Giant Bomb Review


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X Review

  • X360

Tom Clancy's HAWX changes up the flight combat formula in a couple of interesting ways, but at its core it's a little too basic to hold your attention.

Cockpit view is available, if that's your thing.
Tom Clancy's HAWX takes Ubisoft's brand of near-future espionage into the wild blue yonder as you take on the role of a fighter pilot and fly combat missions in a decidedly Ace Combat-like fashion. There are some cool ideas in HAWX that can make the art of flying quite a bit easier for novice players, and an "assistance OFF" toggle that lets you flip and stall your plane with a camera angle designed to make dogfights more dynamic. The bulk of the game, though, is focused on you putting your targeting reticle onto a yellow box until the yellow box turns red. Then you push the fire button once or twice and move on to the next target. Add in an unhealthy obsession with defensive or escort objectives and you've got a game with a solid core that doesn't focus enough on its strengths to leave you feeling fully satisfied.

It also made a pretty awful first impression with me, at least on the 360. There's some sort of bug in the game that can cause it to crash at the title screen. I booted the game up five times and it crashed three of those five times, both when running off the disc and when installed to the hard drive. After asking around online, I was able to at least determine that I wasn't alone, but it doesn't seem to be happening to everyone. Some people claim that performing maintenance on the 360 hard drive (which is done via an undocumented code on the dashboard) clears it up. I didn't spend tons of time trying to troubleshoot the issue, and instead decided to just play and finish it in a couple of sittings on the occasions that I got it to boot up. Regardless, it's a pretty embarrassing issue for a shipping product to have.

Once I got past that, I dove into the campaign. It opens with you flying for the United States as a part of the HAWX squadron. For the record, that stands for "High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron," which is a pretty busted acronym. After a few missions with Uncle Sam, your squadron is disbanded and you sign up with Artemis, a private military company that takes on contracts and flies missions for the highest bidder. Because this is the same Tom Clancy universe that is constantly putting the USA in dangerous situations and portraying attacks on domestic soil, you can see the plot points unfolding about a mission or two before they actually happen. It all feels a little hokey, and unlike the other Clancy games, watching the intrigue play out in pre-mission briefings or from the relatively anonymous comfort of a fighter jet makes you feel completely detached from the goings-on. Yeah, you might be averting nuclear situations or covering a Ghost Recon squad, but it's all just yellow boxes and red boxes when you're in the cockpit.

The ground looks decent when you get up close.
The base level of action in HAWX is on-par with what you'd expect out of a modern flight combat game. You turn, you burn, and you blast targets using one of the hundreds of missiles you're issued. You'll also bomb ground targets in some cases, and the bombing interface is easy to get the hang of thanks to an incredibly friendly HUD. HAWX seems designed for people who don't want to learn about Immelmann turns, Split Ss, or other air combat maneuvers. At any point, you can hit a button to bring up a handy on-screen guide that, depending on your current situation, guides you to your next target, gets you in behind a targeted enemy jet, or guides you through evasive tactics designed to dodge incoming missiles. It's useful to the point of making the game a little too easy in spots. Either way, the on-screen indicator gates look pretty cool while they're at it.

The other part of HAWX that breaks rank with the typical air combat game is called OFF, or Assistance OFF mode. This mode turns off the safety protocols that keep your plane from stalling out, and with them disengaged, you can execute wicked drift turns that let you quickly change direction, making it useful for swinging around to get a missile lock on an enemy at your rear. If you brake too hard and turn too much, your plane will stall and start falling, but it's really easy to get it going again. The camera also pulls out to a dynamic, distance third-person view of your plane. This can make it sort of tough to line up shots on your opponents, but it also gives you a clear view of just how crazy your plane looks as it flips and whips around in the sky. It's just sort of a shame that there aren't many situations in the campaign that really demand this sort of technique. Overall, the control in HAWX is just fine. The game lets you employ some one-word voice commands to perform many basic tasks, but pressing a button beats saying "SHOOT" into your headset every time.

The campaign can also be played cooperatively by up to four players online, which makes things even easier. You can certainly raise the difficulty setting, but this just appears to play around with how much ammo you start a mission with and how much damage you can take, rather than making the enemy pilots more intense. There's also a versus mode that lets two teams of up to four players battle it out in a team dogfight. When you earn kills, you earn points that can be used to call in temporary support powers, like drones that can heal your team's planes, EMP pulses that cause the enemy to stall, jammers that prevent enemy missiles from locking on, and so on. If you're into dogfighting, it all works pretty well. But since that's the only mode available, all of those bombers and air-to-ground missile packages you keep unlocking in the single-player mode are totally worthless. The match filters have room for multiple game types, but the only available option is "Team Deathmatch," leaving the impression that they're going to try to get you to pay for more multiplayer modes down the line.

HAWX is pretty easy on the eyes, with good-looking plane models, solid in-air explosions when your missiles hit their mark, and decent-looking ground, though some of the textures you'll see when flying low are a little low-res. The HUD elements are numerous, but easy-to-understand. You'll occasionally get some polygonal dudes showing up in picture-in-picture windows to advance the story mid-mission. They look sort of bad if you stare at them, but considering you'll usually be focused on a sky full of yellow targeting boxes, they don't stand out too much.

HAWX is a little too short and a little too easy to recommend wholeheartedly, though if the thought of embarking on a cooperative jet-fighting mission or participating in high-powered dogfights is enough to get your pulse racing, you'll probably find enough going on to keep you occupied.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
Edited by Gearhead

Ace Combat made by Ubisoft? No thanks. And too bad for those issues on the 360. Can't believe that the game shipped with that.

Posted by badgerT


Posted by badgerT

I mean 1st!

Posted by Retrogimp

Hmm... I'm just worried I'd buy a copy which keeps crashing, knowing my luck. So I'll give it a miss.

Edited by LiveOrDie1212

this game failed on the 360. and Ubisoft failed for shipping this shitty product.

Posted by badgerT

Wow, fail, ignore my attempts at "1st".  The demo was meh so not a purchase for me.

Posted by Snail

I love air fighting games so I am really pocking this one up.

Posted by Hdfisise

Seems like a definite price drop or rent for me then. After playing the demo I just found Ace combat 6 a lot more satisfying to play, but I guess that is what should be true because of all the practice that namco has had with Ace combat series compared to Ubisoft. 

Posted by Binman88

I played the demo and it just seemed like I had to grind my way around airspace shooting down target after target with no real challenge. This review kinda confirms my suspicions about the full game and I'm so glad I didn't preorder.

Posted by Zatoichi_Sanjuro

I prefer High Altitude Warfare Xenomorph Squadron.

Also, having played the demo I am now pining for a new Ace Combat since Ace Combat 4 completely blows this T.U.R.D. out of the sky.

I'll take IL Sturmovik: Birds of Prey too please.

Posted by Death_Burnout

High Altitude Warfare eXcellent.

Posted by AdventChild

Nothing I like better than some cockpit.

Posted by Danishmaggot

Too bad it ended up being so bland, as I was hoping for a Ace Combat 6 substitute. But after trying the demo I gave up on it completely and Jeff's review just enforced that desision.

Posted by Sunjammer

I feel really bad for this game. And it's all in the acronym. It's the single dumbest title i've heard in what feels like years. Other than that it just feels like they took Ace Combat, stuck a borked version of the Blazing Angels dogfight camera in it and called it the day. This will not do.

Posted by FuzzYLemoN


Posted by Irondoor

I dunno, I kinda like ace-combat-like games. Maybe I ought to try it out.

Posted by Jared

Hmmm, I'll probably pick it up once it's $30.

Posted by Rapture

will there be a video review?

Posted by needforswede

HAWX is a stupid acronym.  I heard it was just supposed to be 'High Altitude Warfare," and therefore just "HAW," I guess (as opposed to GRAW).  But as soon as the fucking marketing people noticed that adding one more letter could make it sound more aircraft-y and eXtreme at the same time, they just had to change it.

But judging by the demo, I'd say that "solid" is a good word to describe the gameplay.  But it takes more than just solid to keep my attention for long.

Edited by Freki

I couldn't even finish the demo of that game - ewwww!

And boy do I feel bad for people who bought a faulty disc - but it might be for the best with the game being so s****y!

People wanting a good flight "sim"  - pick up Ace Combat 6!
Posted by StickyMicky

I finished this yesterday on Elite mode, it is a good game but IMO it is not a  40GBP game.

if it was released for around 27GBP it would have been a storming deal

the campaign is good if you have 4 mates playing, but can be boring in single play.

Posted by super_machine

I liked the demo but I wont buy another ubisoft game,especially after what Jeff went through. It seems to be ubisofts MO. Some people get working copies some people dont. I bought Far Cry 2 last fall and was sadly disapointed in a similar way.

Posted by Kohe321

Great review Jeff! I'm picking this up on Steam today!

Posted by Media_Master

It looks like a beginners flight game

Posted by Eric_Buck

You guys can't believe that Ubisoft are shipping out some of their games with some problems on the 360 but you don't give a shit that Microsoft's doing the same thing??? Microsoft shipped out the 360 earilier than needed and it doesn't work for shit! Fuck!

Posted by coonce

gonna check the demo out first before i make my decision....

Posted by darkjester74

Thanks for the review Jeff.  On par with what I expected, judging from what I played of the demo.

Posted by tacitteyo

Your review is all well and good, Jeff.  However, you neglected whether or not you can switch to guns or not!  This is the selling point of any jet game in a post Top Gun society!

...or at least it should be...

Posted by MasterChief360

Finally we have an air combat title with 'Tom Clancy' brand.

Posted by Lassegp

I dont think its as bad as a lot of comments state. The review is pretty spot on with most parts, but a game which i actually returns to because its fun, is a rare thing and this one did.

My expectations has been met, so i can only recommend this one. Especially considering its Ubisoft first attempt at this genre.

Posted by RedSox8933

i want to give this a rent, because i always really wanted to play the Ace Combat series, but i can't find AC6 anywhere! i'm not going to buy this though, just in case it crashes a lot.

Posted by AV_Gamer

I never played a Ace Combat game, but I did play the demo of this game. I liked it and might get it some day.