Kitty Hawk is a female helicopter pilot for the Navy S.E.A.L.s and after her basic training she never had to fire a single shot again. While on a standard recon mission with the single objective to drop of her partner Major Jeffrey their helicopter is all of a sudden under fire and the helicopter crashes on a desolate tropical island. Without a weapon, no means of communication back to HQ and no trace of Major Jeffrey, Kitty is all alone, confronted with an unscrupulous Ex-General and his plans to create the ultimate military being - the “super-soldier”.
“A little bit of this, a little bit of that....”
Experienced PC and Console players will notice one thing very quickly: K. Hawk’s developers “borrowed” many ideas for the game from various already released blockbusters.
Being a stealth / action game K. Hawk starts by borrowing silence from the source of all stealth games - Metal Gear. Just like the Metal Gear games for Playstation, MSX, PC and all the other platforms K. Hawk offers a radar system showing not only the position of your enemies but their line of view and view distance as well. Unlike Metal Gear, although, K. Hawk also displays the range of their hearing and the radar system is not as bullet proof. Even during optimal situations the system stops working for a few seconds every few moments - while sneaking through enemy territory this can be quiet challenging.
Borrowed from MGS2 is also the feature to collect enemy soldiers' dog tags – unlike in MGS2 you ALWAYS have to shoot them to get their tags although.
Sneaking mostly through underground facilities and when outside only during a tropical night the levels are detailed and creative but they get a little boring after a while. The characters are well animated and well textured. What I didn’t like is that everything looks a little bulky and has too sharp corners. That makes some stuff look unnatural.
“stealth n. - The act of moving, proceeding, or acting in a covert way”
Surprise – in K. Hawk open confrontations are short and deadly - at least for you. So do your best to avoid patrols, cameras and unnecessary noises at any cost. Hunted by the troops of a crazy Ex-General, your only possibility to survive is not being noticed.
With the help of your radar you have to analyze routes of the patrols and when they turn their back on you its time to hurry – you will soon get it.
What is really annoying and makes the whole radar usage / sneaking system pointless is the often buggy AI. The enemies are persistent but stupid. After you trigger an alarm enemies from the whole level will start coming after you. If you hide well enough they will not find you and after a while return to your position. But normally it isn’t even necessary to wait so long. Just hide behind some barrels and shoot them without getting hurt. How? Well a not too perfect collision detection system makes it possible to target your enemies through obstacles, and the AI' buggy pathfinding routine makes it often impossible for the soldiers to go AROUND an obstacle blocking their line of fire. So it is often possible to cleanse out almost the entire level while seating behind a barrel and shooting the bad guys one after another. But normally you will do your best to prevent yourself from being detected anyway – it’s the point of the game after all...
“The sound of silence”
Although you sneak around most of the time, your speakers will never be silent. Besides the atmospheric soundtrack you can listen to the chatter of the guards and the blasts of explosions that you will cause throughout the game...
A mostly personal note regarding chatter and the used voice talents: more common readers of my reviews will know that I mostly review german titles and often criticize the bad voice talents most companies use when localizing games. Imagine my surprise when a few “well known” voices came from my speakers. Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts and Jack Nicholson – of course not in person but their german voice doubles! My regards go to JoWood for the best voice localization I've heard in a while. Companies out there – that’s the way it should be handled!
“So what now ?”
Good graphics, good sound and voice acting, many stolen ideas (although good ideas) and a terrible AI. Well since Metal Gear Solid 2 isn’t due for release on the PC anytime soon and the Thief games are a little dusted, K. Hawk is a good snack if you are a stealth / action player and don’t own a system besides the PC. But don’t forget – Splinter Cell is on its way...