You can forget the silly bird-related acronym in the title. You can even forget the fact that the Clancy hive-mind has its name bolted to the front. To all intents and purposes this is Top Gun the game. Thankfully, that's pretty much all we want from a modern air combat game.
Everything from the classic Tom Cruise flick is in there - wheeling dogfights high above the ground, desperate attempts to get missile lock on cunning 'bandits' and frantic radio chatter when things start going flaps up.
In fact, the only thing that's missing from the experience is a sweaty volleyball match with your fellow flyboys, although frankly we're glad Ubisoft neglected to include that side of US Air Force life.
HAWX has managed to turn sterile, fire-and-forget missile-slinging into a proper dogfight, simply by limiting the range in which you can get radar lock. It means the clashes are frantic, thrilling and lend themselves to risky manoeuvres. The skies are often full of hostiles, and getting a tail on some of the more advanced enemies requires some deft stick-work.
Turning off the assists is particularly satisfying, as the camera pulls out and you're able to pull off the really fancy stuff, including tight loops, cobra manoeuvres and the airborne equivalent of powerslides.
Missions require you to switch your tactics too, as new threats and story-based objectives are thrown into the mix - for the most part each campaign mission feels substantively different from the last.
The campaign isn't a lonely one either - you can bring in up to three mates in Live co-op through the natty, always-connected pre-mission interface, and the difficulty ratchets up until you're swamped by enemy fighters.
There's plenty to keep you busy once you've finished the campaign, too. There's a veritable hangar-full of planes to unlock for multiplayer, additional weapon loadouts and plenty of maps to fill with the smoking wrecks of multimillion-dollar jets. No doubt the game will prove popular online as a change from the usual FPS fare.
HAWX is an enormously exciting shooter, and manages to take modern combat, strip away the technical side favoured by the Ace Combat series, and create a game that's inspired more by the myth of fighter pilots than the reality. And as any three-headed fire-breathing griffin will tell you, the myth is far more entertaining.
Top Gun is open for enrolment
- Hollywood-style air combat
- Brilliant co-op
- Varied mission types
- Some arenas are dull
- A couple of duff missions