Hawx may seem like an odd choice for my first review, but I was watching Top Gun the other day and got strange cravings....
Note: This review was written while listening to Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack on repeat.
Tom Clancy's Hawx is the latest game in the long running Tom Clancy franchise, best known for games like Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon. I would call Hawx a flight sim, but it isn't really one. The planes flip and fling themselves across the screen unrealistically, you get loaded up with about two hundred missiles for each mission, and you can take about six or seven missiles up the ass before going down. Sorry fans of realism, there isn't any here. However; is it a good game?
I want to get this criticism out of the way immediately, considering that you'll know this as soon as you boot up the game. The story of Hawx is not good. You play as US Air Force squadron commander David Crenshaw, the leader of Hawx. Your team is disbanded directly after you complete your first mission because....well, they never actually tell you why; they just sort of dance around that issue like its a rather large spider. You then join Artemis Global Security, a company for private military contractors, and fly several missions for them. About midway through the game, Artemis decides to attack the United States because they were stealing all the business in Brazil, which for some odd (and unexplained) reason has become a complete warzone. So, Artemis invades the US and you switch teams once again. Sorry to spoil that plot point for you, but chances are you aren't going to give a shit.
To make matters worse about the story, it is all told through horrendous looking pre rendered cutscenes that cause you to be completely uninterested in it whatsoever. The lips of the characters do not even match the words they're saying. That may sound like a petty complaint but it got on my nerves multiple times so I thought it was worth mentioning.
If you went into Hawx expecting a decent enough story like that of Rainbow Six, then you will be utterly disappointed. The story is completely bad all of the time. There is honestly absolutely nothing good I can say about it... Wait, the main character's name is actually pretty cool, so I guess that is a plus.
The first thing you notice when you begin your first mission is that the game lacks any sort of tutorial. Instead, they tell you the basics during loading screens for the first half of the game and then give you a tutorial at that point in order to showcase the game's huge gimmick: Assistance OFF mode. OFF mode is basically something that allows you complete control of your jet, making it easier to pull off sharp turns and fancy kills. Atleast, that's what the game says. I, however found it to be nothing more than an easier and more frustrating way to crash into the earth.
The HUD in Hawx is actually quite good.
The second thing you will notice about Hawx is that the game sports an amazing Heads Up Display. The HUD is simply just incredibly pleasing to look at and very intuitive. Your radar is in the bottom left corner of your screen, but press the back button and you have a nicely detailed Tactical Map. Top left corner of your screen shows the target you are currently locked onto, as well as orders you can issue to your squadmates using the left and right buttons on the Directional Pad. The top right lists all of your current objectives and how close you are to completing them. And the bottom right tells you what weapon you currently have equipped, which you can change using the up and down buttons on the D-Pad.
The gameplay itself, while not without its own flaws, is fun and rewarding enough to keep you interested until the end of the game. Be prepared for great amounts of tedium though, as nearly every mission you encounter in this game is some variation of "Defend this key building/ship/plane". While defending things can be quite exciting, it will also become incredibly frustrating. The main issue I have with the game is how much it focuses on shooting at ground targets rather than actual dogfighting. Shooting at pesky tanks on the ground lacks any sort of fun and instead feels like a chore. The ground targets only get worse too. Anti-Air defenses are a pain in the ass to lock on to and they are able to do ridiculous amounts of damage by scoring a single hit. If you're anything like me, this will cause you to break something. Also, the machine gun on your plane is as powerful as a sneeze and just as hard to aim. However, successfully maneuvering behind an enemy plane, locking on, and force feeding him missiles up the tailpipe is always fun.
This is what it's all about.
The sound design is notable as well. The lock on tone is always present to tell you that you're about to dead a man up and the missiles make a nicely satisfying "Woosh" as they leave your jet. The explosions sound nice as well and add to the satisfaction of a well executed takedown. I would also love to praise the soundtrack, if only I could remember a single damned thing about it. I guess it can't be very good if I completely missed it.
I'm not generally one to focus a game purchase around the graphics of a game, however, this is a review so I suppose I should mention that they suck. The buildings are horribly textured once you get close, the environments bland, and explosions lack any sort of substance. The planes do look nice (as they damn well better, considering this is a flying game), too bad they fly so stiff and without any sort of grace that it is almost painful to watch. This is sad, as part of the reason you play a flying game is for the spectacle, but you'll find none here.
The graphics just aren't a spectacle to enjoy while flying.
If you need a game to fulfill your dogfight craving, then give Hawx a go, you will find some enjoyment out of it. Just be aware that you should keep all breakable objects locked away while you play.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please, feel free to criticize away, as I'd like my second review to improve upon any faults this one may have.