Game Reviews

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (iPhone)

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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (iPhone)

Dig your talons into Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. because this airborne thrill ride makes good on the promise of high-flying action. While it could stand to hunt down some online multiplayer, exhilarating gameplay made complete by varied action and scores of incentives enables the game to excel.

The campaign is where most of the action is at. As accomplished Air Force pilot David Crenshaw, you tackle 13 missions set in the sand dunes of the Middle East to the cerulean blue seas of south Florida to nighttime skies in Virginia. Varied environments allude to the variety threaded throughout gameplay, Crenshaw's battle against private military contractor Artemis proving to be as entertaining as it is challenging.

Bird of prey

H.A.W.X. soars where others have stalled because of effervescent action that never fails to deliver something fresh. There's dog fighting, air-to-ground combat, bombing runs, and infiltration missions. Individual missions are surprisingly dynamic, new objectives turning patrols or straightforward attack runs into more harrowing adventures.

Take, for example, a mission involving three heavily defended antennae that have to be taken out by flying beneath a certain altitude. After obliterating anti-air armaments surrounding the first antenna, you can destroy it. However, doing so signals an alarm and swarms of enemy fighters bear down on you.

Eliminating the other antennae becomes a tough act of evading enemy missiles and taking out anti-air forces on the ground all while weaving through mountains.

Missions like this prove H.A.W.X. has the best level design in the genre. You can't help but want more beyond the baker's dozen that's reasonably provided.

Flying foul

If there's any complaint to be lodged it would be the simplistic dog fighting. It has nothing to do with the level design, rather, timid airborne foes just don't engage much. You can almost always take them out before getting close enough to actually spar. Air-to-ground combat is far better and the game is self-conscious enough to know it – so it's in every mission.

A phenomenal system of rewards encourage good performance and replay. Each bogey downed nets you experience, as does completing missions and earning achievements. This accumulates toward levels that unlock new planes. It's a basic system, yet enormously effective in motivating you to pull off a mission without dying and to nail every last enemy.

Some minor things are missing from the game. Both accelerometer and virtual analogue stick control schemes work nicely, yet an expanded set of options including a manual calibration option (the accelerometer is set at the beginning of each mission) and an arcade mode control setting for easier turning – à la novice mode from Ace Combat Xi: Skies of Incursion – would be ideal.

Multiplayer horizons

An altimeter and artificial horizon are absent from the screen. They've been consciously left out to keep the interface clean and you can fly just fine without them. Between the two, the lack of an altimeter is more of an issue only because knowing your altitude would be useful during certain missions.

The only damaging omission is online multiplayer, which leaves H.A.W.X. trailing behind its most serious rival. Still, four-player deathmatch/team deathmatch action via local wi-fi or Bluetooth isn't anything to scoff at.

Without online play, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. becomes a question of quality versus quantity, design pitted against value. The extended gameplay provided by online multiplayer can be lamented, yet fixating on it neglects the value of its superb single-player campaign. H.A.W.X. has room to grow, but right now it roosts high within the genre.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (iPhone)

It may not have online multiplayer, yet Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. clutches a superbly designed single-player campaign in its talons