- Posted March 10th, 2009 at 15:10 EDT by Steven Williamson
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HAWX is a decent and fun arcade flight combat game. Simplicity isn't always a bad thing.
- The variety of planes and weaponry
- Having loads of challenges to complete alongside the 19 missions
- The solid co-op component
- That flying with 'Assistance Off' feels like you're playing a different game
- The sub-par competitive multiplayer
- The questionable visual presentation
The Tom Clancy bandwagon continues to roll in 2009, but this year Ubisoft has abandoned the ground-battles of Mexico and close-quarters combat of Las Vegas for the franchise’s first foray into the flight combat genre. Taking to the war-torn skies over the likes of Rio De Janeiro, Afghanistan and the Middle East, HAWX tasks you with jumping into the cockpit of a variety of realistically-designed planes and partaking in 19 deadly missions in the guise of former U.S. Air Force pilot, David Crenshaw. Crenshaw stepped out of retirement to work for a private security firm that is motivated by cold, hard cash.
HAWX boasts a wide variety of mission types, including Infiltration, Recon, Interception and Escort objectives. Inevitably, they all involve navigating the skies, keeping your eyes glued to the radar for incoming enemies, and using the various strengths and weaponry of the 54 planes on offer in order to see off a mixture of naval and ground forces, as well as dealing with aerial threats from the likes of bombers, fighters and helicopters. HAWX has a steady learning curve that gives players ample time to get to grips with controlling the planes and their weapons. The action builds nicely, starting you off with defending the U.S border against Mexican troops, where you simply need to fly over the targets and execute covert airstrikes. Later, you're given missions like the manic and exciting air, ground and sea assault on Rio De Janerio where you need to juggle weapons and change tactics depending on the current threat.
Despite the vast variety of plane types on offer, and the effort that has undoubtedly been put in to make the context of missions different, HAWX does lack the tactical depth of other Clancy games, mainly due to the overly-helpful Enhanced Reality System (ERS), the simplistic control system, and the rigidly accurate auto-lock on function. Hardcore Clancy fans may find this disappointing, but ironically it’s these features that are also HAWX’s strengths and are what essentially makes it accessible to anybody who has a small degree of hand-eye coordination. If you're expecting HAWX to be a flight simulator, you'll be sorely disappointed. Still, you may be pleasantly surprised by its arcade-like enjoyable flight combat experience which, despite its simplicity, rarely has a dull moment in its 8-10 hours of single-player gameplay and enjoyable online co-op mode.
You can jump seamlessly into a game with up to three other fighters and work together against a wave of enemy attacks in missions based on the single-player campaign. Co-op mode takes into account how many players are in the game and adjusts the amount of enemies accordingly. Competitive multiplayer is quite disappointing, however. The Team Deathmatch mode simply splits players up into two teams and pits them together to see who comes out on top. You can unlock support items along the way for your team, allowing you to send in a repair drone or damage the other teams’ radar, but with just one game mode, prepare to get bored very quickly. The action runs smoothly enough, but when you compare it to the solid multiplayer component of other Tom Clancy titles, HAWX is less than impressive in this area.
HAWX is at its most enjoyable when you’re kept on your toes by a mixture of ground and air-based enemies, rather than one particular threat. If you need to take out a tank that's parked up in the tightly cramped city streets of Rio, for example, you’ll need to dive bomb toward it and use an air-to-ground firepower weapon to destroy it. To take out the SAMs, you'll have to glide over them, dropping your freefall bombs at precisely the right time. Alternatively, you may want to switch to the AA multi-target missile to strike down four fighters simultaneously. There’s a good variety of weapons on offer, including radar and joint strike missiles, rocket pod units, cluster bombs and the devastating EMP strike, which causes all enemy planes to stall. It’s juggling with the ground, air and naval units and switching between these various threats and adapting your tactics accordingly that provides the most challenge and the most fun. HAWX certainly has its exciting moments, especially when you're attacked from all angles ... (continued on next page) ----