Tom Clancy’s series of games have come a long way since Rainbow Six. Each of the games that are brought out under this wonderful authors’ name all have a certain niche in which they fill. With Splinter Cell it is stealth action, with Ghost Recon it is wide-open squad combat, and with the latest H.A.W.X it is aerial combat. First up for those that are expecting a very realistic and true to life flying experience, I’m sorry to say that this is not the game for you. But for those that want to jump on the “highway to the danger zone” like Maverick and Goose, then start to feel the need…the need for speed. (Sigh…I’m old).
This game is very much an arcade/shooter but it also throws a bit of RPG elements in there too, which has become commonplace in a lot games as of late. You gain XP (experience points for the uninitiated) for various things. Be it blowing up X amount of planes with your rockets, or losing a missile that has locked onto you by going into a stall. You gain XP in every game mode you play in; you also level up with the max being forty. With levels come rewards, in the shape of new planes, maps and armament load outs.
Boy does this game have a lot of planes to choose from. From the start you will have a nice selection that can be somewhat overwhelming if you are new to the genre. The game does lend you a hand though; it will recommend a plane for you before each mission. You don’t have to choose it, but if you just want to get in there and blow some stuff up it makes it easier. Another thing that makes it easier is you don’t have to take off or land in HAWX. You will start each mission in the air, and you will likewise end it in the air. I for one am kind of disappointed by this, as I like having to take-off and land.
As with most of the Clancy games, this one’s visuals are top notch. Ubisoft used real satellite data to create the various cities you will be fighting over. When you fly over Chicago you can pick out landmarks and even fly by buildings if you are a good enough pilot. There aren’t any problems with the graphics at all; everything is very sharp and realistic looking. They really went out of their way to make sure the cities as well as the planes were modeled and detailed to look like they’re real life counterparts.
As far as game play goes HAWX is a pretty standard fare. Campaign, Multiplayer, and co-op, wait…co-op? Yup, you read right this game allows you to play the entire game with up to three of your friends in the coop mode. While co-op is becoming more and more common in games, I for one was excited to see it in this jet action game. I can now try and pull off some insane maneuvers, while my buddies cover my back. Co-op aside, let’s talk about the campaign.
Just like a good portion of the “Clancyverse” games, the story involves a “contractor who turns into a terrorist”. As I said earlier you start off working for the Air-Force, and after you leave the HAWX squadron you and your buddies begin working for a PMC (Private Military Corporation) who later sides against the US, so of course you rejoin the air force and fight back. Over the course of the nineteen missions you will get a pretty good variety of objectives. They range from escorting, to protecting troops on the ground, to all out air to air warfare. You will also notice the picture in a picture communication boxes popping up as you talk to your squad or the people you are defending. That’s pretty much it. I mean don’t come into this game expecting a story like Chaos Theory. It’s good for what it is, but let’s be honest; the draw here is fast-paced, fun air combat.
The controls in H.A.W.X. are very good in my opinion. For those that have played Ace Combat you will be very familiar with the control scheme that the game defaults to. There are two types, the first is known as “assistance on,” which makes it a bit harder to crash your plane through bad piloting and takes the navigation to the full arcade level. However “assistance off” is where you really get to cut loose in the skies. With ease you will find yourself air braking and doing a 180 to get the drop on the enemy who was trying to get a missile lock on you just seconds before. But with freedom comes danger, in this mode it will be easier for you to stall and to crash your plane due to a stupid mistake.
The only problem with the controls is that if you try to play in “assistance off” mode there will be times when you can’t lock on to the target that you want to. In order to target an enemy you hit the Y button, the game normally will lock on to the nearest target to your plane. The problem comes into play, when you are in assistance off mode you don’t have a HUD, so you don’t know when your plane is pointing in the direction of your target. So you will have to switch to “assistance on” target the enemy you want, and then switch back to “assistance off”.
Even though I think “assistance off” is where it’s at, there are pluses to playing with the “assistance on”. This game, like many in the Clancy series offers up some new technology that they are employing on the battlefield. This time around it’s known as the E.R.S. or Enhanced Reality System. With the press of the X button when prompted this mode will show you gates on the screen, if you follow these you can intercept an enemy target, or avoid an incoming missile. The biggest help with E.R.S. comes when you have to take out ground targets which are blocked by buildings or the terrain. When you activate E.R.S. it will show you the best trajectory in which to take out your intended target.
One of the other control methods this game has to offer is Voice Commands. If you have played EndWar, then you know what to expect. While I think that it was nice of them to add this into the game, it really isn’t necessary. The only things you can do with the voice communication are fire missiles, or turn on and off assistance mode. It’s much easier to just hit the corresponding buttons, but if you like screaming commands into your headset as though you were really in the heat of battle, hey more power to you.
Multiplayer mode is one of the areas in which the game could use some work. The game has shipped with one mode which is Team Deathmatch, which is fun and leads to some tense battles but it would be nice to see some variety. I am sure with how happy-go-lucky game companies have been with DLC as of late I’m sure we can expect to shell out some more money for a few more game modes. You know, we aren’t in an economic downturn or anything.
Even with the small targeting issues, and the lackluster multiplayer Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. is an excellent newcomer to the air combat/shooter genre that has been dominated by Ace Combat, I for one hope that they continue to build on the wonderful ideas that this game has shown, if only to make H.A.W.X. 2 an even better.