Tom Clancy's HAWX – hands-on

It certainly helped in the next mission, ‘Glass Hammer’, in which Rio comes under attack from all angles from planes, tanks and landing craft. The tanks had nestled between the city’s skyscrapers, but by using the ERS we could follow a designated path that ended with us able to take a clean shot without hitting any buildings. The same mechanic is used for when you want to intercept an aircraft.

Next up were two tricky protection missions. In ‘Ulysses’, we had to guard a naval fleet in the Magellan Strait from frigates and zippy fighters, which involved some daring maneuvers just above the water. Even better was ‘Torchlight’, in which Air Force One was attacked while en route along a set flight path to a secret location. The difficulty lay in staying close enough to the plane to protect it while being prepared to change direction at the slightest moment depending on where the next wave of enemies came from. The setup is similar in the escort mission ‘Iron Arrow’. The enemy had set up jamming stations on the ground, and only an AWAC (Airborne Warning And Control) ship could detect them for us to destroy. It was simple enough until squads of enemy fighters began attacking the AWAC, and flying outside the AWAC’s range to go after them meant distorted vision from the jamming below.

Our favourite mission was ‘Stiletto’, in which we had to fly through enemy radar zones and avoid surface-to-air missiles to find a series of radar hubs. Not only was the mission timed, but spending too long in each visible radar zone meant being shot out of the sky and certain death. It’s obvious that Ubisoft Bucharest has tried to add a few gameplay twists like this one and those in ‘Iron Arrow’ and ‘Torchlight’ to get away from the dogfights and dull search-and-destroy missions you usually find, and HAWX is all the better for it.

Completing objectives and shooting down enemies in both single-player and multiplayer earns experience points, which you put towards unlocking better planes, weapons, aircraft and even extra support elements for eight-player Team Deathmatch. Basically, anything you unlock in the game is achieved through building up your XP. Team Deathmatch wasn’t ready to play, but it sounds extremely promising. You can send requests to team-mates via controls or a headset for things like attacking the same target as you or targeting an enemy that’s attacking you. Communication is going to be crucial. Although the advanced moves take skill and the assistance-off perspective needs getting used to, we had a great time just swooping around dodging missiles and blowing stuff up.

Jan 29, 2009