H.A.W.X. is a Tom Clancy-inspired game from Gameloft that will have your after-burners kicking in as your heat-seeking missiles blast the bad guys out of the sky. Offering intuitive controls, great visuals, and high-flying thrills, H.A.W.X. sores above the rest.
You play the role of David Crenshaw, top gun pilot of the High Altitude Warfare Experimental (H.A.W.X.) unit. Being based on the writing of Tom Clancy, H.A.W.X. has a really good storyline to keep you fully involved. You and your outfit of ace pilots embark on 13 missions spanning the globe to thwart evil. H.A.W.X. has you doing more than just dogfighting. You’ll be providing close air support for troops, protecting a shuttle launch, precision flying through gates and—of course—engaging in some intense dog fights. Before each new mission, you’re briefed by the commander on the objectives.
H.A.W.X. has 26 different licensed planes for you to fly with, including some iconic jets like the Hornet and the Nighthawk. Only a few jets are available at the start of the game, with the others needing to be unlocked. Before each mission, you get to choose your aircraft and weapons. By completing missions and gaining experience, you not only unlock new jets but new missiles and bombs as well.
The accelerometer controls in H.A.W.X. have a really good feel to them, and, within a few minutes of playing, they become second nature. Tilting your device up or down controls the pinch of the plane while turning left or right will cause the plane to roll. At the start of each mission the tilt controls are calibrated so whether you’re lying down or siting up it’s always just right. If you prefer, you can also choose to control the pitch and roll of the plane using a virtual joy stick instead. There are also two rudder buttons that make you turn left or right much like a rudder on a boat. You can control the speed of your aircraft using a slider on the right side of the screen. There’s a button to fire your guns as well as one for firing missiles. Swiping the missile button will cycle through available missiles or bombs (provided you’ve unlocked them).
While flying, you can choose from a cockpit camera view or a third person behind the plane view. At any time, you can touch and drag a finger around the screen to pan around your plane in 3D space. H.A.W.X. has an auto targeting system that works great. You just point the aircraft in the direction of the target, and it will lock on the enemy so you can fire your heat-seeking missiles. Cycling through available targets is done by tapping a small button. Unfortunately, this button is placed right next to the camera button, often resulting in the wrong one being tapped. Other than those two buttons being a little close, the HUD is pretty uncluttered and user friendly.
The graphics in H.A.W.X. are impressive looking as long as you don’t get too close. The aircraft are all detailed and the landscape below is made using satellite images of real world locations. At high altitudes, the terrain below looks really cool, but as you fly in closer it becomes quite pixelated and shoddy. With that said, most of the time you’re not that close to the ground, and everything actually looks very high-end. The in-game music and sound effects are nicely done complete with lots of great character voice-overs and the ability to play your own music.
In addition to the single player campaign, you can engage your friends in dogfights over a WiFi or Bluetooth connection. Unfortunately, there is no online multi-player option. Regardless, H.A.W.X. is a great game with a good bit of replay value.
[Tim Mercer is a technology enthusiast, graphic designer, and blogger, whose blog, digital-artist-toolbox.com, offers free resources to the digital artist and graphic designer.]