Tom Clancy sure does get around, doesnâ€™t he? Not content with thwarting terrorists, thwarting other terrorists, and sneaking around, heâ€™s now taken to the skies. Tom Clancyâ€™s H.A.W.X (donâ€™t ask me what that stands for) is an arcade flight game that combines high production values and accessible gameplay, but wonâ€™t necessarily hold your attention for too long.
H.A.W.X is set a few years into the future, and basically shares a similar ethos to the Ghost Recon series â€“ namely, near-future technology being deployed to fight the bad guys. In fact, the two games share the same world â€“ some of the missions will have you providing air assistance to the Ghost Recon guys, which is a nice touch.
Beyond that, the main campaign is fairly standard. Youâ€™re tasked with a range of missions that will have you bombing ground targets, fighting with other planes, or â€“ gasp â€“ a mixture of both. Protect, escort, and chase missions add a bit of variety, but couldnâ€™t really hold my interest through the entire campaign. The story is also fairly stock standard â€“ again, just think of a flying Ghost Recon.
The controls, I believe, are possibly the best part of the game. Theyâ€™re accessible and solid â€“ and also heavily arcade-like. This really isnâ€™t a flight sim, folks â€“ youâ€™ll be soaring around taking down targets with ease soon after picking up the controller. Planes are particularly maneuverable and are stocked with a pretty absurd number of missiles.
Also, do you remember all those arcade flight games back in the day that made you fly through a huge number of annoying loops in tutorials? I seem to remember Star Fox (hah, and Superman 64â€¦) being a pretty bad case. Well, theyâ€™re kind of back â€“ but this time, theyâ€™re nicely integrated into the gameplay. When youâ€™re targeting someone, or have been locked onto, you can hit a button to activate a bunch of triangles onscreen. These are dynamically made to show you where to fly to track down your foe or avoid getting blown up. Itâ€™s a good idea, and while it might make things a fair bit easier, it also cuts down on the frustration.
The easy-going gameplay, however, belies a lack of depth. While the main campaign will take you a little while to get through, and gaining levels/unlocking planes adds to the value, it all starts feeling repetitive. As always, multiplayer is meant to come to the rescue here, and definitely helps in H.A.W.X. Flying co-op through campaign missions is much more fun than going at it by yourself â€“ I definitely recommend hopping online to find a wingman if you can. The versus modes are more limited â€“ thereâ€™s not much variety to blowing people apart in the sky, and it lacks the immediacy of, say, a first person shooter. It doesnâ€™t help that for the most part, youâ€™ll be effectively doing battle with triangles and squares â€“ you often engage at a range that makes it impossible to see much of the enemy. Having said that, if youâ€™re into your aerial dogfights, youâ€™ll find something to like here.
The presentation of the game is nicely polished for the most part. From a distance, everything looks really good in-game. Up close, however, H.A.W.X kind of suffers from what most flight games do â€“ bad terrain! Seriously, those 2D pixilated trees look like they were ripped from Daggerfall. Still, I feel bad complaining about that â€“ while youâ€™re frantically chasing enemies, the graphics are more than adequate. The audio is more consistently polished â€“ the voice acting is of a high quality, the music is suitably rousing, and the gunfire/explosion noises pack a punch.
Itâ€™s hard to really recommend this game simply because a lot of people might not play it for all that long. Sure, thereâ€™s enough here to warrant the price tag â€“ but you might find it hard going staying interested in the campaign. The multiplayer likewise suffers a bit from a lack of variety. Having said that, if youâ€™re a Tom Clancy fan, you might get a kick out of the setting â€“ and if youâ€™re in the mood for an arcade flying game thatâ€™s easy to pick up, you can do a lot worse than H.A.W.X.