Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X

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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X
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Elevate your experience of war with the soaring air combat game Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, finally coming on your iPhone and iPod touch!...

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Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X Review

It’s tough to go head-to-head with some of the best games on the iPhone like F.A.S.T. and Top Gun. However, that is the Herculean task that Ubisoft and Gameloft have attempted in Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X, and it’s safe to say that they accomplished their goal and then some. Not only does H.A.W.X deliver the same near-flawless control that F.A.S.T. gave us, but it pushes the genre to new levels.

One of F.A.S.T.’s greatest strengths was its super-short levels, which could easily be completed in a few minutes each. With the release of H.A.W.X, Gameloft has shown that the opposite can also provide a great gaming experience. In H.A.W.X, missions are actually quite long and in-depth.

Often lasting up to 20 minutes, these missions are organic and will develop over time, with story elements and dramatic shifts taking place mid-mission. Maybe it’s unusual to have a standard military-themed game with a dramatic story (besides the standard “dictator takes control, go kill him” storyline), but we were genuinely surprised by the plot twists and were interested to see where the rest of the story would go.

The old rivalry: jet vs. tank.

The game’s control scheme is also great. Borrowing heavily from previous iPhone flight sims, H.A.W.X doesn’t mess with a system that already works. Instead, it offers slight but welcome improvements that have a positive effect on the experience.

For instance, the speed control is located on the far right side of the screen as opposed to being accessed by touching your craft (like in F.A.S.T.). It’s a small change, but it allows you to alter your speed much more often, opening up new maneuverability options. It feels a bit awkward at first, but it wasn’t long before we were breaking the sound barrier with a straight vertical climb, then slamming the brakes and whipping back down for a vicious dive bomb.

This level of control is necessary, as often H.A.W.X will ask you to take out ground forces in a city setting. You can play it safe and launch missiles from two miles up, but if you choose, you can also engage them at close range. This will bring you down to within a few dozen meters from the ground, sometimes even maneuvering between buildings.

Uh, where’s the steering wheel?

The graphics as you get this low are extremely grainy and bland, but each location provides a suitable playground for this type of action. Perhaps it’s asking too much for a flight sim to not only provide several square miles to fly in, but to also render it in great detail. Everything looks good from the air, though, which is far more important.

From start to finish, H.A.W.X. can be a little too short and may only take you 3 hours or so to plow through. Plus, no online play is included. In addition, combat can occasionally be a bit too simple, since it’s usually just a matter of flying straight at an enemy and firing once you’re locked on, but this becomes much more complex when there are 30 other enemies in the sky.

H.A.W.X is definitely a Must Have for any fan of iPhone flight combat games. Its combat is just as good as any other on the platform, and it advances things even further with an interesting storyline and refined controls.

HAWX Hands-On Preview and Video

You’ve played FAST, now it’s time for HAWX. Based on the console game, which is itself based on a Tom Clancy series, HAWX contains 13 missions which condense the entire story of the console version. You play as hotshot fighter pilot Dave Crenshaw, who must infiltrate enemy airspace, bomb targets on the ground, and engage in breakneck dogfights high in the air.

The planes in HAWX are real-world and licensed, just like the cars in a racing game. Companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin have given their blessing to use planes like the F-22, F-14 Tomcat (seen in Top Gun), and F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber. Because they’re licensed, you can’t tinker with them (no painting your jet neon pink) but they’ll impress aeronautical engineers (or just fans of military hardware) with their accuracy just the same, right down to the unique cockpit views.

Missions are based in cities like Juarez, Rio de Janero, Washington DC, and Chicago, as well as less specific regions like the Middle East and the Amazon rain forest. In one Norfolk level, we had to infiltrate protected airspace by flying through a narrow series of triangle-shaped gates. Flying outside of the safety zone inspired a barrage of anti-aircraft fire within seconds. In another, we engaged in a bombing run of tanks in Juarez, Mexico, providing air support for a Ghost Recon team (making a cameo from another Tom Clancy series).

The optional accelerometer controls worked well for the amount of maneuvering required. Dipping and rotating the iPhone produced smooth turns (the pitch and roll), and there were two on-screen rudders for controlling yaw. Machine guns and missiles are tied to on-screen buttons, and a context-sensitive defensive chaff deployment came up when a missile was locked on. Missiles were much better than machine guns for most types of targets; they’re simply “fire and forget”.

We also tried out the game’s multiplayer, which unfortunately is local wi-fi and Bluetooth only. Up to four players can dogfight over local wi-fi, and we found that although it’s very difficult to get a missile lock on skilled pilots, this mode is a welcome addition. However, after FAST we do miss the ability to challenge strangers online.

HAWX is a game of nice little details that seem to add up. We especially liked the full voice-over work, experience system for leveling up between missions, real-world map data and landmarks in each environment, and sonic boom effect when you break the sound barrier. No online multiplayer may be a killer for some, but the Tom Clancy storyline looks like it will be quite a bit deeper than FAST. Look for HAWX to lock on to the App Store in December.

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