HAWX Multiplayer Hands-On

Can Team Deathmatch still be Team Deathmatch when played thousands of feet above the ground?

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From Rainbow Six to Ghost Recon and even Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy games have a long lineage of strong online multiplayer. But one key difference between these games and the upcoming Tom Clancy's HAWX is that in this game, your feet won't be planted safely on the ground. Instead, battles are waged thousands of feet above the earth with the latest in fighter jet technology. However, while the altitude may be different, you'll still find that most familiar of online multiplayer features: Team Deathmatch. We recently had the good fortune of being shot out of the sky by members of Ubisoft during a round of multiplayer matches this past week, and we're happy to say we had a pretty fun time with it.

Blue Team and Green Team: Bitter rivals.
Blue Team and Green Team: Bitter rivals.

Right from the outset, we should probably mention that HAWX's multiplayer capabilities aren't limited to the competitive variety. We've already covered how the entire game can be played cooperatively, but this is the first time we've been able to go at it in a less civil environment. Essentially, multiplayer is a spiced-up version of Team Deathmatch. You split up into a blue team and a green team, and the basic objective is a simple one: be the first team to reach a predetermined number of kills.

But of course the path to that goal isn't always an easy one. It's not simply a matter of routine dogfighting--following enemy jets, locking on, and firing a missile at them. What happens over the course of the game is that as you rack up kill streaks, you unlock support items for your team that alter the game with a sudden shift in your team's favor. You can suppress the other team's radar in order to remove any trace of your team's presence from the screens of enemies, send in a repair drone to bring the integrity of your jets back to factory condition, impose an altitude limit on the other team, restrict what sort of missiles the other team can fire, and so on. In our experience, the game does a good job of letting you know which support items are in effect so that it doesn't feel like a storm of random upgrades.

The EMP Blast support item will mess you up.
The EMP Blast support item will mess you up.

Whether triggering support items or collecting individual kills, everything you do in multiplayer earns you XP points (which can also be done in single-player, and the points go toward the same overall total). However, the fastest way to earn more XP is by completing challenges. These are feats performed throughout the game that earn you XP in bunches, and they include easy objectives, such as winning five total Team DM games, and not-so-easy objectives, such as deflecting 10 missiles from your team's ace. The benefit of XP is that you'll unlock new ranks, weapons, and jets for use in these matches, so while you'll start in an ancient, practically steampunk Russian MiG-21, you'll eventually get to ride in the much nicer F-22 Raptor or B-2 Spirit. The whole rank-and-reward process feels compelling, almost like Call of Duty 4 set in the sky.

Another fun feature that looks like it should add some personality to different matches is the way your performance will be displayed in the form of various post-match awards. These isolate the top performers in various categories and, conversely, those who didn't quite pull their weight. Some of the obvious awards include Assassin, the player who does the most damage during a match, and Life Guard, the player who deflects the most missiles. Other awards include Iceman, the player who recovers from a stall the closest to the ground, and Stuntman, the player who crashes the most. These awards don't have any effect on gameplay, but they do provide a nice chance to razz teammates after a match.

Multiplayer maps will take you across the globe, including Tokyo as shown here.
Multiplayer maps will take you across the globe, including Tokyo as shown here.

We already knew that HAWX looked like it was going to provide a fun, if not terribly realistic, take on the flight combat genre. But now we're happy to see that it also sports a fairly compelling competitive multiplayer component. You can expect to see our review in the next couple of weeks.

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