Or, as I like to put it, Tom Clancy's Strike Commander for the Noughties, or Tom Clancy's Ace Combat taken to the Max. Of all the games of recent years, it's certainly Ace Combat 6 that makes the nearest comparison point, but HAWX takes a different approach to war in the air. This is the real world, only imagined at a point in the near future. Private air forces now dominate the world's airspace, and you'll find yourself fighting in the skies over some of the planet's most famous cities. The demo at Ubidays featured the mountainous coastline around Rio, mapped in glorious detail using high-resolution satellite imagery from GeoEye. With abundant detail in the terrain and a mass of polygonal architecture, the effect is practically photo-realistic until you get really close to the ground, while the beautifully rendered planes (several licensed direct from Lockheed Martin) should do for propeller heads what Project Gotham Racing 4 and GT5 Prologue have done for the Top Gear crowd.
While the settings are realistic, however, this is clearly designed to be an accessible combat flight game. The controls give you a tangible feel for the forces at work on your plane, but if this were a racing game, it would be the pseudo-realistic PGR4 rather than an ultra-realistic FIA GTR2. Ridiculous manoeuvres will stall the plane, meaning you'll have to work the yoke and get busy with thrust to stop your aircraft from falling like a house brick, but if you don't know your Split-S from your Immelmann, you won't feel out of your depth. Objectives are clearly marked on your mini-map and with pointers on the HUD, and you can even employ a neat tracking system, bringing up a series of aircraft-shaped hoops which, should you follow them, will leave you in the perfect position to take your shot. As in Ace Combat, missiles are plentiful and the targeting system forgiving. You don't need to be a Maverick to send enemy planes tumbling out of the sky or blow a platoon of tanks to kingdom come.