In Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. you sign up as David Crenshaw who is a member of the High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron. As a member of H.A.W.X. you have to provide cover fire for the covert ground team known as Ghost team. The different cash cows created by Tom Clancy merge well, and it is easy to feel a sense of urgency when the lads on the ground call for help. The story of the game lets you on a journey around the world not only focusing on providing pinpoint air support.
H.A.W.X. is a story driven cinematic action flight game with a quite evolved story. As usual I am less than impressed with the storyline in a Tom Clancy game, it is ok for setting the scene but I am not inclined to care beyond my objectives. The main story is told in text read by a stuck up woman way too young to brief a hardened soldier like David Crenshaw. Your flight commander tells the objectives in cinematic intros to the levels, and generally the voice acting of the main game is really good.
H.A.W.X. has got two control methods to choose from: tilt or touch. Both methods work quite well, but as usual I prefer touch when available. Movement is quite sluggish, and the planes feel quite heavy no matter which control I try. Still it is possible to maneuver quite well in dogfights, and in close machine gun attacks against ground forces. The touch buttons are used for both control methods, and I have trouble with the “change target” button as it is really close to “change view” button, and often the wrong button is pressed. The same can be said for the missile selection that you do by dragging the missile button left or right. Often a missile fires instead. I would like to be able to enlarge, and separate the touch buttons a bit.
H.A.W.X. looks absolutely marvelous with stellar production from intro movie to in-game graphics. The menus are easy to understand, and easy to navigate. The tutorial mission is supported by how-to loading screens hammering home the controls. The planes look terrific from the plane selection screen to mid-air flight. Once airborne there are three different views to fly in. The standard third person view, the cockpit view and follow target view. All are usable but for quick disposal of enemies, and the largest overview of happenings I usually go for the third person view. It is hard to say anything about the graphics of the enemy planes, naval units and ground units as I generally blow them out of existence from a distance.
The ground, water and cities need to be mentioned as well as they are all real location based on satellite imagery. It looks absolutely stunning from a distance flying above Rio de Janeiro for example. When closer to the ground there is a distance when the ground looks like when the GPS updates between distances. This is most evident when diving between buildings in pursuit of tanks. It clears up soon though, and the ground looks good up close. Don’t look to close though as there is no altitude meter, and it is quite easy to crash if you ignore the low altitude warning.
The voice acting is great once in the air, and generally the sound quality is really good. The music is there but once target locks start going off and I have to focus on avoiding incoming missiles and deploying chaff I don’t hear it anymore. The engine roars in a satisfying manner, and weapons thump as you expect them to. You can play your own playlists from within the game.
There are 13 varied missions with several objectives, and checkpoints at critical points. A mission to protect a naval force can all of a sudden turn into a dog fighting festival of death, while you at the same time have to take out a particular naval vessel. Before the mission you get to select an aircraft as well as armament. The game recommends a plane and setup, and generally it is wise to follow those advices. You can replay missions using other aircraft as well to see which suits you best. I have not kept track of the time it took me to complete the game, but a rough estimate is 10 hours for the first play through. What the game lacks from time to time is challenge, as your plane can withstand quite a beating, and the enemy AI is a bit too close to a lemming in mindset. It won’t deploy chaff or flares as much as it should. As you have almost unlimited missiles it is never a point in conserving ammo either. The difficulty in the game most often comes from the long missions where I at least tend to waste the limited amount of chaff to soon. A slow tear on the armor is what kills me instead of the missiles that pound the fuselage, and would rip the plane apart in real life.
You get XP for each killed enemy, and after each mission you get to see your experience meter go up. This unlocks new aircraft, and armaments for each of them. It also gives me a satisfying feeling of progression, and makes me want to get right back into the action.
There is only local multiplayer though either Bluetooth and local Wi-Fi for up to four players in H.A.W.X. Hopefully an online mode is implemented later on as at least I have trouble finding any iPhone users nearby interested in getting spanked mid-air.
H.A.W.X. is a polished action packed story driven flight game with a hefty campaign. It lacks online multiplayer, and those into killing your friends online should stick with F.A.S.T. Other aspects lacking are the poor AI not fighting back aggresively enough, sluggish heavy planes and lack of altitude information. I can recommend H.A.W.X. though to anyone looking for a rewarding flight game with 26 real aircraft, and to all those who want to experience the console hit for a fraction of the price. Gameloft is really getting better, and better with each release.
Iron Maiden – Aces High(Steve Harris)
Running, scrambling, fire,
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again.
Running, scrambling, fire, Rolling, turning, diving,
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die.
Won’t you run, live to fly, fly to live, Aces high!
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. $6.99