We're going back to the future to the decade that gave us Back to the Future. Yes, while '80s staples like flattop haircuts, neon spandex and the robot dance ought to forever stay locked in the vault of history's forgotten fads, flight-action is also making a comeback.
Equal parts cheese and action, Heatseeker draws inspiration directly from classic jet pilot flicks like Top Gun. As such, it offers a throwback to a time when games were simpler – although this isn't always a good thing. Heatseeker's repetitive design sadly has it deploying landing gear shortly after take off.
As if you even needed a story to justify heading up into the skies to pilot a fighter jet, Heatseeker has you playing the role of rookie ace Mike 'Downtown' Hudson. Through the course of a 35-mission campaign, you'll face off against a ruthless dictator attempting to sabotage the peace-keeping International Council.
The story ultimately means little in the face of gunfire and rockets. Heatseeker is all about the aerial action, pitting you against wave after wave of foes. You'll contend with other aircraft, naval vessels such as battleships, destroyers and submarines, and even ground targets including anti-aircraft guns and military installations.
Selecting the right weapons for a given mission is half the battle in Heatseeker. Machine guns, missiles, rockets, torpedoes, microwaves – around 20 different weapons can be unlocked through the course of the game. Completing bonus objectives within certain missions rewards you with weapon packs that upgrade basic systems and open up new ones. Additionally, you can access new aircraft by performing well in missions.
The mechanics of combat are extremely simple, with the X button firing your primary weapon and Circle deploying a secondary weapon. Most aircraft come equipped with a second or even third cache of weapons, which you can cycle among using the Triangle button.
Mainly, you'll want to use guided rockets to take out aerial opponents and switch to bombs for naval or ground targets. Spraying machine gun fire isn't effective in taking out enemies, but occasionally it works in finishing off a weakened foe.
You'll notice that it doesn't take much to destroy targets, even bosses which are intended to be a challenge. None of the missions packed into the single-player campaign are particularly difficult. At a few points in the game you'll find yourself surrounded by a large number of enemies that creates an artificial challenge, but for the most part individual opponents aren't terribly hard to beat.
In the course of that campaign, you'll visit a whopping four locales: Lord Roberts Island, Vertana, Antarctica, and Kamcha. Few distinctions exist between Lord Roberts Island and Vertana, both featuring small tropical islands in the middle of nowhere. A bit of variety is offered in the Antarctic missions, as well as in the mountains of Kamcha; however, these grow stale after a dozen or so missions flying around the same terrain. Compound the monotony of the environments with the simplistic, often too easy combat, and Heatseeker goes from entertaining to dull quickly.
You could be forgiven for hoping the rather plain action mechanics of Heatseeker would translate to fantastic wi-fi multiplayer. We felt the same way – that is, until we realised only ad hoc play is supported for a maximum of four players. A small handful of dog-fighting jets fails entirely to translate into an action-packed multiplayer experience.
At least Heatseeker doesn't skimp on multiplayer modes, offering a total of five: Dogfight, Team Dogfight, Fox and Hound, Base vs. Base and Last Man Flying. Both variants on classic deathmatch, Dogfight and Last Man Flying modes work well given the player cap. Fox and Hound, which plays much like an aerial game of tag with one person as the fox and the rest hunting him/her down, works pretty well, too.
The remaining modes—Team Dogfight and Base vs. Base—are great in concept, but don't work with four players. Teams of two hardly provide for compelling gameplay. It's awfully disappointing how Heatseeker squanders its multiplayer potential with such a low player cap.
Perhaps Heatseeker might still have gotten away with some of its deficiencies if it hadn't taken on quite so much cheese from Top Gun. The graphics look decidedly antiquated and the music is equally so. Electric guitar riffs looping in the background of low quality cutscenes sans voice acting will make you very grateful for the all-powerful skipping Select button.
Ultimately, Heatseeker has landed on PSP armed with overly simple action and a limited multiplayer payload. On a postive note, it throttles up the action without delay, making it great for portable play since it always puts you in the thick of combat. You'll certainly enjoy the single-player missions for a short while, until their shallow reserves run out of fuel.
But with a lack of deeper missions and an underwhelming multiplayer offering as your only alternative, Heatseeker is perhaps best summed up as a quintessential average game with a hot name. How very '80s...