The first time we heard of Tom Clancy’s HAWX we thought it was a professional spitting game, one that’d probably have some sort of pseudo-realistic combat angle mug-fistedly forced in there. Judging by the name it was either that or a game about the robotic harem of an acclaimed military fiction author.
Turns out that we were wrong; it’s an arcade flight simulation game. The titular HAWX isn’t an onomatopoeic device about gobbing loogies; it stands for High Altitude Warfare eXperimental, which is the most spurious and unnecessary use of the letter X in an acronym that we’ve seen since BMX XXX.
Let’s not dwell on how ludicrous the name is though; at least it doesn’t stand for ‘eXtreme’.
The setting for HAWX is the usual Tom Clancy schtick then, set in the not-too-distant future and centralised around a string of possible combat technologies that could theoretically change the face of warfare as we know it. It’s the same basic formula which both Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon were built around, to name a few.
HAWX is more than just similar to those games on a general level too – it actually ties in closely with the GRAW universe, with one of the first levels in the games being an interesting crossover between the two acronyms. The tutorial mission for the game sees the HAWX squadron down in Mexico supporting the Ghosts.
If you’re looking for lots of missions like that though, where you get to explore Ubisoft’s newly announced consistency in the Tom Clancy universe, then you might be a little dismayed. At the end of the first mission you’re told that the HAWX squadron is being disbanded and it’s at this point that you and your wingmen decide to become mercenaries.
You promptly sign up with Artemis Security who, according to the awfully lip-synced cutscene, are allowed to operate as a private army for the world. Thus begins your life of glamour; flying planes around exotic locales, earning more cash than you can count and introducing air hostesses to the, erm, cockpit.
That plan goes a little awry when war breaks out between the mercenaries and the Government though, with you trapped in the middle and having to decide which side you want to be on.
Well, not ‘decide’ as such – more just be lead on to the next level after a brief cutscene. HAWX demonstrates the exact same disregard for player morality that we’d find ourselves complaining about if the story was at all important to HAWX. So, let’s be clear; the story isn’t important to HAWX at all and it doesn’t matter how big the name of the author is on the package, it will never be enough for us to take the plot seriously.
That’s fine though, because we’re not really bothered by the plot. The fact that the characters are all paper thin and the cutscenes shorter than a squashed ant doesn’t matter, because HAWX is more about wish fulfilment than anything else. It’s like a sports game in that all you really want from it is the chance to do some crazy stunts and feel like a hero.
Tony Hawk's lets you take to the half-pipes, FIFA lets you score that winning World Cup Final goal and HAWX lets you singlehandedly defend Air Force One from swathes of enemies and skim your wings over the water. The story can be left outside to rot, because all HAWX needs to do is let me fly under a low bridge at inhuman speeds while blowing up tanks – and on that front it’s already an excellent game.