|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Romania||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
July 18, 2008 - The Tom Clancy name has been attached to some excellent franchises over the years. With great games like Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter showing fans the quality that inevitably comes with the name, any time Tom Clancy gets attached to a game people naturally take notice. Although many expect these games to involve controlling a character or group of characters on foot and brandishing guns, Tom Clancy's latest outing is a serious departure from this formula, as players will take warfare to the skies in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
As with most of the previous games that bare the Tom Clancy name, H.A.W.X. is simply visually stunning. The first thing you will notice is just how beautiful the aircraft are. Over fifty planes are realistically recreated with intricate details and accurate modeling. They are also well animated, complete with superheated exhaust spewing from their tail. Once you can finally convince yourself to take your eyes off of your plane, prepare for your jaw to hit the floor.
H.A.W.X. is host to some of the most visually impressive backdrops that have ever been seen. The maps are incredibly vast and yet still richly detailed and full of variety. While flying high in the sky it is hard to gauge what exactly resides on the ground, but upon closer inspection there are fully realized cities with unique buildings and surroundings. Not only are these maps gorgeous but they are also incredibly realistic. To guarantee that the game didn't weigh style over substance, actual satellite photographs and data were used to produce amazingly accurate recreations of their real life counterparts. No matter which of the seventeen included maps you are playing on, expect to be stunned when flying low to the ground.
Fortunately, H.A.W.X.'s gameplay seems to focus more on combat and less on flight simulation. Often in games that involve flight, you will be punished for not flying correctly. While there is still the possibility of stalling out, H.A.W.X. is a lot more forgiving than I would have expected. This allows you to perform necessary maneuvers and experiment with the controls without the constant fear of crashing headfirst into the ground. Even if you do happen to stall your plane, leveling your wings and gassing will usually help you regain control.
For players who are still afraid of taking control of aircraft, the game also includes a very useful assistance mode that should put your fears to rest. This mode will make it virtually impossible to crash your plane. When activated, it basically eliminates the possibility of stalling out and also provides you with a colored path to follow. This path will lead you wherever you need to go, whether it is to find an enemy to shoot down or your mission objective. Thankfully, this mode can be turned on and off easily while playing with a few button presses, allowing players to use it whenever they feel the need. The only real downfall of this "safe mode" is you will not be able to perform the game's most stylish, and often necessary, aerial maneuvers when it is activated.
H.A.W.X.'s storyline is standard Tom Clancy fare and even has ties to other titles such as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. It takes place in the near future, as things seem to be getting heated in South America. As usual, the U.S. steps in and attempts to end the conflict before it can become a much larger problem. Not surprisingly, this results in basically a full-scale war that has you dog-fighting around the world.
The single-player campaign will include seventeen missions to complete. While not everything has been revealed just yet, there should be a good variety of objectives for each mission. Fortunately, players will also be able to team up with friends to help bring peace back to the skies. The campaign will support up to four player co-op that allows for teammates to jump in and out at any time. Details about multiplayer are also scarce, but a four vs. four deathmatch mode has already been shown. Players will earn points for every plane they shoot down, with the points eventually being used to affect the current match. Points can be spent on things like repair drones and EMP blasts that will give your team the upper hand during battle.
With its beautiful and realistic graphics, forgiving controls, and fun gameplay H.A.W.X. may just give Ace Combat a run for its money when it is released. While there aren't tons of flight combat games to be found on the market, this certainly looks like it will be a great addition. If you are a fan of the genre or just a big Tom Clancy buff, you should definitely keep your eye on this one as it approaches release. Just make sure to have your Top Gun soundtrack cued up, as you will likely take this title into the Danger Zone.
CCC Freelance Writer