Flights of Fancy
During Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, there was a mission where your futuristic ground forces were supported by a squadron of equally advanced fighter jets. Now those jets are getting their own day in the sun with Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., an aerial combat game that, befitting the Clancy name, will have you piloting realistically futuristic airplanes. We recently spoke to Thomas Simon, the lead game designer, to get the lowdown on what to expect when Ubisoft releases this game on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC later this year.
Crispy Gamer: Let's start with the basics: What is Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.?
Thomas Simon: It's what you get when you bring air combat into the Tom Clancy ? family, I would say. It's not like you just put "Tom Clancy" on a flying game; you try and figure out what a Tom Clancy flying game would be like. Basically, it's a shooter in the sky. It's a very authentic game, but it's very accessible at the same time.
Crispy Gamer: Where did the idea for this come from?
Simon: We started developing the concept about three years ago. Our creative director is a big fan of air combat games, but he thought there was something missing, and that there was something to the idea of doing a Tom Clancy flying game.
Crispy Gamer: Was the idea always to make a Tom Clancy flying game, or did you start off making a flying game and then realize it would work within the, uh, Clancy-verse?
Simon: No, the point was always to make a Tom Clancy air combat game.
Crispy Gamer: When is the game set, time-wise?
Simon: The game starts in 2014, with a flashback. You're still in the United States Air Force, and you're part of the H.A.W.X., which is a special-forces unit. And you're actually playing a mission from Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, providing air support for the Ghosts on the ground. Then, some time later, you've left the Air Force and have joined a private military company, and this will take you all around the world for contracts. You go to South America, provide air support for N.A.T.O. troops in Afghanistan, etc.
Crispy Gamer: This is, as far as I know, the first time we've seen a crossover between Clancy games.
Simon: Right. And for me, it's not a surprise that this has happened. Especially since these games aren't made by separate people, we all know each other and we all talk to each other.
Crispy Gamer: Has there ever been any talk of doing a bunch of the Clancy games centered around a single story, like where you'd have Sam Fisher sneaking in the back door while the Rainbow Six team storm in from the front and the H.A.W.X. give air support?
Simon: Obviously, there is something great there, and that's slowly where we are going. Look at what [the upcoming real-time strategy game] Tom Clancy's EndWar is doing; they have Ghost units on the ground, they have H.A.W.X. units in the sky -- it's just the beginning. One has to wonder if it will go further. I don't see why it wouldn't.
Crispy Gamer: What other flying games would you say influenced the development of H.A.W.X.?
Simon: We've been influenced by many games. We don't deny that we've been playing a lot of Ace Combat lately. But we also felt that air combat games had, lately, become prisoners of one style, and that it was maybe time to refresh things.
Crispy Gamer: So in the single-player mode, what are some of the different mission types you'll engage in?
Simon: We have all kinds of modern air combat missions: infiltration, close air support, escort, suppressing air defense, etc. We'll have 18 missions.
Crispy Gamer: Are you locked in to a certain plane in each mission, or do you have a choice?
Simon: No, whatever planes you've unlocked, you can use. Though there might be some missions where -- based on the story arc -- you're supposed to use a specific plane.
Crispy Gamer: How many different planes are there?
Simon: Over 50.
Crispy Gamer: Will you be able to customize your plane, either in terms of weapons load-out or aesthetically?
Simon: Yes, though customization will mostly be done through weapons. You'll be able to change the look of some planes, but manufacturers are very picky about what you can change about their planes, so we had to take that into consideration.
Crispy Gamer: Is it safe to assume there won't be any missions where you get out of the plane?
Simon: Well, if you crash? No, the game is about aircrafts.
Crispy Gamer: What about multiplayer, will it be co-op, competitive?
Simon: We've decided to not disclose much today, we'll talk about it more at E3, but I will tell you that co-op will be important.
Crispy Gamer: By the way, what does H.A.W.X. actually stand for?
Simon: High Altitude Warfare Experimental. It's the name of a special U.S. Air Force unit created after World War II, and has been used since then, unofficially, for all types of secret missions.
Crispy Gamer: The game was originally going to be called Tom Clancy's Air Combat. Why the change?
Simon: Actually, that was just a working title.
Crispy Gamer: Oh, okay. The game is being made for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Besides the controls, will there be any other differences between them?
Simon: The PC version will support all types of flight sticks and controllers, the 360 one will support the one for Ace Combat 6 [the Ace Edge flight stick by Hori], while the PS3 one will support the Sixaxis' motion-sensitive controller. The 360 will also support voice commands, which is quite fun. You can give commands, switch weapons, or switch targets, with your voice.