H.A.W.X. Playtest

If you’re a regular to our Twitter feed, you’ll no doubt have seen my utter disbelieve at the ridiculous install time for Ubisoft’s H.A.W.X. last night. After a hefty 40-odd MB ‘patch’ bigger than most Xbox Live Arcade games the game then decides to take up the best part of half an hour with a mandatory install.  But this time there’s no peppered history of Dante or a cigarette-smoking Snake, just the bare black XMB progress-bar-from-hell creeping along, taking over the television set like some kind of virus.

But now the game is up and running on the TSA Towers PS3, what’s it like?  Well, bizarrely, there’s still loading times, fairly big ones, but the game itself is smooth as silk, rushing in at a lovely 60fps most of the time which makes delicate stick movement easy as pie.  The visuals, as you probably know from the demo, are nice and sharp with a great sense of depth although it’s not always easy to work out which targets are air and which are land, and your wingmen happily ignore your ‘suggestions’ if they get orders from elsewhere anyway.

So, left to your own, the game becomes a masterful exercise in enemy management, a bit like Streets of Rage but in the air, when you know that you’re better than every bad guy if you deal with them in a specific order.  The intercept tunnel (which creates blue triangles on your HUD for you to fly though to get behind another aircraft) is genius and endlessly cool, the weapons are powerful and the explosions meaty, so as long as you’re organised the levels in the campaign clock past at a rate of knots.

The whole Ghost-Recon connection is tenous and often feels forced, but it does ground H.A.W.X. to a specific time period and gives the game a little more weight.  Fans of Ubisoft’s third person tactical shooters will appreciate the ties, but for everyone else the guys on the ground are just another target to protect.  But it’s all good fun: we bagged a few Trophies and then played with the serene free-flight mode which gives you as much time as you’d like to test out the various planes and environments, and the controls are great.  

It’s a little bit more niche than it might think it is, this isn’t a pure-arcade title like Air Combat and it’s not really a sim either, but squeezed somewhere in-between.  Only time will tell if the campaign mode offers enough variety in the long term and of course the multiplayer section  (plus the nice co-op mode) will need proper investigation before our full review, but right now this is a unique title on the PS3 and well worth picking up for flight fans.  Review as soon as possible, then.