When it comes down to air combat, there is only one franchise that continues to stand out and that's Namco's Ace Combat. For far too long now, the undisputed heavyweight of air combat has gone virtually unchallenged. Sure, studios such as Konami and Sammy have tried their hand at the sub-genre, but their endeavors were rather unsuccessful, and they've yet to try since. Well, now Ubisoft is stepping up to the plate and they've brought the Tom Clancy brand with them for this one. Introducing Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, short for High Altitude Warfare…umm, X.
HAWX takes place in the near future, set in the year 2012. Nations are becoming increasingly dependent on private military companies (PMCs) that boast a group of elite mercenaries with a different perspective on the law, and the ethics of air combat. Concerns that these PMCs have amassed too much power begin to pile on, until eventually one attacks the United States, and so begins a war that isn't against another country, but a self-sustained military.
One of HAWX's key features will be an Enhanced Reality System (E.R.S), a core component of the game that allows the gamer to keep track of what's going on. ERS boasts radars, missile detection, an anti-crash system, damage control system, map and information relay, and even allows trajectory control over weapons. It's other use is the ability to direct orders to the rest of the squadron, much like the Advanced Warfighter games. Hardly revolutionary stuff, as Ace Combat has been doing this for quite some time now, but we'd still like to see how it plays out.
As a part of the ERS, there lies an Assistance Mode which serves the specific purpose of assisting the novice gamer. From what we gather, it seems similar to what can be found in Need for Speed: ProStreet. In other words, the ability to enable or disable the various gameplay aids. Over 50 real-life aircrafts will be featured in the game, a few of which boast some of the most advanced military technology in the world. No word on how many locations we get to visit, but Ubisoft states that we'll battle over a number of different realistic, modern landscapes where "post-war trauma" continues to linger.
Finally, it isn't a Tom Clancy game without a proper multiplayer component, and so HAWX will offer just that and more. First, you can take to the skies in matches totaling 16 people, including yourself. Much like Call of Duty 4, and other shooters, experience points will be awarded. Second, the campaign can be played through with four people, and supports quick 'jump-in' entry. No word on whether or not co-op can be taken online.
Visually, HAWX looks really nice. While the aircrafts look sharp, it's the details of the scenery thousands of feet below that looks particularly impressive. In the past air combat games generally lack ground detail as you get closer to it, largely due to hardware limitations, so it's nice to finally see developers overcoming the issue…or, at least, we hope they are.
Look for HAWX to launch later this year.