Tom Clancy puts the "HAWX" in jingoism.
Let me preface this by saying that Top Gun sucked. If you don’t agree with me, you are wrong and should be culled for the sake of not spreading the stupid gene of wrongness to future generations. Top Gun is 90 minutes of high-flying, all-male shower scenes, and other excuses for Tom Cruise to parade around with his shirt off. That being said, let’s move on. [Don't like it either, but you cannot deny the power of yaoi! ~Ed. Nick]
[image1]Tom Clancy’s HAWX is the latest in a series of games with Tom Clancy’s name in the title (other titles include Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy’s Endwar, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and Tom Clancy’s Magic Princess Adventure). The story in any Tom Clancy game revolves around some ruggedly handsome marine from the middle of the country, where they don’t allow “ethnic” people, named Jack Dynamite (or whatever his rugged, noun-enhanced American name may be). Since the moment of his birth, Jack Dynamite has been swaddled in the stars and stripes and fed apple pie and has been
shitting spreading freedom all over developing nations.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX is not that much different in terms of story from other Tom Clancy games, all jingoism aside. What separates HAWX from, say, Rainbow Six is that HAWX has you
killing Arabs fighting terrorism in a fighter jet rather than killing Arabs fighting terrorism on foot.
In HAWX you take on the role of David Crenshaw, an USAF Ace whose love of
killing Arabs America is second only to flying (and killing Arabs). The first mission is your last mission as a USAF pilot - then your squad is dissolved, and David “Stars and Stripes” Crenshaw joins a PMC called Artemis (and up until now I thought PMCs were a concept from the confusing, labyrinthine mind of Hideo Kojima). Shortly after that, you realize the PMC isn’t on the up-and-up and you go back the fighting the good fight (which is for America, you see).
The controls are about what you’d expect from a more arcade-styled modern flying game. This is not a sim, making it more accessible to players that are new to the genre. There’s no real sense of speed, though. You lay on the throttle, and the controller shakes, and the numbers go up, but it doesn’t really feel like you’re going any faster. You can change the view from third person to the flight cam or cockpit view, which both look fantastic down to the last detail, but you lose all peripheral vision, putting you at a huge disadvantage.
[image2]There’s also this neat function called the “Enhanced Reality System” that when activated, lines up a series of rings for you to go through to line up a shot on your target. Some veteran flight gamers might call this cheating, but what-ever, I thought it was helpful. There are also voice commands, a la Endwar, bugs and all. Calibrating isn’t that hard, but using the buttons is just easier. I tried it during co-op mode and it just confused my partner.
Orders are given to you by way of picture-in-a-picture cut-scenes which keep the pacing in any given dog fight. The cut-scenes are all poorly animated and have a very "Thunderbirds are GO!" feel to them that conjured up memories of being told to do a barrel roll. The scenes are mostly someone explaining that the guys shooting you are
Arabs terrorists and “aren’t in the best interest of the client”.
Some of the missions take place in major cities, and you’ll be able to recognize landmarks from each (with the exception of the Los Angeles level, but that one’s at night). Each map looks great and feels like you’re fighting over a Google map, but when you get close to the ground (like when you crash, for example), all the buildings are incredibly small.
The planes all seem realistic enough (with the exception of carrying 200+ missiles at a given time). Anyone who questions their realism is either playing a real sim, like a chump, or they’re actual pilots and thus have more important things to do than bitch about the level of realism in a video game with another man’s name on it. And really, most people won't play a sim anyway? (The world “play” appears courtesy of glowing 10-foot finger quotes.) Simulators are usually based on real jobs and are used for training purposes. If you want to be a pilot, you have to put up with all the boring tedium that goes with it. Being a pilot isn’t as glamorous as Hollywood would lead you to believe. A sim is like a second job you have to pay for. All done? Great. Let’s get back on topic.
[image3]I was pretty excited when I was given HAWX to review. It meant I would finally have a reason to buy the flight sticks, but they may as well be carved out of the bones of a multi-dimensional unicorn as far as how difficult as they are to come by in the Bay area. Using the standard 360 controller isn’t a total drag, but anyone that’s played Ace Combat with the full spread knows that the difference between the two is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.
The online support is pretty sweet. You can play through the entire campaign in four-man co-op or go head to head with up to eight players in a variety of game types. Playing the campaign or playing online will earn you experience points that unlock new weapon sets and planes, and there are a ton of planes to unlock. However, I would have liked to have been able to spend my experience on extras of my choosing rather than a preordained order of unlockables (what if I don’t want better air-to-air missles?).
All in all, Tom Clancy’s HAWX is a fun ride. It doesn't bring very much new to the table, but it also works just fine and doesn't make you take your shoes off at the securty checkpoint. If you like flying games and you can’t wait for the next Ace Combat, then you could do a hell of a lot worse than Tom Clancy’s HAWX, especially if you have the flight sticks already (by the way, where the hell do you find them?).