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Saturday | December 10, 2016
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Tom Clancy’s HAWX – PC (Preview)

Tom Clancy’s HAWX – PC (Preview)

Tom Clancy’s HAWX from Ubisoft’s Romania Studio puts the player in the cockpit of the latest fighter jets to create a high octane flight experience with plenty of tricks to separate it from the masses. We recently had some time to play a few of the new missions over Chicago and Washington, which proved to be a memorable experience.

For those who have never played these games before, gamers take control of David Crenshaw, a talented pilot who was formerly a member of the United States military HAWX program. After HAWX was axed due to budget issues, David offered his skills to the highest bidder which ended up being ARES, a private military firm. ARES troops are trained to be the ultimate killers and use uncompromising (and sometimes ethically questionable) tactics to achieve their goals.

The year is 2019 and diplomatic tension between Brazil and Las Trinidad (A South American military alliance) are becoming very aggressive, leading to much tension. Brazil opens a contact with ARES getting their help and matters get more complicated when the United States also decide to offer their support to Brazil, which in turns causes financial issues for ARES as their profits are cut. Wanting to maximise their income, ARES offers military support to Las Trinidad … who accept, leading to a conflict between ARES and the United States. As you control David and his squad you are now therefore in the middle of this rather unpleasant conflict.

We had some time with a tutorial mission that showed us how to dogfight without the use of flight assistance. This was a nicely presented experience and then quickly our attention turned to the skies of Washington DC. Our briefing detailed attacks that had taken place on American soil and the american President had scrambled AIr Force One with a route to a very secure location. Unfortunately for the President he had no air support and enemy fighters were heading in its direction to kill him. I was in control of a squadron of three fighters with the mission to stop them by any means necessary. Not a very realistic set of circumstances, but one with plenty of excitement !

We had a few aircraft to choose from, such as an F22 Raptor which has the highest combined ratings for armor and speed. You then get to choose your payload which includes a plethora of anti air and anti ground missiles. The mission revolves around intercepting Air Force One in a purely air based campaign and taking out enemy fighters.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX allows two main ways to handle combat, either with flight assist on or off. Flight assist on means that you are presented with standard view options inside the cockpit and also third person. Flight assist gives you an on screen display showing the direction you need to travel to meet the target or to evade an incoming missile. There are also a few supporting mechanics to do with general flight.

Dogfights are when the game decides to mix things up a bit. Turning off flight assist gets the camera to zoom out until the plane is around 5 times smaller that it was before and the camera fixates on the target rather than your own plane. Your own plane becomes more agile and movement is easier for evasive combat. We were shown the Herbst Maneuver (J-Turn) which affords extremely quick movements, letting planes change direction mid air in order to get behind another craft to get a missile lock and a good chance of a kill. There is some dramatic license with this feature but it works really well in the context of the game environment.

This Washington DC level requires the regular use of tactical maps rather than just regular radar. While radar shows enemy locations, the tactical map is more indepth and details the direction they are heading as well as their distance from allocated targets.

The game played quite well in our limited time with the code and while we were slightly overusing the J Turn ability, we eventually started to master other forms of attack routines to take out enemy aircraft. I was even beginning to feel I was Tom Cruise when our time almost ran out.

The second campaign we were allowed to play was over Chicago and it required us to take out a set of radar jammers which were being protected by anti aircraft guns. Then we had to head into the city and take out a troop of enemy tanks to allow our ground forces to proceed.

The radar jamming hardware which the enemy were using was quite easily taken care of with a few missiles, then we moved onto taking out the AA guns. With some careful maneuvering and these out of the way, the next task was to annihilate the force of tanks on the ground. Once again a devastating onslaught of heavy air ground missiles sorted out that problem and our ground troops were able to proceed further into the city to their objective.

HAWX has cooperative game play and it works as well as you would expect from such a fast paced air assault game … meaning it was not always easy to get your teammate to follow exactly what you wanted in aircraft moving at over 800 mph. To be fair, both myself and my team mate enjoyed the experience and we were able to offer some covering fire to each other during some primary objective sessions.

Graphically the game is quite impressive and one thing I noticed was the fact that when you damaged a structure with a missile that the surrounding area also suffered with charred surfaces and deformed terrain. The planes behaved in a realistic way and the overall control method seemed quite intuitive.

The storyline is a particularly strong aspect of the title and it fits in very well with other games in the Tom Clancy franchise. The HAWX timescale is set between Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Endwar. This is further reinforced as we find out later that a prototype aircraft from Endwar actually makes its way into HAWX as a selectable unit. Picture in picture videos also appear to show communication between the leaders on both sides and they are well scripted with a high standard of voice acting throughout.

In some ways HAWX reminds me a little of Ace Combat, but with more exciting craft and a much more immersive story line running below the surface. It is hard to make a good guess as to how the final product will fare when released, but the demo we played was shaping up nicely with some adrenaline pumped dogfights taking place.

The game is due to be released on the 3rd of March and be sure to check out our review on Gamingheaven just before it is released.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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