A Look Back At H.A.W.X.
Back in the 80’s one film caught my attention; fuelling childhood dreams, I would feel the need – the need… for speed! Yes, Top Gun was one of my most watched movies during my childhood. Goose and Maverick’s flying skills made me want to be them, become the best jet fighter pilot in the skies. Alas some dreams are just dreams. Yet a couple of years ago a game arrived, one that helped me relive some of those dreams; taking to the skies, taking part in dogfights across the globe. Step forward, Tom Clancy’s HAWX!
Back in 2009 Ubisoft decided to take their popular Tom Clancy series to the skies, giving us all a taste of air combat with a few twists and some advanced features, which they hoped to give it a unique feel. Taking on the role of David Crenshaw, one of the best pilots and leader of an elite unit called H.A.W.X, the story spans over six years with a variety of missions; from escorting the president to raids on enemy bases. The game sees a war develop between America and a private corporation called Artemis, who sign a lucrative contract with Las Trinidad, while they are at war with Brazil and the US.
The single player campaign was quite the joy to play through; it managed to recreate the sensation that you were in the air, with everything to fly for. I couldn’t get enough of pulling off a 360 roll, braking so hard that the engines stalled, watching a missile fly past and then pull up just in time to kick the engines back in. It gave me a thrill to be up in the virtual air – I felt fantastic, even though the campaign was quite short. I turned to a few friends to make the experience last longer – co-op was on the cards. Taking to the skies with a three friends, becoming a squadron made the experience even more sweet.
Barking warnings through my mic: “bogey at ten o’clock… ground patrol watch below.” All of this added to the atmosphere, taking it to a whole new level. The planes were detailed and the terrain you were flying over was created well, although some of the later levels could look rather bland. The planes themselves flew with grace giving you a real sensation of speed and altitude. This was my Top Gun and I was in control!. There was a fine selection of planes to use and unlock through out the game, including the Mig 25. As well as planes there were new weapons to be unlocked as you progressed, from homing missiles to big-ass bombs!. By completing the missions and taking out enemies you earned points and money, which you could spend to make sure you’re ready for any missions they threw at you.
One of the big differences to other arcade aerial shooters was the ‘assistance off’ mode. Becoming a master at this game meant getting used to this dogfight view; switching between this and the standard cockpit view meant the difference between surviving a missile lock on and being blown to smithereens. The ‘assistance off’ mode also gave you the best feeling of control, allowing you to pull off some fricking amazing moves.
The icing on the cake however was the inclusion of multiplayer. or at least it should have been. Dogfights online – oh hell yeah, this was going to be cool. Alas there was only one mode available: death-match. Don’t get me wrong it was fun, but it could also get infuriating at times. Much like Call of Duty you received points and could level up to around 50, unlocking more planes and earning titles the more you progressed. Dog fights were cool but you only had a limited amount of missiles to use, so the fight would generally go a little like this: fire some missiles, hit the enemy, use all of your ammo, get a kill, enemy re-spawns and takes you down… the cycle then repeats! Also, with only one mode being available it became samey all too quickly.
Yet the simple fun of the game would keep me going back for more, normally with the Top Gun soundtrack playing in the background. If you do find yourself playing in a dog fight and a plane streaks down from above, guns blazing, and you hear Danger Zone being sung rather terribly… don’t panic, it’s only me and chances are I’ll be crashing into the ground before I take you out!