Now here is a surprise: I gave the Hawx demo a try and I felt compelled to write about it. It is a Tom Clancy game about modern air combat. Now, I could go off on a tangent now how I hate military and how I found myself surprised playing Call of Duty 4 – I guess it is mainly because of its narrative qualities. Hawx seems just exactly like the dull “War is awesome, look at the technology”-type of bullshit I would avoid for miles. Even the name sucks.

Yet, I saw things in the demo which made an impression on me. They introduced two very interesting gameplay tweaks which might have the potential to turn the tables for the whole combat flightsim genre.

First, you get some automatic assistance to perform cool maneuvers. So whether you are attacking a ground target that is hidden between houses, want to get behind an enemy airplane or dodge an incoming missile, you can press a button and you will get a virtual corridor of gates you have to fly trough to get yourself in the correct position. This feature addresses a lot of problems I had with modern combat flightsims. You never really knew how you are supposed to react to incoming missiles. Whenever a missile was inbound I would freak out and try to do some fancy maneuvers and the missile would hit me anyway. Also, getting behind enemy planes always was very annoying because at the speeds of today’s planes the enemy is a formless blip on your HUD most of the time. It is impossible to judge distances, velocities and flight directions properly. The automatic corridor thing really help perform the cool flight tricks you want to do.

But the most impressive feature is the second one: you can double tap a shoulder button to enter a totally different mode. They call it “disengaging the limiter” or something. Basically, the camera suddenly zooms VERY far out so your plane appears very small. It also doesn’t point in your flight direction but pivots around your plane to focus on important objects like the selected target or incoming missiles. In this mode, you can use air brakes to perform outrageous maneuvers. The team took upon many super high-tech developments in hyper-modern fighter jets called “supermaneuverability”. It looks like and it is actually what drifting is for car racing: you intentionally get the plane in a position where it is almost out of control but you recover before you totally loose it so you can perform mind-boggling tricks. This stuff is actually real too, you might be familiar with the Cobra Maneuver?

Well, you can do all that and invent your own tricks in Hawks. It’s all there just by the press of the button. With the very unusual camera, you get a good feel for your spatial movement and you can actually use these tricks to dodge missiles without assistance and do some insane dogfights. It all feels very natural and freestyle.

As I said, both functions are potential game changers and could revitalize the genre. You can see both features in action is this video:

I have only one problem. I can imagine that it gets old very quickly. After all, all you do is fight planes and tanks over and over again. I think the new mechanics would benefit from a sci-fi scenario with a wider variety of challenges. Think fights against giant Monsters, Independence Day Ufo’s, Robots. Especially the freestyly supermaneuverability mode could be used to set up some pretty awesome levels. Until then, I might pick this one up and if you have a 360, try the demo and tell me what you think.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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