is an arcade flight combat game and part of the Tom Clancy
brand. The story is set in the near future
where Private Military Contractors
are recognized as lawful combatants by the fictional Reykjavik Accords.
The protagonist is a Captain in the U.S. Air Force named David Crenshaw, who is part of the titular High Altitude Warfare Xperimental Squadron. He begins the game on his last day on the job, supporting covert operations being conducted south of America's border (Ghost Recon
fans should recognize the mission
as being a part of the Advanced Warfighter 2
storyline). Afterwards, the H.A.W.X. squadron is deactivated and subsequently headhunted, along with Crenshaw, by Artemis Global Security. The team quickly proves themselves to be one of Artemis' most valuable assets and helps secure them a place as one of the richest and most powerful PMCs in the world. Life has never been so good. Right?
Well, who are we kidding? Life in fiction never stays good.
After a war in Brazil breaks out between U.S.-friendly Brazil and "Las Trinidad" (an anti-American alliance of South American countries), U.S. involvement within the conflict hurt Artemis's bottom line, causing them to backstab
the U.S, side with Las Trinidad, and launch a full scale invasion of the U.S
. This, of course, didn't bode well with the patriotic ex-Air Force pilots, who defect back to the U.S. and have their old HAWX squadron reactivated, as a result. Now they must work together with U.S. military forces to beat back the invading PMC military.
The game has the player flying various real-world aircraft on their missions and employs a semi-realistic simulation of aerial combat. Under normal conditions, the game prevents the plane from stalling and limits its maneuverability but this limiter can be disengaged to allow the player to perform all sorts of funky post-stall maneuvers. The other aspects of the game are more arcade-like; planes carry mountains upon mountains of missiles, even on the highest difficulty levels, and there is no need to keep track of fuel or the effects of physics on the human body.
If this is all starting to sound familiar to you, chances are you have played Ace Combat
before, and you would be right. The gameplay is almost identical to that of the Ace Combat
games and there is a degree of overlap between the fanbases of the two. On the other hand, H.A.W.X.
has been ported to the PC whereas Ace Combat
remained a console-exclusive until Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition
To date, there is only one other installment in the series, H.A.W.X. 2
H.A.W.X. contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: The eponymous squadron is made up of these, but they're not the only ones. The US Navy and Japanese pilots are also pretty damn good in Operation Typhoon. Ace pilots are also frequent enemies, being more agile than normal Mooks (though they still die from the same amount of damage).
- Air Force One: There's an Escort Mission involving it after Artemis betrays the U.S. and launches a full-scale invasion, where Crenshaw must escort the President to a secure location, fighting off enemy fighters that try to shoot it down. The mission gets harder toward the end when Artemis brings in radar jammers that make it harder for your aircraft to lock on and stay locked-on.
- A trailer also depicted Air Force One, where a cruise missile was hurling toward the plane and Crenshaw maneuvers to shoot it down. It's a cool sequence, but it never actually occurs in-game.
- Air Strike Impossible: Subverted. Operation: Backhand involves Crenshaw having to pilot an airplane through a heavily guarded, captured military base. The sheer number of SAMs and AA guns Crenshaw would have to avoid would put this mission squarely in this trope... if it weren't for the fact that the ERS plans the route out for you, allowing you to perform the airstrike by simply flying through the rings.
- The sequel has a straight example: In the last mission, you fly through a narrow tunnel into a bunker and detonate a bomb inside of it.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: Operation Typhoon has you playing a random U.S. Navy pilot, err aviator, that was stationed in Tokyo. You still have all the skills and hardware of Crenshaw, though.
- After the capture of Burj al Nasr in the second game, the Russian storyline suddenly begins.
- Anti-Air: SAMs constantly fire missiles at your plane, and can deal a lot of damage, too. They become a lot more annoying during Operation Thunderbolt, when you're restricted to a small area to avoid being detected by enemy radar.
- Anticlimax: the Playable Epilogue, gameplay-wise. It consist of an easy trench run around Adrian Dewinter's weakly defended hideout before destroying his residence (which takes only one missile to destroy). It's mostly meant to tie up the loose ends of the plot.
- Appeal to Force: Artemis manages to control all of America's nukes, actually, and naturally uses that to blackmail the U.S. into complying with its demands. The final mission involves you trying to prevent them from carrying out their threat.
- Artistic License – Geography: Averted. Thanks to the GeoEye imaging, all of the locations are geographically correct.
- Artistic License – Physics: This game is in no way, shape, or form a realistic flight simulator. Aerodynamics and gravity are complete non-issues within the game, with stalling dependent solely on speed. The game then brings this trope Up to Eleven with OFF Mode. In OFF Mode, the game more or less defies physics, pulling off moves that would kill the pilot and overstress the plane in real life. In the words of Mark from Classic Game Room, the only thing the planes don't do in OFF mode is turn into giant robots and smash things with their fists.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: It is, in fact, very possible to get a plane to "drift" in a manner similar to what's capable in OFF mode, though not nearly so tightly, not at all so controlled, and with so much sudden change in g-force that it will likely black out the pilot in seconds. It will also likely stall the plane, cause a flat-spin (exceedingly dangerous), and is more or less prohibited by any rational air force in the world. But still...possible.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: The most memorable levels in the game (Rio De Janiero and Washington DC) both feature this.
- Camera Lock-On: OFF mode keeps the camera glued onto a targeted enemy, avoiding one of the more annoying aspects of combat flight simulators: enemies flying off the camera and away from your view.
- Camera Screw: All damage on your vehicle causes a fuzz on your screen, even the weak anti-aircraft guns (it's pretty much the only thing keeping them from being simple annoyances). This fuzzing could cause you to crash or get hit again if you're in the middle of a heated battle.
- The OFF mode transition can also be jarring at times, due to the game wanting to be "dynamic" and thus causing your camera to focus on your plane first before very slowly panning over to your targeted enemy. This causes a delay between when you switch and when you can actually fire, which can be pretty jarring when you're trying to attack something. This also makes switching targets a bit harder. However, the game is smart enough to realize that if you switch in the middle of a heated battle, the view will just immediately change.
- Canon Immigrant: H.A.W.X. contains a handful of references to other games in the Tom Clancy brand, including Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, and End War.
- The Continuity Nod to EndWar also helps make the plot stretch the Suspension of Disbelief less. Read the discussion in the Fridge section for more details.
- The second installment even has this on its box: Fight in the same conflict depicted in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier. In turn, Future Soldier features the HAWX squadron in one mission, though it caused some issues when Future Soldier came out two years later with a very different plot.
- Cavalry Betrayal: The Artemis Battle Group that was supposed to help the U.S. defeat the remaining remnants of Las Trinidad's Navy arrives and promptly betrays the U.S., attacking the James Lawrence Battle Group and causing the HAWX squadron to defect back to the U.S.
- Chasing Your Tail: The ERS actively moves you in this sort of maneuver to attack your enemy. Of course, if an enemy tries to do this to you, you can easily switch to OFF mode, spin around mid air, and nail 'em.
- Code Name: You only know your wingmen by their call sign. Strangely, your own call sign is rather underused, with most people calling you by your real name.
- Cool Boat: The US Navy employs many in this game. Artemis also has these. Their typical Destroyers and Cruisers can fire SAMs that deal twice as much damage as normal missiles, and their flagship, the Myrmidon, has cruise missiles that outrange an entire US Naval carrier group. All these boats are Made of Iron, and, Aircraft Carriers especially, can take many missiles before finally going down.
- Cool Plane: The cover and cinematic intro feature the extremely cool Dassault Rafale. In game, you can fly over 50 different aircraft from around the world. DLC increases that number to over 60. This game probably has the highest number of cool planes in any one game. There's even an internet tool to help you manage all these planes and find the one you want to fly. You can find it here.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Adrian Dewinter and presumably the other Artemis executives.
- Crew of One: Averted in the Justified Tutorial, played straight in the rest.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory: Ace Combat and HAWX on consoles have almost the exact same controls... except for the teensy fact that the missile and gun buttons are switched. The PC version, however, allows you to change controls, but then that brings up the issue where your circle/B button is now the "confirm" button in menus.
- A few weapons also work differently between the two series, which can lead to wasted ammunition when switching between the two. The biggest example is possibly the radar-guided missiles - in Ace Combat, they are not counted as "missed" until they either run out of propulsion or hit something, meaning you can do things like launch one early at a target out of the maximum lock-on range (the PS2 games) or launch at multiple targets so long as they're all within the circle (PSP and later games). In HAWX, radar-guided missiles are counted as a miss as soon as you switch targets, or even as soon as you fire if you don't have a target in range.
- Death from Above: You become this for the enemy when fighting ground targets. However, many ground forces have plenty of Anti-Air to knock your bird outta the sky.
- Disc One Final Boss: The battle at Burj al Nasr in the second game. You probably even forgot that some of Russia's nukes were missing.
- Diegetic Interface: Multiple features within the game are actually directly mentioned in the story, from the ERS to OFF mode.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Artemis is more than willing to invade the U.S., assassinate the president, and detonate nukes simply because the U.S.'s involvement in a war cost them a few points on the stock market.
- This is because they are being hired by a terrorist group as their main assault force in a world where most warfare is outsourced.
- Do a Barrel Roll: Thanks to the OFF Mode, the planes can perform so many cool maneuvers to the point that it defies the laws of physics. These maneuvers are both cool to watch and perform (many YouTube videos consist of nothing but flying tricks), and actually useful in outmaneuvering your enemy and dodging incoming missiles.
- Dodge by Braking: You can do this in OFF mode.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Colonel Bruce has shades of this. He becomes nastier after the HAWX squadron disobeys direct orders and refuses to abandon their allies during Operation Backfire, before finally betraying you in Operation Ulysses.
- Eagle Land: Las Trinidad views America as Flavor 2.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The SLAM system prominently featured in End War make its debut in this game. The Ghost's XA-20 Razorback jet from the same game is also available as a VIP download.
- Easy Logistics: The only explanation for how Artemis managed to invade the US.
- Elite Mooks: Enemy aces are pretty much the only pilots that will be able to give you a run for your money.
- EMP: The satellite control center and its generators are protected by EMPs. The EMP in the game avoids the "temporarily-disabled only" aspect of the trope, but still isn't completely realistic as it causes your plane to explode in a spectacular burst of electricity instead of simply disabling your plane and causing it to crash.
- EMPs are available as a support ability in the second game's multiplayer, where they do indeed force enemies caught in the blast into a stall for a short period.
- Enemy Detecting Radar: It's even "advanced" enough to differentiate color for you. However, there are numerous instances in the game where the enemy show up with radar jammers, which fuzzes up your radar and even causes your targeting system to malfunction.
- Escort Mission: There are a few missions that have these, though none of them are extremely bad. The fact that enemies will ignore your target and attack you if you manage to get within their "target circle" helps.
- Fog of War: If your opponent is using radar jammers, your radar and Tac-Map will be obscured in an effect that's very similar to this trope in Real-Time Strategy games. This is especially apparent during Operation Iron Arrow, where the only area that's visible (and defensible, as your missiles don't work in the "fog") is the area surrounding your AWACs plane. Luckily, this area gets progressively bigger the more jammers you destroy.
- Follow the Leader: To Ace Combat.
- HAWX 2 has some overt inspiration from Modern Warfare. There's a AC-130 gunnery mission, the bad guys are ultranationalist Russians and the plot keeps switching between the POV of several pilots from different nations.
- Fragile Speedster: Most of the air superiority fighters are like this.
- Free Look Button: You can use the right stick to control the camera, even during the Replay mode.
- Friendly Fireproof: Bombs, missiles, machine guns and other forms of damage will not affect allies, whether NPC or human.
- Fun with Acronyms: The eponymous squadron.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The game features many cool planes to fly that would not make any sense story-wise. It's handwaved when you're employed by Artemis by saying that they can buy any aircraft from anyone, but when you defect back to the US, that no longer works. The Air Force and Navy missions still give you the same options as the Artemis missions (and possibly more due to the missions taking place later in the game), which leads to the odd sight of the US Military using planes from different branches (like flying Navy missions with the F-15, or Air Force missions with the F/A-18 - the latter is even forced in the first level, even on a New Game+ replay), retired planes (like the F-14 and F-117), foreign planes (like the Eurofighter and all the different MiG and Sukhoi aircraft), armed versions of tech demos (like the Su-47, also foreign, and the F-15 ACTIVE), and concept planes (like the A-12, which was cancelled before any prototype was developed). Even the handwave of the squadron being elite, and could possibly have access to planes that would be unavailable to the average pilot would still be a weak explanation story-wise.
- The real explanation to this whole craziness is Rule of Fun. We have over 50 awesome airplanes to fly around with, and we'll use 'em anytime we damn well please - the sequel restricting this to the extent that it did (you don't get a choice in your first time through a mission, and even when replaying later some missions still don't give you a choice or restrict you from using certain planes) is part of why it was less well-received.
- Good Planes Bad Planes: Mostly averted. Enemies, being Private Military Contractors that bought aircraft from all over the world, can fly any country's plane to attack you. Likewise, you can choose any plane you want, too, regardless of nationality. The enemy does seem to send a lot of Mikoyan and Sukhoi jets after you, though, while FMV's of planes representing the player tend to use the F-22.
- Guy in Back: The instructor who teaches you how to use OFF mode in the Justified Tutorial sits in the back of your plane. He even tells you that since he's sitting in the back, it is advised that you don't crash the plane, for his sake.
- Heroic Mime: Crenshaw never talks in the first game. He finally gets a face and a voice in the second.
- High-Altitude Battle: It's an airplane game, after all. Special points go to the Rio De Janeiro and Washington D.C missions, where the sheer amount of planes to dogfight with puts this as one of the most triumphant examples of this trope.
- High-Speed Missile Dodge: The OFF mode that this game uses makes this pathetically easy, which is good considering how many enemies you have to fight sometimes.
- Hold the Line: One of the mission types is to protect a fixed location for a certain amount of time, until The Cavalry can arrive. These missions typically end up the most frantic, as the enemy will barrage the area with planes, tanks, and other sorts of military equipment.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Just like Ace Combat before it, the planes in HAWX can carry over 100 missiles. Even the supposed "Low Payload" trait still grants the player a whopping 140 JSM's. The hardest difficulty lowers your overall ammo count, but that's still a good 88 JSM's, which was close to the high end for end-game planes in earlier Ace Combat games.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: Due to the game's arcade-style gameplay, this trope is a given. Then, the game exaggerates it by introducing OFF mode, which, while adding the ability to stall, turns your plane into a super fast, super maneuverable death machine.
- Initialism Title
- Interface Screw: Any damage causes your screen to go fuzzy, which can be very distracting. This is also what's keeping the anti-aircraft guns from being simple annoyances.
- Invaded States of America: America gets crippled when its satellite network is jammed, opening the entire East Coast to a massive surprise invasion.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: Failing some of the objectives will show an extra cutscene to rub it in, before the extra dialogue explains how screwed the heroes are afterwords.
- Failing to disable the nuke in time in Los Angeles will simply show you getting vaporized along with the rest of the city.
- Jack of All Stats: The multi-role planes tend to be like this.
- Just Plane Wrong: There are some inaccuracies within the game, most notably with the multiple variants of planes. These planes look almost exactly alike, differing only in weapons and sometimes paint schemes, despite real life variants having numerous differences from each other.
- The first mission has the player working for the Air Force... piloting F/A-18s. Unlike the Gameplay Story Segregation entry above, the game chooses the aircraft for you in this mission even when replaying it in New Game+, meaning there's no excuse. Similarly, the mission where you defect back to the US has the captain of a carrier suggest clearing off some space for you to land at the end, but the game's suggested plane for that mission is the MiG-33, which is not carrier-capable (though this time you have a choice, at least).
- The game's arcade nature also means that the planes feel like weird mixes between spaceships and flying cars that shoot magic. For one there is apparently no gravity and aerodynamics modeling: diving/climbing doesn't increase/decrease your speed so most real-life maneuvers lose all significance. Stalling is not dependent on aerodynamics but instead purely on speed and whether or not you're in OFF mode. Angles of attack, sideslip and lift are complete non issues. Missiles just work: forget about ground-clutter, radar modes, TVM pixel hunting, Rpi, or engagement aspects. G-forces are not simulated and turning off the assistance mode grants your plane an exemption from the laws of physics. It is basically a classic shooter with gravity disabled and autoaim turned on.
- The assistance off mode leads to the ludicrous image of a YF-12 or A-10 Thunderbolt II outmaneuvering an F-22 Raptor or Su-47 Berkut in a dogfight... yeah... one can tell that the developers weren't exactly going for realism on this one.
- Justified Tutorial: The mission that teaches the player OFF mode is worked into the story.
- Kaizo Trap: It is still possible to crash your plane and die after you've completed all the objectives in a mission. The sequel has landing sequences, which makes this trope happen even more often; there's actually a challenge for landing on a carrier without taking damage.
- Kill Sat: Different in most respects as the particular kill sat in question is actually on the side of the good guys (for more information, play EndWar), and must be repaired and reactivated after Artemis used an EMP to disable it for their invasion.
- The Ultranationalist Russians in the sequel have access to a kill sat as well, and kill many of your allies with it.
- Lightning Bruiser: The best planes (like the F-22 Raptor and the Su-47 Berkut) are like this.
- Made of Iron: Enemy bombers and transport planes are like this. Planes that you can fly that are like this include the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the Su-25 Frogfoot.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Some points in the game has you constantly dodging missiles. Thank God the game gives you the ERS and OFF mode. Of course, due to the exorbitant amount of missiles you can carry, it's easy to return the favor.
- Mighty Glacier: The ground support planes, particularly the A-10 Thunderbolt II, tend to be like this.
- Mis Guided Missile: The point behind the Target Override Pod. The missile is redirected from another plane to yours.
- Missile Cam: Holding down the missile button will allow you to follow the missile or bomb to its target.
- Missile Lock On
- Monumental Battle: Due to the amount of famous locales that you fly in, this is a given.
- Multi-Track Drifting: You can drift with airplanes in OFF mode. It's actually very useful as it allows you to basically spin on an axis instead of turning in a circle in mid-air, reducing the amount of time needed to do a 180° turn and allowing you to lock on to an enemy plane much quicker. Drifting ability varies between planes, from the incredibly slow and sluggish A-10 Thunderbolt II to the extremely maneuverable Su-47 Berkut.
- N.G.O. Superpower: Artemis Global Security apparently has the resources to maintain its own air force and navy, complete with a state-of-the-art battlecruiser and cutting edge cyber weapons.
- They also manage to have enough resources to invade America.
- No Endor Holocaust: The final "true" mission has you blowing up a nuke in Los Angeles. General Keating acknowledges the inevitable radiation, but then says that they managed to evacuate everyone in time.
- Fridge Brilliance: One way to disable a nuke is to shoot it, because nukes require precisely timed explosions to go critical, with only a small fraction of a second of error. Thus, blowing it up will still cause radiation to blanket a rather large area, but it will not destroy a whole city.
- No, I Am Behind You: This is one of the things you can do with the supermanuverability granted in OFF mode.
- Nose Art: Some planes, like the A-10 Thunderbolt II, has nose art. Nose art and wing art are quite common in downloadable mod skins.
- Operation Blank: All the missions are like this.
- Pass Through the Rings: The ERS in this game is possibly the only justified use of this trope. Not only is it actually helpful and not very frustrating to use (and there are only a few instances in the game where you have to use it), this sort of technology is actually in development right now.
- Product Placement: Not only do the Geoeye satellites gets a fairly extensive publicity blurb in the game's menu, Geoeye 2 is actually namedropped during a briefing in HAWX 2.
- Rare Vehicles: Many. There's the typical ones like the Su-47 Berkut (which is just too cool to pass up) and the YF-23 Black Widow II/Grey Ghost (likewise), but it's the most ridiculous with the A-12 Avenger II. Although it's just a Pre-Order Bonus, the A-12 Avenger II in Real Life never had a working prototype before it was cancelled by the government due to cost overruns and delays.
- Real Life: One of the main things that HAWX had differently from Ace Combat was the fact that HAWX took place in the real world, albeit Twenty Minutes In The Future. It seems like Ace Combat has followed with Ace Combat: Joint Assault and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.
- Scenery Porn: The GeoEye imaging looks absolutely gorgeous in this game (that is, until you get too close to the ground).
- Series Continuity Error: HAWX 2 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier present the same conflict, but there's a noticeable discrepancy in the details of the coup d'état. HAWX 2 shows that the Loyalist Russian president is a frail-looking guy called "Anton Karskazev" and his replacement is a guy named "Alexandr Treskayev", while in Future Soldier, the former president is a grizzled former Army veteran named "Volodin" while the usurper is "Sergey Makhmudov". However, this could be explained by HAWX 2 being based on the aborted 2010 build of Future Soldier rather than the final version.
- In a more minor fashion, the mastermind behind the Russian civil war in HAWX 2 is called "Yuri Treskayev" in his first scene (as in Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars) and "Alexander Treskayev" for the rest of the game.
- Sequel Escalation: Surprisingly averted. There are actually less planes and less memorable missions in the second installment.
- Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Missile ranges aren't as bad as in Ace Combat, but they are still much shorter than in Real Life. Of course, sniping at each other over long distances is much less fun than dogfighting, so Tropes Are Not Bad.
- Shout-Out: One of the trophies/achievements in HAWX 2 is named "Still Alive" and its icon depicts a cake.
- One of the missions in the first H.A.W.X consists of defending a space launch first against cargo planes dropping tanks to assault the launch pad, then a combination of ground-attack aircraft and cruise missiles attack the launch pad and vehicle. This is almost identical to a mission in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, "The White Bird (Part 1)".
- Spiritual Successor: To Blazing Angels, another series of flight games by Ubisoft Romania.
- Squad Controls: There's in extremely simple one in this game, with the only two controls being attack and defend. Attack causes your wingmen to attack your highlighted target, and defend means your wingmen return and fly behind you.
- On offensive mode, they attack the selected target first then autonomously hunt the map for enemies. If there are no enemies anywhere, they slowly circle at a comfortable altitude until someone to shoot comes onto the map.
- On defensive, they follow you around and generally stay out of the way until someone tries to get a radar lock on you or an AA gun starts firing in your general direction, at which point they instantly start chasing the offender. Which means that yes, the AI is smart enough to do Wild Weasel tactics with you as the bait.
- The Cavalry: A flight of F-16s fly in just in time to save Washington D.C from falling to enemy forces.
- Timed Mission: Some missions force you to complete a series of objectives in a certain amount of time. However, since you're flying a faster-than-sound aircraft, there's usually enough time to finish the mission.
- Training Dummy: The OFF Mode Certification mission has no actual enemies, with targets mainly being flying drones to teach you how to fly in OFF Mode. Even the armed drones fire dummy missiles that do not do any real damage (the effects of taking damage, like the fuzzing screen, however, are simulated).
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The sequel introduced UAV missions where you eavedrop on enemy conversations and an AC-130 bombing mission.
- Universal Driver's License: Hand Waved by you being in an "elite", experimental squadron, but it's still pretty ridiculous to be able to fly many different planes (including rare or non-existent ones) with ease.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: For the first half of the game, Las Trinidad, an anti-U.S South/Central American Union are your primary enemies. Then they hire Artemis out from under the American government and use them to attack the United States. Despite this, as soon as you fight off Artemis in the Magellan Straits, they vanish from the plot completely.
- Washington D.C. Invasion: One of the highlights of the game.
- Wing Man: Who somehow manage to fly faster than you when needed, even if they have an inferior plane. And then they refuse to actually do anything useful unless explicitly ordered to.
- With This Herring: You start with dinky planes and have to work your way up. Planes that are unlocked, however, stay unlocked, allowing you to refly old missions with the best hardware.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: The "Xperimental" in H.A.W.X.