HAWX and Control Schemes

I played the demo for Tom Clancy’s HAWX recently, and was pretty disappointed in it.

I found the plane to be quite difficult to control (for no good reason), and the “action camera” mode is extremely disorienting. You are forced to use the “action camera” for part of the tutorial, and it’s quite maddening — for a tutorial mission, I found it to be pretty hard!

Flight action game developers seem to love using the Ace Combat control scheme, where your plane’s rudder is mapped to shoulder buttons on the controller. Unfortunately, I feel that this setup makes it very difficult to actually control your plane — it is really hard to yaw and do something else with the triggers at the same time. I much prefer having the rudder control on the second analog stick, as we did in Secret Weapons Over Normandy. The control scheme in SWON maximizes the number of flight controls you have access to at once. In HAWX, the camera control is mapped to the right analog stick. This seldom-used feature effectively wastes one of the main control mechanisms.

While I’m on the subject, SWON (like HAWX) had a “simplified” flight mode. The SWON simplified mode auto-rolled your plane — you essentially flew with the left stick only. The concept behind it was that beginners could “steer the reticle” and concentrate more on shooting stuff (the fun part!) rather than flying. Unfortunately, in HAWX, the “simplified” mode doesn’t seem to be much different from the regular one! The plane is still quite hard to fly.

Like many jet combat games, the combat feels pretty impersonal because of the distances and speeds at which engagements take place. HAWX ups the ante, however, by including targeting/evasion assist modes where you press a button to enter the special mode, at which time you slalom through a bunch of “gates” that appear in front of your plane. When you have passed through enough gates, you will have a good missile lock, or evade an incoming missile, depending on how you entered the mode. The implementation is technically solid, but it really abstracts away the idea of fighter combat — you’re just flying through gates much of the time. There’s no feeling that you’re fighting against another pilot just like you in the other plane.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed. The game looks quite good, but the gameplay seems lacking.

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