I will be the first one to admit that I am not a flying game kind of guy. The original H.A.W.X. game was never really on my radar until it ended up being price-reduced at a ridiculous sale. Amazingly I ended up loving the game, hence my excitement for Ubisoft’s sequel. H.A.W.X. 2 is more of the same polished air combat that made the original game so much fun, but with the quintessential array of additives to make it worthy of donning the sequel digit. Among the list of newly added features are online co-op, landing and take-off sequences as well as the host of traditional upgrades both functionally and visually. Still even with all these upgrades H.A.W.X. 2 manages to never exceed the expectations set by its predecessor.
The story in the game has been given a nice facelift. Instead of focusing in on one main character, the game now follows three different pilots and their correlation to the overall story. As you can imagine it goes above and beyond the standard Iron Eagle plot line into political statements and plenty of technical jargon. Tom Clancy games have always had a penchant for detail and H.A.W.X. 2 is no different. The cut scenes are very well directed, and even when the story gets away from you, it is still entertaining to watch.
It is no secret that this latest entry in the series is strictly for veteran players. Even the tutorial mission decided to mock my flying skills as I failed to take down my opposition before I could even think about maneuvering around the level. This is one of the biggest downfalls to the game; single player is simply unbalanced. The computer is ridiculously accurate, and your wingmen are absolutely idiotic. There are missions where you will spend ample amounts of time trying to line up the perfect shot, or shake an enemy. Sure it may be realistic, but it also means it isn’t very fun.
Things are hugely improved once you hop into co-op mode. Having competent wingmen and the ability to respawn with a fresh stash of ammo definitely alleviates a lot of the frustration in the campaign. Still once you get the hang of things the game does open up and become challenging but not without reward.
Controlling your plane in H.A.W.X. 2 definitely takes some getting used to. Even if you played the original game there is about a 30-minute learning curve to get back into the swing of things. If you are fortunate enough to own a flight stick, things become much easier. It feels like this game was designed specifically with it in mind. I don’t mind that as long as the game still works with the standard controller; thankfully H.A.W.X. 2 does, it just takes a bit longer to get used to.
During the campaign you will get some diversions in the form of controlling other aerial vehicles such as the AC-130. Now before you get too excited this is certainly not as epic or action-packed as the similar levels found in a Call of Duty game. Mainly you spend your time combing areas, listening to conversations and of course marking targets. It is a nice distraction for a little while, but it quickly makes you want to get back in the cockpit for some high-flying action.
Still it is hard to argue with what the game offers in terms of sheer content. The campaign will last anywhere from 13-20 hours depending on your skill, and the missions are extremely well-paced and assorted. You will rarely find yourself doing the same type of activity for more than one or two levels. I also really think the narrative goes a long way in keeping the game flow consistent and interesting. There is also the ability to go back and play through the story missions in arcade mode. This basically gives you specific challenges to meet while playing the normal flow of the game.
Competitive online also returns for some hairy online dogfights. Not much has changed from the last game, which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. The biggest differentiator for the series was the fact that levels are littered with “other” environmental hazards that players can shoot down for extra points. In typical fashion though these are mostly ignored in an effort to prove you can take down the most human opponents. The game also adopts the popular perk system for leveling up that rewards players who stick with it, but everything else feels pretty standard. Matches ran fine online even when all eight opponents were within range of each other, and finding matches is still relatively easy. The online mode won’t blow you away, but it is a nice distraction after the campaign is over.
Visually the game has its ups and downs. The GeoEYE technology really fleshes out the levels making them feel more realistic. Still like any flying game once you get close to said ground you begin to see the faults hidden in the distance. The planes are certainly the bright spot and everything about them looks fantastic. The game runs at a smooth clip during gameplay, but surprisingly the cut scenes can bog down, even with their questionable animation. Sounds are good with fairly muted music. The explosions are powerful and the voice acting is merely sub-par.
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 is really a case of more of the same. Fans of the original will enjoy the minor tweaks scattered around, but newcomers likely won’t find anything to set this game apart from others in the genre. Still if you enjoy a good flight sim with more focus on dog fighting and less concern about realism than H.A.W.X. 2 should be right up your alley.
Review copy provided by publisher.