Xbox 360 Review: Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X

Does this bird soar into greatness or does it need shot down?

The story begins in the year 2012. As the era of the nation-state draws quickly to a close, the rules of warfare evolve even more rapidly. More and more nations become increasingly dependent on private military companies (PMCs), elite mercenaries with a lax view of the law. The Reykjavik Accords further legitimise their existence by authorising their right to serve in every aspect of military operations. While the benefits of such PMCs are apparent, growing concerns surrounding giving them too much power begin to mount.
As a kid, the first flying game I remember was Top Gun on the NES. My god, it drove me insane. Nothing but blue sky for ages, then the occasional sighting of something to shoot down. Of course, it didn’t matter since landing on the runaway at the end of the level was IMPOSSIBLE. Then I became involved with the more arcade flying games like Lylat Wars and Rogue Leader, it seemed a realistic flying game was missing from the consoles. There was Over-G Fighters a few years back, but it was awful. Ubisoft has taken a gamble with H.A.W.X. by trying to tie the story in with the events of G.R.A.W. but does it pay off?

Well, in some ways it does and in others it doesn’t. For example, tying in the story between the franchises was a smart move…it gives fans a reason for playing both games, but the actual gameplay itself may seem a bit flawed to those craving a realistic flying game. Essentially it becomes more of an arcade-style blaster thanks to the third-person view and being able to intercept/dodge missiles by flying through a digital tunnel of blue/red triangles in a time limit to either dodge the missile or get in line with your target to get a lock-on.

If you have linked your gamercard to your Ubi account, you can unlock special aircraft for the game. The game does a good job by recommending what aircrafts you should pick for each mission. Objectives are fairly simple and require you to fly to a position on the map and take down the air or ground forces. Sometimes you’ll have to protect certain objects like buildings or even soldiers from attack. You can order your fellow wingmen to protect you or to pursue your target.
As you progress, you’ll unlock new weapons for your aircraft as well as new planes to fly. Some will offer faster speeds at the cost of armor, or vice versa. There’s a nice variety of planes to try out, you’ll eventually find one that you like more than the rest. It all comes down to personal preference, which is a good thing. Each plane handles very well, purists may prefer to play the game with a first-person view and it does appear to be more fun that way, but it does make it a bit tougher.

You may be disappointed that the game isn’t as realistic as it sounded, and I have to admit I was too. But when I understood just how the game worked, I began to enjoy it that bit more. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who have been looking for a good combat-flying game won’t feel let down with the end result of H.A.W.X. Having said that, it does have some dull moments, like just simply flying to an area without any fighting to do until you get there. It’s only occasional like at the start of a mission, but it’s still noticeable. Combat itself is fun at first, but it does become a tad repetitive towards the end of the campaign.
Multiplayer is built up of 2-4 player co-op through the campaign and 8 player online deathmatch modes. The addition of co-op is great and adds a bit more fun to game; while deathmatch is a nice addition as well…I would have hoped for something more original. Maybe a race mode to certain checkpoints on the map with weapons enabled so it becomes like Mario Kart but in the air? Sounds silly I know, I’m just throwing ideas out.

The visuals for H.A.W.X. are stunning at times, there’s no slowdown at all. It’s impressive to look at in motion and does a good job overall. The voice acting could be better, but it’s only a small complaint. The soundtrack does fairly well in fitting in with the feel of the game, but it’s pretty forgettable.

The Verdict

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. is a good flight-combat game. It does a lot of things right, even if it isn’t entirely realistic. It may be dull in places and have the odd problem, but it’s hard to knock it. It has good moments that rival its predecessors. Is it the best console flying game ever? Not quite, but it’s definitely in the shortlist.