It feels like Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is Ubisoft's attempt at bringing a more, dare I say it, casual gamer into the historically hardcore flight sim fanbase.
But despite having modes for missile-lock and bomb drops that are akin to flying with training wheels, the game seems to still provide the technical controls that have always drawn fans of arcade flight sims to air combat games.
The area I played around in was located over Rio and featured a map created by satellite data (the best on the market, I was told). The city, while amazingly detailed, was a bit too flat for my taste, though it did have plenty of high rises to zip through at break neck speeds. The final version of the game will also include settings in Africa and Afghanistan, I was told.
The game, which will include 50 licensed aircraft, takes place during the same time frame as the events of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and even includes several missions in which you are providing air support for the ground missions played in the shooter. In this world the fighter pilots are part of a private military force, the devs told me.
The game has two modes of flight. In the assisted flight mode you can't stall and to get a lock-on you have to fly through a series of large transparent triangles. Once you land the lock-on you fire away a missile. You also are lead through a path of triangles when trying to evade incoming missiles. Neither are easy to do, but both take away the need to fly tactically and instead hold your hand through the process of lining up targets or ditching in-coming bad guys.
Hopping out of the assisted mode is as easy as double clicking a trigger and then you're in free control which allows you to force stalls and doesn't assist you at all when it comes to evasion and lock-ons.
It feels like this provides a nice mix for casual gamers and the hardcore, though I wasn't thrilled that the free flight mode seems to force your perspective to more cinematic angles, rather than just in-cockpit.
The overall graphics of the game were very impressive and the controls seemed pretty tight. If they could just add a bit more vertical to their cities and tweak the free-flight camera angel I think I'd be sold on the game.