Tom Clancy's HAWX - Cheat Happens Game Review
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Tom Clancy's HAWX
PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360

Reviewed on: XBox 360

Developer:
EA Black Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Rated: "T" for Teen



CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

   
   
   
Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
   
CHEATfactor: 6
   
     

Man has always desired to fly. It’s what drove the Wright Brothers to create the first airplane, and it’s why characters like Superman are still popular today, but it’s quite the lofty dream. Since we may never be able to fly like the man of steel – video games may be the closest we get – they’re the perfect way to escape reality and get lost in the clouds…most of the time.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX attempts a lot of novel ideas – the problem is that it fails to really accomplish any of these ideas with much success – in fact, some of them turn out to be downright failures.  HAWX could have been something special – but with sloppy gameplay mechanics, poor presentation and a thin package – it’s nothing but a disappointment.

It’s important to note that HAWX (short for High Altitude Warfare Experimental Squadron) is anything but the flight simulator it’s being made out to be. In fact, the only real similarity between HAWX and games like Microsoft Flight Simulator or the amazing – yet often overlooked IL-2 Sturmovik is the fact that you’ll be flying, and that’s where the problems start.

"Sadly, the gameplay doesn’t do much to save HAWX."

 
   
HAWX places you right in the middle of a fictional conflict between the United States and Brazil. Yep, you read that right – you’re fighting Brazil. To be fair, the story is a bit deeper, but it’s incredibly cheesy. You play as Captain Crenshaw, a wingman whose squadron was long ago dissolved – and has since started working for Artemis, a private Military firm.  Before long, Artemis lands a contract to protect Brazil and then for some reason decides to attack the United States -- targeting some of its most famous landmarks. It’s up to you, and a few allies to stand up to Artemis and protect America, and its landmarks. Really? That’s the best they could come up with? The whole thing sounds like it could be lifted from a Sci-Fi channel original movie.  While the stories in past Tom Clancy games haven’t been the easiest to follow – they’re at least credible and entertaining – HAWX is neither.

Sadly, the gameplay doesn’t do much to save HAWX. It’s not that it’s a bad game; the developers at Ubisoft Romania just tried to do too much and in the process created a title that falls short pretty much everywhere.  HAWX borrows heavily from titles like Blazing Angels, trading in realism for sheer action. Unlike more traditional flying titles, you won’t have to worry about gauges, fuel (or even getting the plane off the ground as HAWX starts and ends each mission in the air), instead you’ll be piloting aircraft that can carry a ridiculous amount of ammo and defies the laws of physics.

It’s understandable that the developers would want to attract a wider audience by simplifying the gameplay, but HAWX just feels like it’s missing something. The allure of past Tom Clancy games have been seeing just how closely it can straddle the line between action and strategy. Sure, games like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon deal a lot with Warfare and action – but taking a “shoot first – ask questions later” mindset will do you no good.  That’s not the case with HAWX as there’s little to no strategy involved.  Since you have an incredible amount of ammo, and can take on an even more astounding amount of damage – you’ll be shooting enemy planes down like they’re flies.  There’s not much defense either, as moving your plane from side to side, or merely changing altitude slightly is enough to throw off your pursuers.

"...the leveling up system comes off as a tacked on, last minute addition."

 
   
Ask anyone who’s ever developed or played a flight game, and they’ll tell you just how hard it is to recreate the feeling of traveling just how fast planes can go. Since more often than not it’s a slate background with little movement, it’s not like racing games where you can judge your speed by the objects around you. I know it’s like it sounds a bit like nitpicking, but it’s a fault none the less. Dog fights are interesting because of the speed – if I’m plopping down $60 to recreate the experience, I don’t want to feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace.

While action is at the heart of HAWX, there are quite a few RPG elements that should keep players interested when the gameplay gets repetitive. Breaking records or carrying out objectives yields experience points to unlock new planes or weapons packs you can use to customize your battles in both the single player and multiplayer modes. There’s no way to choose what to unlock, as every “achievement” is linked to a specific upgrade. It does add a bit more depth to an otherwise limited gameplay system, but since there’s little challenge to many of the missions, the leveling up system comes off as a tacked on, last minute addition.

How much you’ll enjoy the campaign will vary based on how you play it. Each of the 19 missions can be played either solo or in multiplayer – and range from surprisingly fun, like when you’re providing air support for a small group of ground infantry, to awkwardly boring – most of the missions where you’re doing the same thing you usually are, but with limitations.  You’ll find yourself having more fun when playing cooperatively online, as you won’t have to worry about the god awful AI.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX could have been something special, but sadly its faults far outnumber its strengths Flying games don’t usually sell well, and It’s repetitive, shoddy gameplay won’t do much to change HAWX’s fate. When you take into account that much of what the game does right has been done far better in previous games, there’s not much of a reason to pick up HAWX.  

 

CHEATfactor

CHEATS USED: Unlock New Planes

As of this writing, the only cheats available for Tom Clancy’s HAWX were to unlock additional planes. Sure, it’s cool to have a wider variety of craft to use in battle, there’s really not much difference in controlling one plane from the next.  Though they have different stats, each one basically handles the same. If you’re really into customization, adding additional planes will be a hit as you can use your unlocked planes with the unlockable weapon packs.

The question begs to be asked though – why no cheats to unlock the weapon packs?

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