Walk into a game store and you'll find that in many popular game genres, such as real-time strategy and first-person shooter games, there are budget-priced versions for $20 or less. So it makes sense that developers would also try to make a budget-priced version of stealth games like Metal Gear Solid and Thief, and that's precisely what K-Hawk: Survival Instinct is. Unfortunately, as with many budget-priced games, you get what you pay for with K-Hawk: a stripped-down game with poor graphics, poor sound, and a clunky control scheme.
In the game, you play as the titular K-Hawk, a young, blonde helicopter pilot who gets shot down behind enemy lines and eventually unearths a diabolical plot. Though she's a pilot, K-Hawk will actually spend all her time sneaking around outside the visual and audible range of nearby guards as she completes simplistic objectives, such as flipping a certain number of switches or recovering a keycard to open a locked door. She can run, walk, and crouch, though moving quickly makes more noise, so it's usually best to creep past enemy soldiers. Of course, there will be times when you simply can't avoid them and must shoot them down using a handgun or a rifle. Though you can recover real-world weapons like a SOCOM pistol or an M16 assault rifle, the various pistols and rifles are more or less identical, except that some rifles have a sniper scope and some guns can carry different amounts of ammunition.
Stealth actually works pretty well in K-Hawk, at least at first. You're equipped with a radar scanner (which you must put away if you wish to draw a weapon) that indicates the location and visual and hearing ranges of your enemies, nearly all of whom are human soldiers. However, the game's levels aren't laid out too well--though they're large, it's easy to get lost in them, and your radar map has no indication of the location of your next objective. In the meantime, the game becomes more challenging mainly because the levels start to feature more narrow spaces and more of the same soldiers patrolling each level, yet throughout most of the game, catching a guard's attention usually leads to the same result: One of them runs off to sound the alarm, and you'll find yourself under attack on multiple sides armed with only the game's pitifully inadequate weapons. K-Hawk's weapons fire slowly, don't pack much of a punch, and do inconsistent amounts of damage--sometimes a clean hit with a sniper rifle can down an enemy soldier in a single shot; other times, you'll find yourself repeatedly shooting a soldier in the face with the same weapon until he finally goes down.
K-Hawk doesn't look too great, either. The game's graphics are extremely blocky and chunky, and while some of its environments are full of polygonal objects like rocks, walls, and inoperable vehicles that you can use to take cover, they all look very simplistic. K-Hawk also has a number of embarrassing graphical glitches, the most obvious being the long, hanging polygons that clip in and out of view in certain areas.
The game's sound is similarly disappointing. K-Hawk doesn't have any background music, though it does feature repetitive ambient noises, such as the looped "buzzing of flies" sample in the jungle levels of the game. In addition, the game's voice acting is pretty lousy, and though many of the voices are delivered by actors who seem fluent in English, the dialogue was apparently scripted by writers who aren't. What's more, nearly all your enemies share the same voice--an angry-sounding male voice that is used to hurl vaguely menacing but nonsensical threats like "I'm gonna flatten you!" and "I'm gonna knock your teeth right out of your face!"--which make no sense at all, especially considering the fact that your enemies attack you at a distance with rifles, rather than pummeling you with their fists.
K-Hawk isn't even an especially long game, and though each level has a few scattered items, such as extra ammunition or health packs, hidden behind its crates, you won't find much reason to go back and replay the game once you've finished it. Developer Similis Software deserves credit for not simply making yet another budget-priced run-and-gun shooter, and K-Hawk's implementation of stealth isn't too bad, but the game itself is unpolished, simplistic, and problematic.