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.