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Strafe and Chafe- Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. Reviewed

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. for the 360, PS3. Developer: Ubisoft Romania, Publisher: Ubisoft

For the past fourteen years, our virtual skies have been dominated by the consistently capable Ace Combat series. While PC gamers have had a myriad of flight simulation options, Namco’s arcade-inspired dogfighter has consistently overpowered titles like Over G Fighters and Aero Elite: Combat Academy. However, like the once mighty F-14 Tomcat, the Ace Combat series is looking increasingly antiquated, and is susceptible to a quicker, more agile competitor.

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. (An acronym for ‘High Altitude Warfare eXperimental Squadron’), is the latest entry into the novelist’s universe, and a worthy opponent to the Ace Combat series. Chronologically positioned during the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter  era, the game predicts a geopolitical landscape where Private Military Companies (or PMCs) hold an escalating amount of power. Players step into the boots of U.S. Air Force pilot David Crenshaw, initially providing air support for Ghost Squad members in Mexico. Shortly after the mission, the military deactivates the regiment and its pilot, forcing Crenshaw to join Artemis Global Security, a burgeoning PMC.

Gamers with even a passing familiarity of flight simulations will feel right at home with H.A.W.X.’s controls. The left thumbstick is used to steer the game’s assortment of jets, while the ‘B’ button releases a barrage of cannon fire toward a nearby hostile. Once the player obtains a lock-on, indicated visually by a red box on the heads-up display, and aurally by a steady tone, the ‘A’ button launches a missile. Additionally, Ubisoft seems to have integrating some of its voice recognition code into the game- players can perform a multitude of tasks via simple vocal commands.

By double tapping the left or right trigger, players can toggle an assistance mode on or off. Much like the option in a racing game, assistance oversees some of nagging intricacies at the cost of mobility. With the optional aid tuned off, gamers can apply the air brakes to sharpen a turn, but risk inducing a deadly stall. As followers of the Pete Mitchell aviation philosophy, we kept the assistance off, but we are appreciative of the option for players that prefer to stay out of the ‘danger zone’. One problem we had was achieving a lock-on on more distant targets when assistance was turned off; H.A.W.X. stubbornly fixated on the closer target.

We were keen on H.A.W.X.’s role-playing elements, which added a bit of depth to the proceedings. Many acts, from destroying enemy bogeys to evading a locked missile result in a reward of experience points. Players can use the points to unlock alternative weapon loadouts, additional fighters, and maps. Another magnificent addition is the integration of co-operative play with up to three other players. Ordering a buddy to cover your tail, while you fly low to destroy a ground-based objective, feels amazingly satisfying. Players interested in competitive play have one option- team deathmatch. We would have appreciated a greater amount of adversarial dogfighting options.

Graphically, H.A.W.X. looks consistently phenomenal, from the game’s well detailed aircraft to the title’s incorporation of satellite imagery used for environmental scenery. Players may recognize the amazingly detailed Los Angeles skyline, or hillside Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janiro.  Our only visual misgiving with the title occurs when flying low, where flight speed seems woefully slow. Typical of Tom Clancy games, the title maintains a high-tech feel with a clean interface, amazing sound design and solid voice acting.

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. manages to easily dethrone the reigning heir of console aviation, Ace Combat 6. By integrating a compelling co-op game and adding an experience point system to the aerial warfare formula, Ubisoft’s latest release comes highly recommended to gamers seeking turn and burn excitement. With a small tweak to the lock-on system, and a more diversified set of multiplayer options, H.A.W.X.’s inevitable sequel could easily soar into the wild blue yonder of virtual combat greatness.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

43 comments

  1. When did they stop using F-14s? I didn’t know that.

    That is the plane from Top Gun, right?

  2. I liked the demo, until it made me sick. Maybe it was my 42″ TV or the two glasses of wine I had before playing.

  3. DE know his guns and planes. This is one of the better reviews I read for the game.

    I noticed a bit of slowdown in the demo, is that still there?

  4. Those blue and red things tell you where yo go or what?

  5. We’re taking away your right to fly is you think this is better than Ace Combat.

  6. One thing that bugs me with air combat games is you cant crash or clip into enemies or allies. That happens alot according to my uncle who was a fighter pilot for the Air Force.

  7. Anything you would have liked to see in the game that wasn’t included?

  8. Play this with the stick or regular controller?

  9. They were retired in 2006. I was invited to a ‘retirement’ ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Library but couldn’t attend 🙁

    I’ve heard an old Lockheed employee living in Palmdale, CA bought an old decommissioned one and it’s in his backyard. One day…

  10. As long at the A-10 is in the game, I’m happy.

  11. How are the explosions. Thats all I wanna know.

  12. A lot of sites are saying the game is both boring and frustrating. Experience any of that?

  13. ace combat RULES, this game isn’t worth enough to eat its turds that is all.

  14. I wonder how much he paid.

  15. I might have to get this. Once it drops of course.

  16. HAWX sounds HOT. Nice review.

  17. How is the AI?

  18. Another Tom Clancy game I wont pick up.

  19. A lot of 3D shooters lately. Not my game of choice.

  20. A little too simplistic if you ask me.

  21. What about Top Gun: No Fly Zone?!?!

    remember that?

  22. Can you blow up buildings at random? That would be cool.

  23. They would never allow that in a Tom Clancy game. You kill bad guys not civilians.

  24. You can use them to find target or evade missiles. Too easy if you ask me.

  25. I’m trying not to. LOL.

  26. Had to mention Kenny Loggins, didntcha?

    I always buy each Tom Clancy game. You know exactly what you going to get. Cutting edge hardware, good guys vs. bad guys, and good graphics.

  27. Question: Can a person review a jet sim WITHOUT referencing Top Gun?

    From the looks of things, you failed twice.

  28. Graphics look great, but so did Blazing Angels in screenshots. Screen tear didn’t look so hot 🙁

  29. Why the hell would someone want a broken plane they cant fly? That’s bloody disgusting.

  30. You can turn off those wire frame guidelines, right?

  31. Seems decent of your looking for that type of game.

  32. One of the better games of 09, although I’m sure it won’t be the very best.

  33. Any Iraq/Afghanistan missions? I want to get my insurgent elimination on!

  34. Great review. I used to build model airplanes as a kid, and have always been fascinated with them.

  35. Nice review, my friend loves this game and maybe I should check it out also 🙂

  36. I think my favorite part of the game is the implementation of the online co-op mode, it is quite fun. Good review.

  37. I am loving this game. Better than Ace Combat IMO.

  38. I found the multiplayer in HAWX to be one of the most rewarding aspects about the game. The way the respawning works in this game is awesome, you always feel like you jumped right back into action.

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