H.A.W.X. is set in 2021 above the skies of a world increasingly dependent on private military companies (PMCs) and elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States. The game is set in the same universe as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter; as Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghost leader, is featured in two of the missions. Plot elements are carried over from other Tom Clancy games such as the missile defense system found in Tom Clancy’s EndWar. G4’s interview with H.A.W.X.’s lead designer reveals that the game takes place in between Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Tom Clancy’s EndWar.
The player begins the game as a former U.S. Air Force pilot David Crenshaw who provides fire-support missions for the Ghost team as part of an elite unit called H.A.W.X. However, shortly after the mission, the Air Force decides to deactivate the H.A.W.X. squadron and its pilots, including Crenshaw, are recruited into the PMC Artemis Global Security. Over the next six years, Crenshaw and his squadron perform various missions for Artemis and its clients, including defending valuable facilities and attacking insurgent bases. In 2021, Artemis signs a lucrative defense contract with Brazil, making it one of the most powerful PMCs in the world. However, shortly after the contract is signed, Las Trinidad, an alliance of anti-US South American states, launches an invasion on Rio de Janeiro. With Crenshaw’s help, Artemis and the Brazilian military are able to push back the assault.
The United States then sends in forces to help pacify the area and stages joint operations with Artemis. However, during one mission, Artemis breaks their contract with Brazil and betrays the United States, citing that Las Trinidad had offered them a better deal. Unwilling to turn on their own country, Crenshaw and his squadron sides with the United States and helps them destroy the Artemis forces in the area. Unfortunately, Artemis’ actions in South America are only a diversion. The PMC stages a massive surprise attack on the United States. Though Crenshaw manages to prevent them from taking Washington DC and assassinating the President of the United States, Artemis manages to attack and capture numerous American cities and military facilities. Crenshaw then assists the American counterattack against Artemis. However, as the United States begins gaining the upper hand, Adrian Dewinter, the CEO of Artemis, announces that he has stolen some of the United States’ nuclear weapons and gives the President an ultimatum, surrender in 24 hours or watch the United States be destroyed. Crenshaw, along with the Ghost Recon team and the US military, manage to restore the SLAMS missile defense shield (which is found in Tom Clancy’s EndWar) and retake the stolen nukes, but Artemis still has a trump card. Artemis forces managed to smuggle one nuclear warhead into Los Angeles, California and threatens to detonate it. Crenshaw is sent to find it and he manages to destroy the warhead, ending the Artemis threat once and for all. In the epilogue, which takes place several weeks later, it is revealed that Artemis has been completely destroyed, and Dewinter and other Artemis executives managed to escape and are now international fugitives. The conflict between the United States and Artemis also caused over 40,000 civilian deaths all across the United States, prompting the United Nations to begin a crackdown on all PMCs. The PMCs are now either forced to take on small scale support and logistical roles, or they will be dismantled. Meanwhile, Crenshaw is sent on a secret mission to assassinate Dewinter and his subordinates. Thanks to intelligence provided by Third Echelon, Crenshaw destroys Dewinter’s hideout, killing him and his entire inner circle and ensuring he can never endanger the world again. The game got some pretty good reviews from Game Informer, play.tm, TeamXBOX and X-play. HAWX is not a flight simulator, so don’t expect micro-management, accurate payloads, landings and take-offs. Expect close dogfights, while waves of enemy units crash over the horizon’s hazy clouds to re-enforce their troubled comrades.