I was about six hours into my first play through of Borderlands 2 when I stumbled upon one of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in a video game.
I found an NPC named Loggins, a former gyro pilot who was kicked out of flight team and wants a bit of revenge on his former co-pilots by burning down their Volleyball court. Considering the quest was called Too Close For Missiles and the description simply read DANGER ZONE, it was pretty obvious that this was a reference to Tony Scott's Top Gun.
For those who haven't seen the movie, let me hit you with the first round of references. Kenny Loggins was the name of the singer who performed the hit songs Danger Zone and Playing With The Boys on the Top Gun soundtrack, one of the most 80s albums you can find today. The movie is about a prestigious navy dogfighting school for pilots, and features a scene where the two main characters, Maverick and Goose, face off against their rivals in a shirtless game of Volleyball. I know how it sounds on paper, but it's a bloody fantastic movie, go rent it from iTunes right now!
After accepting the quest I thought I was done for minor movie references, yet launching into the gyro camp I soon found myself atop of Goose's Roost, literally flying through the air into the danger zone. Goose was the name on Anthony Edward's character in the movie, a loveable RIO with a predilection towards beers and good times. That was a nice touch, but surely the references must be over.
The mission objectives involve stealing a series of Volleyballs, scavenging cans of gasoline and burning down the Volleyball net with a combination of gasoline and an explosive or fire weapon. While finding these items I was treated to a quote from Loggins: "you don't have time to think about it! If you think, you're dead!" A popular quote uttered by Tom Cruise's character Maverick in the movie when talking about his abrasive flying style.
Once I lit the Volleyball net on fire I was attacked by three shirtless soldiers, each wearing a stylish airforce cap and brandishing flight suit pants and combat boots. While for obvious reasons they didn't bare a resemblance to their movie counterparts, this was a hilarious take on the famous shirtless Volleyball scene from the movie.
Just when I thought the developers couldn't provide another killer reference after the quest completion, this was the quest description when turning it in:
Several years ago, the bandits of The Dust established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who survived were the best gyro pilots in the world. They succeeded. Today, the people of Pandora call it Gyro Training Camp. The flyers call it: THAT PLACE WE GO TO PLAY VOLLEYBALL.
Let's compare that to the opening segment from the movie:
On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art or aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world.
Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School.
The flyers call it:
At the end of the quest I simply sat back and admired the thought and effort that the team behind this little throwback put into the adventure. For any gamer it was simply a fun quest, filled with a zany objective that we have come to expect with a Borderlands quest. However for a Top Gun fan like myself it was so much more. It was an experience that literally had me out of my chair, giddy with excitement. It was an adventure that stands out as something expertly crafted with love and care, someone who like myself, has been deeply influenced by a cheesy Hollywood production.
It's not the only easter egg featured throughout the 40+ hours of Borderlands 2 campaign. Just take a look online and you will soon find there are numerous quirks such as meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Creepers from Minecraft and even a reference to A Few Good Men. This is why Borderlands 2 is the ultimate Top Gun video game, it painstakingly brings us some classic pop culture references that simply cannot be experienced in any other game, and for that I will always cherish it.
By Stephen Heller