Ubisoft's new Tom Clancy air combat title is looking damn good. I got a chance to sit in on a demonstration of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. - High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron - earlier today at the Games Convention at Leipzig, and what I saw was a very exciting title that could finally give the arcade jet fighter crowd a much better reason to dust off their flight sticks than another load of downloadable pink airplanes courtesy of Ace Combat 6.
That's not saying that H.A.W.X. Won't have its fair share of DLC, as the presenter at the session indeed mentioned that the game, which is already set to ship with more than 50 aircraft painstakingly rendered down to the cockpit, will be getting even more aircraft in the way of downloadable jets down the line. I asked if they would be getting pink ones, but no one seemed to get the reference.
While the developers might not be too keen on what the competition is doing in terms of DLC, they are right on target when it comes to injecting the arcade flier with a heaping helping of realism. Not only are all of the planes based on realistic design specifications for existing aircraft, the very terrain is rendered using real satellite imagery at a resolution of two meters per pixel. A tonne of hard work and I assume not a small amount of money went towards acquiring the data, but considering the beautiful landscapes you'll find yourself flying in and around the move seems to have paid off in full.
It's hard not to compare H.A.W.X. To Ace Combat 6 upon first seeing it in action. To the unitiated, the two games could easily be mistaken for one another. The third-person camera view, the way you target enemies and ground forces, and even some of the warning sounds have a familiar ring to them. It's only until you delve deeper into the gameplay that the difference become readily apparent.
While third-person view is relatively standard fair, switching into assistance off mode offers up a new and exciting way to control your craft. Assistance off mode presents a more isometric view of your plane, providing more control to pull off some spectacular manoeuvres at the risk of stalling your aircraft, something prevented via computer in third-person view. In effect you are turning off the built-in safeguards of your aircraft and taking full control of the vehicle, as well as taking your life into your own hands.
Third-person view isn't without differences either, most notably the ERS system, which at the touch of a button provides on screen guidance for how to best get a highly manoeuvreable target into your weapon sights or evade an incoming missile. The two modes can be switched out on the fly, leaving it up to you to decide how you want to play the game.
Though H.A.W.X. Will present many opportunities for you to strut your air superiority, it's still a game that focuses on being the part of a team. There will be A.I. wingmen for you to control in single player, along with co-op multiplayer and 8-player team deathmatch modes online, both emphasising working together as a team to succeed and survive.
The other thing H.A.W.X. Has going for it is the fact that the game is not only coming out on the Xbox 360, but the PlayStation 3 and PC as well, finally allowing PS3 owners a chance to rinse out the bad taste of Xbox 360 exclusive AC6 from their mouths. That, and there are plenty more PC options for flight sticks than you'll find on the Xbox 360 (1) or PlayStation 3 (erm).
Even if you're the biggest Ace Combat fan in the world, I can see no reason why both franchises can't co-exist. While some may look on it as a competition, Ace Combat and H.A.W.X. Together equals two doses of dogfighting goodness to help satiate that little hyperactive Red Baron inside of us.