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Friday | December 9, 2016
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Tom Clancy’s HAWX – X360 & PS3

Tom Clancy’s HAWX – X360 & PS3

 

Tom Clancy’s HAWX is by developer Ubisoft Romania, the studio who brought us the Blazing Angels games. HAWX is a successor of sorts although as it is set in the future the array of hardware on offer is a much more exciting prospect.

You take control of Captain Crenshaw, a former United States pilot whose squadron has been disbanded. On the look out for money and work Crenshaw turns to private military organisations and runs into a company called Artemis. Crenshaw decides to work for Artemis who in turn get contracted to protect Brazil. After a little bit of convoluted storyline Artemis then decide to attack the USA and Crenshaw refuses to comply. In little more than a few minutes Crenshaw is then again working for the USA trying to stop the attacks by Artemis over many famous USA states. Yes, it really is a lot of nonsense.

Before we progress any further it is important to note that HAWX (High Altitude Warfare Experimental Squadron) is definitely not a flight simulation. There are no real ammunition controls as planes can carry over 200 missiles and you don’t need to worry about running out of fuel or dealing with G force blackouts and the like. While this is nice for an arcade shooter style game unfortunately the handling of the aircraft is not in the least realistic as you can move them almost instantaneously in any direction regardless of the model you choose.

This leads me into the main issue with the game, the movement. While I appreciate the roots of the game is firmly set into arcade style action there is no sense at all of realism or even speed. It is hard to get excited with the motion, even when flying close to the ground because the engine just doesn’t seem to propel the airplane along at the right sense of (1000mph+) speed.

There are also issues with Textures because when you get low to the ground they are very low resolution and rather nasty. To be fair at a reasonable distance above the surface, there are many noticeable and famous landmarks on display. Los Angeles, Washington DC and others are all faithfully represented by the landmarks and buildings being rendered.

There are 19 missions to play throughout the campaign and all of these are available for cooperative play over Xbox Live and Playstation Network. The wingman AI is really quite poor and you only have control over covering and attack maneuvers so it is a good idea to get a friend to support you as a wingman. Sending an AI based team into attack a squad of fighters gives terrible results as they fly around aimlessly shooting quite often into the sky.

The campaign is not a wonderful experience and I will explain why … the mission methodology and design is inconsistent. While some missions are fun and entertaining there are equally as many which irritate and annoy. Being forced not to fly over a certain height for example is a terrible design idea and does not translate to fun and exciting gameplay.

Much of this could be forgiven if the gameplay was a selling point of the title but unfortunately Ubisoft Romania have tossed in a similar camera system to the one we saw in Blazing Angels. This means that a simple press of a button causes the camera to pull back from your aircraft and focus on the target as you move around the area in the background. It does lend itself to slightly more varied motions and moves, but it can be very disorienting, even for experienced users. The camera “assistance off” mode is a decent attempt at spicing things up and allowing for more end user skill in dogfighting but it just doesn’t add enough to the game to be a usable option.

Missile strength also lends to one of the games biggest weaknesses, the strategic element. Many times it is easier to just quickly cycle through targets unleashing missiles without entering into any semblance of dog fighting. The enemy AI isn’t varied or interesting enough to prove a challenge and most of the aircraft prove nothing more than a mere inconvenience while you acquire a missile lock on.

I also have issue with the Enhanced Reality System (ERS) which when enabled puts up a series of gates that guide you to your target. Stupidly it plays like a mini game as you pilot your jet through each gate to keep the pathway active. WHY? It gives you a perfectly lined up shot every time to the target and removes any aspect of intuitive and independent game play tactics.

This would be fine if the game was slightly more realistic but the aircraft all handle like indestructible immediately moveable objects. You can literally head straight up, flip over immediately and charge back down without any fear of damaging the aircraft structure. To avoid enemy missiles for instance you just accelerate like hell and flip the aircraft about as if you are having a fit inside the cockpit. Works everytime and you don’t even need to worry about using flares.

Controlling the game via the gamepad works reasonably well if you can overlook the ludicrous handling of the aircraft but the game is improved slightly by using Ace Combat’s flight stick, the controls are remapped and for the most part they work well.

HAWX also has an experience point and leveling up system that works in both single player and multiplayer gameplay. You unlock planes and weapon packs that can be taken into combat later. Challenges pop up on screen when you kill a certain amount of enemy units with a specific weapon and you get XP bonuses for the time you have dedicated to these.

 

Multiplayer is pretty sparse and there is only one mode where eight players can partake to play a deathmatch mode. Certainly flying against human pilots is more exciting and involving than playing against a substandard AI system but the fact you only have one mode and fairly limited player counts is quite shoddy. There are some special moves available in multiplayer that are given to players who get a string of multiple kills, EMP for example means that all enemy aircraft are control frozen meaning you can get in some bonus kills without retort. On a more positive note while the player count is limited the online support seems smooth and lag free.

Graphically, I already mentioned the poor detailed textures of the land surfaces up close however the planes are reasonably well rendered particularly the cockpit graphics. Unfortunately there is absolutely no damage model so the planes always look brand new and out of the factory regardless of how many dog fights you have.

The audio side of the game is quite impressive with a lot of formidable sounding explosions and ambient engine effects such as when you break the sound barrier.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX left me cold – there is no feeling of speed and the graphics are not particularly well detailed throughout the environments. The mission design is substandard and the combat is robotic and very unrewarding. Long term gameplay is also in question because multiplayer is sadly lacking and I lost interest very quickly. A very disappointing title which looked to be promising when we previewed it a while ago.

 

Gameplay
70

Poor mission design and uninspired combat based around a pure arcade shooter. Uninvolving.
Graphics
70
Poor texture details in almost all areas. Unremarkable.
Sound
80
Good explosions and ambient effects but nothing earth shattering.
Value
50
Cooperative gameplay is the only saving grace.
Overall
65

Forgettable and very disappointing.


About Author

Stuart Davidson

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