Review: Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.
I assume the enemy pilots are Mexican.
With the release of End War and now this, Ubisoft are further building upon the Tom Clancy franchise. H.A.W.X. (poorly abbreviated from High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron) is an aerial combat game that takes place within the GRAW universe.
Being a Tom Clancy game, the plot is the pretty much what you would expect. Private military companies fighting each other, traitors, terrorists blah blah blah. Rather interestingly though, there are a few times when the missions crossover with Advanced Warfighter 2. Remember the missions where you called in air support? In this, you are the air support. Later on in the game there are also more crossovers from End War. It is clear that a great deal of effort has gone into the storytelling and plot, but it almost makes a complete hash of it to the point where you won’t have a clue what’s going on and, without trying to sound too cheesy and dramatic, what you are fighting for. The missions vary from all out attacks, defending allies and escorting other aircraft – probably the worst of the bunch since I generally hate all escort missions.
If you have played Ace Combat 6 then you pretty much know what to expect. It is certainly more of a shooter than a flight-sim. The controls are pretty simple, the triggers control your throttle and brakes, the bumpers allow you to yaw left or right and everything else is pretty straight forward. Much like End War, voice commands are also supported and are activated by holding both bumper buttons. Aside from movement, pretty much everything else can be done solely with the voice commands, it works surprisingly well and offers a decent alternative. While you play most of the game from a traditional viewpoint, a double press of a trigger button switches the piloting assistance off. This basically turns off all of the planes limiting systems, allowing you to pull of maneuvers you couldn’t possibly do in real life – drifting and powersliding in a jet at hundreds of miles per hour would surely tear it in half, no? This mode is only used for dogfighting since it becomes far easier to evade enemies pursuing you. Your jet can become somewhat awkward in this mode as the camera pulls out to provide a strange, pseudo-2.5D viewpoint. While this does make the process of escaping enemy fire a lot easier, I found achieving a radar lock and trying to hit them with missiles far more successful in the standard third or first-person camera mode.
Speaking of radar lock, I couldn’t help but feel that half the time the enemy AI was far better at locking on to me than vice versa. It is pretty common to get such in a vicious cycle of enemy radar lock, missile warning, evade. During hectic dogfights, you will be warned of an enemy missile lock every few seconds by an alarm which is possibly one of the most irritating sounds I’ve ever heard – more so than gloating Liverpool fans, even. Flares can be deployed to evade missiles but they only come in limited supply, often only five, which seems a bit annoying given the fact you can already carry a large supply of missiles, but this is obviously deliberate to provide more of a challenge. Targeting enemies can be somewhat clunky One nice touch is the guides that are provided when you press the X button in certain situations. When being chased by a missile, a “tunnel” of sorts appears on your HUD showing you the best route to fly to evade the missile. A similar thing happens to show you the quickest route to intercept an enemy and the best angle of attack to hit ground targets.
In single player you are accompanied by two wing men on most missions who can be ordered to attack or defend a target. However, all of the games nineteen missions can be played in co-op with up to four players who replace the AI wing men. This introduces an element of strategy since each player can select a different plane depending on what the mission entails e.g. if a single player mission as an equal spread of air and ground targets, you would be flying a fighter-bomber, but in co-op one person can be a dedicated fighter jet and the other a bomber. Often a good strategy since sometimes the recommended plane given to you is sometimes not the best for the job. Speaking of the planes, there are over fifty available to unlock. Since a lot of the stats are relatively similar, they mostly offer an aesthetic change but it must be said that the models for each are very detailed. The planes are unlocked with the promotion system. Each kill and successfully completed objective gains you XP which is added up at the end of each mission. As well as unlocking more planes as you rank up, you also gain the ability to use extra weapons.
Pour a bucket of glue over me and shower me an glitter this game is actually not that bad, in fact it’s very good but then again H.A.W.X. does not have that much competition these days on the Xbox 360 with only the dire Ace Combat 6, the mediocre Project Silpheed and the fantastic Blazing Angles 2 to keep H.A.W.X. company.
H.A.W.X. actually comes with a lot of the content out of the box, well compared to Namco’s latest effort that is. Seventeen missions (which range from cakewalk to insane!), multiple difficulty levels for each mission, roughly fifty planes, co-op or team Vs. online modes, tons of weapons and plane skins to unlock via the experience system which rewards players who play the game just like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six titles.
There are only two things stopping me from rating this game as the best plane game on the Xbox 360. First of all the â€œassists offâ€ mode is rubbish, it appears to be a complete waste of time due to the poor camera in my opinion. The second is that you can buy Blazing Angles 2 for a tenner these days and get the same experience pretty much. But if you already have BA2 then I guess you should check this game out.
Secondary Score: 7/10
The presentation of the game as a whole is very impressive, especially the level environments. Each one has been modelled using some fancy satellite imagine system called GeoEye for accurate representations of the landscape. One particular level that serves as a good example involves an attack on Washington D.C. with various landmarks such as the White House, the Washington Monument and the Capitol clearly visible and recognisable from the air. Another notable example takes place in Rio de Janeiro, complete with Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city.
As well as the online co-op, competitive multiplayer is also included, although it is rather lacking and feels rather rushed. Consisting of only a team deathmatch mode for up to eight players, it could have been worked on a little more. It does offer some interesting features such as the support elements, basically just like the UAV, helicopter and air strike in Call of Duty 4. After a succession of kills you gain bonuses such as EMP strikes, radar jamming and aircraft repair. While the multiplayer does offer something different from the campaign i.e. fighting human opponents, it is clearly lacking in depth.
While H.A.W.X. doesn’t offer the same deep gameplay and multiplayer modes as the other Tom Clancy games, mainly GRAW and Rainbow Six, it is definitely worth owning if you are a fan of this franchise. The single player is enjoyable and the online co-op adds more to the experience. What you have here is a good aerial combat game and a decent foundation for further games in the series.