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Tom Clancy's HAWX Hands-On Preview

Tom Clancy's HAWX Hands-On Preview

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Expected release date: March 20th (PC), Out now (consoles)

Flight simulators are a dying breed and, believe it or not, Tom Clancy’s HAWX proves that – and not in an ‘the exception that proves the rule’ way either.

There was a time, way back when, when flight simulators were the bread and butter of the PC gamer. It was a time of myth and legend, when people were still amazed when a game boasted that it was played in full 3D and when games were delivered in gargantuan, trapezoidal boxes. It was the time of Flight Unlimited, Flight Simulator and Jane’s F/A-18. It was a time when men soared the skies.

Now though, those times are pretty much done with. Gaming trends and tastes have moved on, slowly but measurably. Most flight sims nowadays are focused more on combat than on the simple joy of being virtually airborne and even Microsoft has closed down its own flight sim studio.

All that’s left of that old genre is the arcade-like shells that still occasionally crop up; games like Tom Clancy’s HAWX. It tries to present itself as a flight sim as much as possible, with boasts about being based on real future technology, but it’s clearly not. It’s an arcade flight combat game, but a very accessible and fun one.

Tom Clancy's HAWX Hands-On Preview Tom Clancy's HAWX PC Hands-On Preview

If there were proof needed of this idea that HAWX isn’t a true flight sim then it’s easily found in the fact that HAWX actually has a story and a linear progression of missions. Unfortunately though, while the game as a whole is pretty good from what we’ve seen, the story is woefully dire.

At the start of the game players assume the role of David Crenshaw, a flight leader in the US’ High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron, or HAWX. It’s an awful, forced acronym, we know, but let’s move on quickly. At the end of the first mission Crenshaw and his crew (read: not gangsters) are disbanded and forced to seek employment elsewhere.

Collectively the decide to become mercenaries for Artemis, a private military contractor that’s apparently allowed to have its own private army and which, unbeknownst to Crenshaw and Co., has some shadowy goals. Needless to say, it isn’t long before the US government is under threat and the ol’ HAWX squadron finds itself moving from protecting oil refineries to escorting Air Force One to safety after swarms of fighter planes move in on it.

Tom Clancy's HAWX Hands-On Preview Tom Clancy's HAWX PC Hands-On Preview

OK, so maybe it isn’t the story itself that’s so terribly, terribly bad; maybe it’s the way the story is presented that makes it seem so bad. Badly compressed videos and poorly lip-synced CG characters giving boring speeches hasn’t ever done it for us and no amount of futuristic-looking floating windows are going to change that.

That said, there is one bit in the opening video that we got to see that made us laugh a bit and which perfectly illustrates the shallowness of the plot. As you join up with Artemis you’re given an induction speech by the CEO of the company, who’s visage appears in one of many small blue windows that hover in front of a wireframe globe, drifting around aimlessly. We guess it’s supposed to look like something from Minority Report, but it resembles TRON a lot more closely.

Artemis may only be a small company, but we do have some prestigious clients,” says the Artemis boss-man. Immediately as he says it, and apparently in an effort to probe this point another neon window swims into focus. This one has a picture in it of some men in sunglasses and headgarb, standing in the desert.

It’s clearly labelled only as ‘Prestigious Clients’, apparently just so that you know that Artemis works with the stereotypical middle eastern billionaire. In the shared world of Tom Clancy and 24 this is apparently a not-so-subtle codeword that means Artemis is probably evil.

Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Artemis, really.