Tom Clancy’s HAWX
All Tom Clancy games up to now played on the ground but with H.A.W.X. Ubisoft tries to bring the franchise to new heights. Is it a fast way to earn some cash or does it truly add something to the Clancy universe?
In HAWX (High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron) you take on the identity of Major David Crenshaw, a squad leader in the US Air Force. After Captain Mitchell and his Ghost Recon team are rescued by Crenshaw, the team’s financing gets stopped and it’s decided to start working for Artemis, a global PMC aka Private Military Corporation. Such companies in 2012 got clearance to do just about any military assignment which means that a company can fight a war for a ton of money. Now, it wouldn’t be a Tom Clancy game if there wouldn’t be any plot twists and after some “disagreements” with the current employer, the team decides to go back to the US Air Force.
The single player contains 19 missions and the further you get in the campaign, the more combat planes get unlocked. Before a mission starts you’ll get a certain airplane suggested and although there’s the possibility to select another, some missions need a certain weapon which makes the standard choice the best. The sad thing about all these fighters is that there’s little difference in contorl. One would expect a 1970 fighter to be a bit more difficult than a hyper modern jet from the 21st century. That the developers didn’t go for realism is pretty clear as you can drag along 200 missiles, but some variation in control wouldn’t have hurt.
All these planes also have different gears that are focused towards air or ground targets. Making a wrong choice is quite difficult when you hear at the beginning of the briefing that 90% of all targets will be in the air. More planes and gear can be unlocked thanks to an experience system. By finishing missions and shooting down hostiles you get experience that allows you to level up. In total there are 40 levels and getting these higher rankings can be done both in single and multiplayer.
In the missions themselves you’ll hardly have to take on enemies alone as almost always 2 wingmen are present as well as other friendly units depending on the mission. These missions are quite nicely filled with action and go from escorting a plane of helicopter to giving support to ground troops that try to breach enemy lines in three different spots. The fun of such support missions is that they’re effectively fighting and not waiting for you to clear the way.
A disadvantage to the two wingmen is that you can only give them two orders. Either have them attack a specific hostile or let them cover your ass. It would have been ideal to have some more options like staying with a VIP while you go deal with enemies.
Two important features you’ll discover after a while are the ERS and Assistance Off. Enhanced Reality System allows you to activate a series of triangles and when you fly through these you’ll perfectly end up behind a bogey or evade a rocket. Assistance Off is based on a feature from Blazing Angels (also by Ubisoft) will make the camera take a lot of distance from the plane and allows you to quickly turn to take down pursuing hostiles. The disadvantage of this is stalling which happens when your speed isn’t high enough and can make your plane have a not so soft “landing”. This tactic will need some practise but once you’ve mastered it you’ll take down one enemy after the other in no time.
Graphically HAWX has the same issues as its predecessors. While the planes look beautiful, one cannot say the same from the surroundings. When going close to the ground it quickly becomes clear that the textures aren’t so great and the finishing of the ground troops is quite dirty. Still one has to say that maps like Rio de Janeiro and Chicago do look beautyful thanks to the many skyscrapers. It’s sad to see not all maps are of equal quality. Another downpoint is a exceptionally bad quality of the cut-scenes. These are usually the same fragments of a person who’s just reading out some text and also in-game we encounter a similar problem. The Ghost Recon team will constantly shout against a wall towards you while they should be in a room, hacking a laptop.
The voices as such are quite decent but the in-game oneliners of several characters are quite limited. Often you’ll hear your superior say the same things but luckily it never gets really annoying. The sound isn’t earth-shattering but does its job.
As last “ace” there’s the multiplayer. Although calling it “ace” may not be the best choice as you can only do the single player campaign in co-op or go head to head with a total of 8 players. Advantage of the co-op is that you can join or leave a mission in the middle of a fight which allows the host of the co-op to already start beforehand.
Small positive point in the deatmatch mode is that if multiple kills are done after each other bonus weapons are received, like an EMP which will make all ohter players’ planes stall, or a force with which more damage can be done. Still it remains a thin multiplayer and will probably quickly get ignored by the countless players.
If HAWX would have had a decent multiplayer and several of the other downpoints would have been taken care of, one could have spoken of a true classic. Unfortunately it now just remains an ordinary flight sim with the Tom Clancy name attached to it.