The Tom Clancy branded games have done well over the years and recently they are branching out, extending the brand. First with End War, and now with H.A.W.X.
Will the tradition of excellence continue? Read on to find out….
Typically when I think of a jet simulation, I immediately think of “Air Jousting” . You have that short few seconds heading straight at each other then you swing around and do it again or try to actually get behind your enemy and a very long chess game plays out in which the first person to make a mistake dies. Not really my cup of tea. I am more into space combat or WWII dogfighting than the whole jet thing. When I heard about H.A.W.X, I immediately thought of jet simulations.
Let me stress that this isn’t a sim but rather a nice arcade game. Think of Afterburner with better graphics and a ton of different aircraft.
The game takes place in the near future, and much like Army of Two, you begin work for an upstart private military company doing various missions for different clients. The nice thing about this approach is that the story and missions are more varied.
This title, like many of the recent Tom Clancy games, looks amazing, the attention to detail with the terrain and the little things like the wing flaps are all present. It runs smooth and I don’t recall any hiccups or pausing along the way. Once you complete a mission, you are treated to a replay of your mission that you can skip if you feel so inclined. Think of it as the replays when you finish a race in Gran Turismo or Forza, you watch it and are amazed at it for the first few missions, then unless something really cool happens, you probably will skip it.
Missions consist of various ground and air targets to destroy as well as some escort missions and protect this base or refinery missions. You gain experience as you destroy targets or meet objectives that translate to ranks and unlock planes in which there are over 50 aircraft to play with. First thing that I would recommend doing is linking your online account with Ubisoft and you unlock two extra planes. There are also different armaments to outfit your aircraft with as you progress through the game which is always a bonus, different play styles may warrant different missile configurations.
One of the interesting game mechanics in the game is the “Assistance Mode” which will put you in a third person perspective that is off to the side and further back. This is a weird angle to fly in at first but when you get used to it, it does make it fun and useful for evading missiles when you run out of flares. There are the other standard views: 3rd person to the rear, cockpit, and the clean look with just a bare amount of heads-up displays like altitude and target info. The ability to slow way down and perform tighter turns actually made this game for me, as I specified earlier I prefer space and WW II sims and the whole powerslide (in Space) or the stall (WWII) tactics make combat really enjoyable. There is also the E.R.S system that is toggled on when you either have an enemy targeted to give you the best intercept path or the best evasion path for a missile that is locked on you.
If you are so inclined, there are a lot of other options available that add to the experience. The first option is to turn on the motion controls and use the Six Axis (PS3) to control the plane. I didn’t use this as I typically lay in bed when I play, and of course that messes up, but if you like that sort of thing, it’s there. There is also the option for voice commands ranging from firing your missiles, order your wingman, or to launch your flares when you have a missile heading up your arse. These work pretty well, I tend to not use them, but that is just personal preference and not a problem with the game.
There are a few single player game modes: Campaign mode, Mission mode or Free Flight. The online has Coop as well as the standard lineup of multiplayer modes like deathmatch and team deathmatch with up to 8 players.
The only issues that I have with this game is that it did take a long time to install on the PS3 and it did lock up on me once during the intro sequence. With these two minor gripes, I am very happy with this game and would recommend that you BUY it. As the first in hopefully a new series, this is a great first outing in the skies with the Tom Clancy brand.
Brian Ellis is a co-founder and senior editor of Bag of Mad Bastards and co-host of Drunken Monkey Tech podcast found here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions/comments.