awful. If you’re a wannabe pilot who doesn’t mind navigating through a storm of mediocrity, you could do a lot worse. But you could also do a lot better. That, friends, is blandness in a nutshell.