Ubidays 08: Hands-on with Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X

Ever since Pilot Wings for the Super Nintendo, I have always adored the flying games. The genre, as of late has been rather stale sadly. Not much is out there, and it’s only once in a blue moon that we see something decent come out.

For the longest time now, everyone has held the Ace Combat series in high regards as one of the best flight sim out there. That’s going to change after Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X comes out. To put it simply, this game is unbelievable. This is the exact type of game flying fanatics have been waiting for and I can’t believe it’s taken this long for this type of flight game to be made. Hit the jump to find out all about H.A.W.X.  

H.A.W.X. takes place in the year 2012. 191 countries ratified the Reykjavik Accords and this allowed for Private Military Contractors to be a force for all the countries.  All of these PMC forces have been officially recognized and sanctioned by most of the world’s super powers doing away with the traditional miltary method. You’re here about the gameplay though, so if you’re interested in the game’s back-story, then check it out here

You play as a former Air Force pilot who has recently joined the PMC. It will be your job to protect cities, escort people, do bomb runs and whatever else you’re ordered to do. You will travel to over two dozen real world locations across the globe that are in need of your services. For this hands-on demo, we were flying over Rio De Janeiro. As we’re flying into Rio, we’re being briefed on our mission and what we need to do. There are a few battleships, several fighter jets and some tanks that all need to be taken out.

Now, you could follow along with the other planes in your group, or you can just go off wherever you’d like on the map. Now, you have to do the objective no matter what, but you won’t get in trouble or anything for exploring. I’m told the maps will be huge but you will eventually hit that “invisible wall” and can’t go out any further. When you are flying around outside of the cities, you’ll see that the ground and such isn’t very detailed. Rio De Janeiro itself is very detailed with the sky scrappers and other buildings, but beyond that, you’ll see nothing but flat green ground for the most part. Of course, this is a flying game, so that’s not really that bothersome of a detail. 

After screwing around the outskirts of Rio for a little bit, I headed towards my objectives. My squad mates were already deep in combat with the enemy jets as best they could. I came in over the ocean so I fired on a couple of battleships and then chased after some jets. 

The Enhanced Reality System (E.R.S. for short) will be a gigantic help during missions. The E.R.S. is a highly advanced computer system designed to make anyone an elite pilot. It’s fully equipped to make sure you kick some ass and at the same time, makes sure you don’t get your ass kicked. While in E.R.S. mode, the camera is fixed directly behind your jet. This is so you can see all the indicators and help the system is giving the pilot. 

The system told me what the quickest path I should bear in order to intercept one of the enemy jets. You will see a triangular marker appear directly in front of your jet meant for you to fly through in order to get to your target as fast as possible. As I was going towards the enemy jet, the E.R.S. warned me that a missile had locked onto me. It laid out a new triangular path for me to follow so I could avoid the incoming missile. I just stayed on the path for a few seconds and I broke away when I thought it was safe. I have to say, it’s very exhilarating seeing a missile pass over your jet just mere inches away.

Now if E.R.S. is sounding like the game will make things too easy, don’t worry. You can turn off the E.R.S. at any point in the game. Simply pressing the left trigger twice and the E.R.S. is turned off. When you’re in this regular flight mode, the camera pulls out and goes off into the distance. The change is kind of like Madden and real football. With E.R.S. on, the camera is right behind you like in Madden. When E.R.S. is off, it looks like a football game on TV as the camera is looking onto the side of the field from a distance. 

When in this mode, it’s a lot easier to pull off tricks like doing flips and what not. This view of your jet and everything that’s going on is very cinematic feeling. I felt like I could be watching a fight scene from a movie during this whole period in regular flight mode. 

Both views and systems offer very different controls. The point of both is to know when to use them. It’s not about whether or not you prefer one or the other. It’s about knowing which mode would be useful in a given situation. The controls were pretty solid. The planes controed well, it was simple to lock onto targets in E.R.S. mode and and it felt very realistic while doing stunts in regular flight mode.

Overall, I cannot wait for this game to come out now. I can’t believe it has taken this long to create an awesome flight sim. I did have some minor discomfort when it came to flying without the E.R.S. I found I got a little dizzy after switching the views. It wasn’t anything major and I’m hoping it had something to do with me bouncing from station to station playing all of the different type of games Ubisoft had on hand at Ubidays. 

I also cannot wait to see how co-op and the 16 player dogfights will be like. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. will be out later this year for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Hamza Aziz