Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X

Action on the up, realism on the way out

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  May 11, 2009
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CATEGORY:Games
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|--Simulation
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overall: 3
performance: 0
features: 0
value: 0

warranty: 1

suitable for: home user

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AUTHOR:
Jason Saundalkar

Games bearing the Tom Clancy label first made their mark on the market thanks to their realism and attention to detail. Titles like ‘Rainbow Six’ offered tactical combat that no other game could come close to and thus, gamers interested in accurate and intense gameplay could settle for nothing less. In recent years however there has been a pronounced shift in focus from absolute realism to fastpaced action and the latest game – H.A.W.X – suffers the same fate.

High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron or H.A.W.X takes place in the same time period that Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 takes place. Here you take on the role of Captain David Crenshaw and the game inks its connection to other Tom Clancy games via familiar characters such as Captain Mitchell from Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.

The game’s storyline initially has you working for the U.S. Air Force flying as part of an elite fighting unit – H.A.W.X. However, this is short lived as the Air Force soon deactivates the squadron leaving you and your fellow pilots to be recruited by a private military company (PMC), known as Artemis Global Security. Over the next few years Artemis grows tremendously having signed numerous security contracts thanks to you and your squad’s fancy footwork.

The storyline from here progresses at a steady albeit boring pace though it does throw a twist or two your way. This helps to carry the single-player campaign but ultimately, you’ll find the game’s biggest attraction is its fastpaced, arcade gameplay.

By the time you’re done you’ll have flown a number of authentic aircraft including the F-22 Raptor, F-4 Phantom and various other jets. The game scores high marks here for including authentic cockpit layouts though the aircraft you pilot don’t handle as differently as you might expect. Flying the planes is easy enough thanks to a very simple and useable control setup and, depending on what difficulty setting you play on, you’ll find H.A.W.X either a cakewalk, mildly challenging or an absolute nightmare.

Unfortunately the difficulty setting only really affects the toughness of the game’s artificial intelligence and does nothing to the game’s level of realism. Perhaps the biggest hit to realism comes when you resort to turning the plane’s assistance off – known as ‘OFF’ mode. When you do this, the view switches to a third person perspective and shows you a bigger view of your surrounding. While this might sound helpful in theory, in reality, this reviewer found it harder to line up shots as the view isn’t directly behind the plane and thus moving is considerably trickier. In OFF mode you can also perform a mutant version of car drifting in that you can slow your plane to a crawl and pull a very sharp turn. While this looks cool and does help you get on your foe’s tail, this sort of manoeuver would be impossible to pull off without severe consequences in real life.

In OFF mode you can actually stall your plane and plunge to your death if you don’t recover and while this is realistic, we have to ask why it isn’t possible to stall your plane when flying with assistance on? In real life if you were to point your plane at the sky and go straight for the sun, you’d eventually stall. Alternatively, you could stall if you flew through another plane’s engine wash. Another serious hit in terms of realism is that, magically, almost every plane has the ability to store between 120 to 160 missiles.

Visually, the game is breathtaking whether you consider the satellite generated environments and cities, the very detailed aircraft as well as the explosions and the look of the sky. It’s easily the best flight combat simulator we’ve ever laid eyes on and better still, the game played silky smooth on our PlayStation3 even when we were fighting massive battles. On the audio front H.A.W.X is a mixed bag because while the missiles, gunfire, explosions and engine noise is up to scruff, the voice acting that fills the space between missions is dull at best. Thankfully, voice chatter inside the cockpit once things have got underway is quite decent and makes you feel like a fighter pilot flying for his life and that of his squad mate.

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