Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X - 360 - Review
If you’ve been following the Tom Clancy lineup of titles as loyally as I have, you know that Ubisoft has us covered in the stealthy covert-ops game, elite ghost-like squad missions as well as the tactical law enforcing Rainbow bunch. It’s great to see the Tom Clancy franchise concentrate its efforts in another military branch … the flying men and women of the Air Force. In Tom Clancy’s HAWX for the Xbox 360, you’ll be taking to the air for some high-flying warfare.
"Oh man, they blew up Hooters! They are so going to pay!”
In true Tom Clancy fashion, HAWX’s single-player mode features a plausible scenario that, once again, involves possible threat to not only our National Security but also other peace-loving countries as well. You begin as an Air Force fighter pilot providing air support for Mitchell’s Ghost Team during the events of the last Ghost Recon game that takes places in Juarez, Mexico. After completing the mission that requires you to take out enemy armored units as well as escort the team out of the war zone, you are contacted by a private contractor in need of retiring fighter pilots to join this group called Artimis Global Security.
It is after you join the Artimis group that you take on a number of missions offered by clients of the group and this, of course, will take you and your flying squadron to various exotic and familiar locales. The best part is that you’ll be flying up to 50 licensed planes such as the Mig-21 Fishbed, an SU-25 Frogfoot, the sleek Saab-39 Gripen and the FA-18E Super Hornet just to name. The good news is that each jet flies somewhat differently as well.
Like most Tom Clancy games, HAWX features a story but it’s told via a few cut scenes and various communiqués from the Artimis group CEO as well as members of your own squadron. Don’t expect much of a story, though, because most of the time you’ll be concentrating on your mission objectives and keeping your fighter plane from being shot down by the enemy. The missions are diverse environmentally but almost always are of the same variety. In one mission, you’ll be defending an oil refinery in the Mideast as well as taking out enemy fighters heading towards Tokyo. You’ll even take on enemies over U.S. cities such as Washington, D.C. and the desert flatlands of Nevada. There’s just something awesome about dueling over cities like Rio de Janeiro instead of fighting over the deep blue seas in other fighter combat games.
"Welcome to Nevada! Come for the gambling but stay for the fiery explosions.”
With the major cities recreated thanks to satellite data, bombing runs and escort missions feel a lot more exciting. Fortunately, dogfights are a real blast when your computer-controlled allies aren’t getting in your way when they should be helping you. Each plane can be armed with a variety of load-out weaponry such as cannons and various kinds of missiles. Fighter jet enthusiasts will quickly point out that many of these planes aren’t able to carry over 200 missiles but HAWX does it anyway and thus gives the game a more arcade-like appeal.
If an arcade feel appeals to you then you’re in for quite a treat since the game is easy to jump into so even the more casual fan of the genre can quickly grab a controller and start shooting down enemy helos. Aside from the fact that the game offers more than enough missiles and bullets, you also don’t have to worry about refueling, landings or stalling out during a particular trick aerial maneuver. The controls can be a tad awkward at times, especially since you Yaw (turn the flaps) right or left with the bumper buttons. I did, however, find the game moves more effectively with an Xbox 360 flight stick controller. It’s also more fun that way so if you have one that works with the 360 then you will definitely want to play the game this way.
Unfortunately, the game is far from perfect even though the dogfights can be thrilling events. The opponent AI can be a tad dumb at times as well and some mission can really pile on the objectives so that if you mess up just once you will have to replay them from the start of each checkpoint. Your allies aren’t very helpful either even with the different commands you can issue them. While some jets can break the sound barrier, the sense of speed in the game isn’t as good as it should be considering there are some really fast planes in the lineup.
The multiplayer portion of the game is decent enough without being anything spectacular. Up to eight players can take each another on in the various maps via Xbox Live or a System Link setup. The best part is that you can also help out a friend by simply jumping into your friend’s solo game and lending a hand at any point and jump back out when your friend no longer needs assistance. You can even spend the time freely flying over a favorite map without worrying about mission objectives, if you wish.
Afghani Pilot: “Fall back, comrades! I think it’s Tom Cruise!”
HAWX is not a bad-looking game either when you’re looking at it from afar. Each jet looks super cool in action and the explosions and visual effects are what you might expect from a top-quality Tom Clancy game. The cities are recreated beautifully and look magnificent from afar but if you dare fly low, you’ll see that they would have looked amazing if this were a PSOne console. I do like the ability to switch the game from a third-person view to a first-person and cockpit perspective.
The sound effects actually do work beautifully and are nicely detailed. You just have to love the sound of the engines of some of the cooler fighter aircraft. The sounds of your squad mates chiming in throughout each mission make you feel like you’re in the cockpit of a real fighter jet. The soundtrack is typical military-like marches that are mixed in with some dramatic orchestration.
In the end, Tom Clancy’s HAWX is a fun aerial combat game that manages to offer an exciting single-player game and a decent multiplayer mode as well. With a gameplay style that makes this the type of game that anyone can simply pick up and start playing, only the more serious flight combat sim fans will be disappointed. Still, this game has a lot to offer and it’s a great introduction to the genre for gamers new to flight combat games.
|Review Scoring Details for Tom Clancy’s HAWX|
While the controls can be a tad on the awkward side at times and the thought of carrying 200 or some missiles on an F-16 Fighting Falcon is unrealistic, the aerial combat is a blast and the missions offer plenty of challenges. Those looking for a realistic 'need for speed' will not find it here, though. I also recommend using your favorite Xbox 360 compatible Flight Stick over a regular controller for this game.
Visually, the game is actually quite pretty when everything is seen from afar but once you get up close and person it really isn’t that attractive. The photorealistic cities look great, though, and even more so when you’re blowing up enemies over familiar backdrops.
The dogfights sound good and so does the explosions when you’re up close but other than that the voice acting is just so-so. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, you’re better off dusting off that Top Gun soundtrack CD so you can pump up the volume on that Kenny Loggins’ tune.
Even in the normal difficulty setting, the challenging mission objectives will keep you very busy and sometimes you’ll even have to restart a mission from its checkpoint save. Some missions really pile on the objectives later in the game.
There are loads of unlockable goodies that also include new licensed fighter jets to use as well as the option to fly the friendly skies without getting into a dogfight. There’s co-op mode online so you can jump in on a friend and lend a helping hand against AI-controlled enemies. Then again, you can go up against others in Versus deathmatch game modes on Xbox Live.
Thankfully, the game included enough multiplayer options to include a co-op mode so you can join some friends at any point in the game or go up against them in a few fun game matches such as Team Deathmatch.
Those looking for a solid arcade-styled fighter combat game will certainly like what HAWX for the Xbox 360 has to offer. While there are a number of features that could have been better, there’s a good single-player experience here that isn’t lacking in the action department. You don’t have to be a fan of the Tom Clancy brand to enjoy this game.