Preview Impressions: Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.

August 7, 2008 · Print This Article

I didn’t crash. That’s all I really need to say about “Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.,” I didn’t crash.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried many flight simulation games, and they’ve all ended the same way; within the first two minutes of the training mode my plane crashed and burned, and I was done. I gave up pretty quickly, because I was convinced it was just going to happen over and over again, but not this time - I didn’t crash. Not since Top Gun on the NES have I stayed in the air this long.

I spent a solid ten minutes in the air, reaching my objectives, and taking them out, all thanks to the thought and care that is going into Tom Clancy’s newest title. “H.A.W.X.” single handedly gave me hope as soon as I breached the two minute mark - maybe this is a flight sim that I can actually enjoy.

A lot of measures have been taken to make sure that the upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 game is an accessible flight sim, while still retaining the feel of a hardcore game. (No one wants to disappoint the fans of games like Ace Combat and Blazing Angels.) The thinking behind “H.A.W.X.” was described to me as an attempt to bridge arcade style flight games with the more hardcore sims, a Ghost Recon in the sky, if you will. The good news is… it works. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be an “easy” game by any means, but it is going open the door to gamers who, in the past, may have been a bit overwhelmed and frustrated by this type of game.

There’s a couple of different ways that the Ubisoft Romania team has made this game more accessible. For example, they have included in-flight assistance at the touch of a button. Pushing the X button at the right time will bring up a series of triangular rings that will direct you either towards your target or away from your attacker, as long as you manage to stay within them. It’s a really helpful feature (dubbed the Enhanced Reality System) that can keep you focused and on target, so to speak.

Another of the big advancements that the team has made (that has never been done before in a flight sim) is the implementation of the dogfight camera. It’s a third person, cinematic view that allows the player to see a significantly greater area of space, than from the standard cockpit or tail view. The dogfight camera was tailored for multi-plane scenarios where you need to take in as much of your surroundings as possible, and, if you find the standard views a bit confining, this view really opens things up. Honestly, it reminded me a bit of a really advanced version of “Time Pilot,” but that might be a bit of a jump to make.

As for the graphics in “H.A.W.X.,” Ubisoft has implemented real world environments through the use of satellite technology to create as realistic of an experience as possible. The demo I played was set in Rio De Janeiro, and it included all of the landmarks that you would expect to see if you were visiting the city. I was told that in the final version of the game the buildings and the ground would take damage, to the point where entire cities can catch on fire. While it is a bit of a scary thought you could burn most of Rio to the ground, it is something that the “Ace Combat” series has consistently shied away from, due to the sensitivity around subject matter like that. It was because of this that all of the locations in the game are being treated respectfully, even with the destructive potential. Besides, would it really be a Tom Clancy game if it wasn’t set in the real world?

There’s a big movement to make games more accessible these days, and flight simulators are one category that desperately needed that to happen. With 50 licensed planes included in the game, there is still definitely something for hardcore fans, but, they might just run into a bit more air traffic than usual when this game comes out early next year. Those skies might not be too friendly.

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