Into the great wide open.
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.2 is one of those games that tries to straddle the fence between two genres and, all things being said, it does not do a bad job of it. On the one hand, you have the sheer exhilaration of flying your plane at high speed and engaging enemies in a purely arcade shooter style. The other side of the coin sees the game trying to please the flight sim fans out there, with more realism and such. The reality is that neither the arcade lovers or the flight sim fans are going to be ecstatic about this combination, but I can’t see them complaining too much either.
As we have come to expect from any game that involves Tom Clancy, the story involves missing nukes, terrorists and plot twists galore. By now most gamers will have become desensitised to this kind of story and will guess whats coming before it arrives on the screen. The player will control three different characters through the course of the game, bringing three different points of view to the story.
However, the story really is unimportant, as most people will just skip the cut scenes and try to get into the sky. This time around some of the missions will actually involve the player having to take off and land their plane. Whilst taking off is surprisingly easy, once you realise that titling the plane up too quickly will cause the tail to drag on the tarmac and the plane to crash. Landing, on the other hand, is a little more involved. There is help available though, just in case the “ball of flame” look is not your thing.
With the exception of a couple of missions that seem to be thrown in simply to add variety, one in which the player has to control the turret of a gunship, the rest of the game is as you would expect. Air to air and air to ground arcade combat. Players will spend an incredible amount of time trying to maneuver their plane to get a lock on to enemy craft in the distance, whilst dodging incoming missiles and gunfire. This is the meat of the game and, for those that played the first H.A.W.X. game, this is what the gamers want.
The planes, of which there are many, all handle really well and are very maneuverable for those that have played any flight game before. What may come as a shock though, is the difficulty level. From very early on in the game, it becomes apparent that H.A.W.X. 2 is perhaps not for newcomers to flight games. The difficulty levels leap a few times throughout the missions and will cause problems for all but the most accomplished flyboys.
Playing through the campaign is fairly important, even for those who just wish to get down with the good selection of online modes. Playing through the missions will earn the gamer experience which in turn will unlock the more desirable planes for use in multiplayer. The new co-op option with four players deserves a mention, as it solves the problem of the uninspiring AI. With the right team mates, the four player co-op really makes the game shine and is thoroughly enjoyable.
As you would expect, the game looks really good. The planes are all well detailed and finished to a high standard, and the environments in which the missions take place are reasonably varied. The same can be said for the sound in the game, with some great voice acting and suitably atmospheric sounds from the planes and such. Having never been in a plane, I cannot comment on the authenticity of the plane sounds, but I would imagine them to be fairly close.
I can’t help but feel that H.A.W.X. fans will be disappointed by the lack of evolution in this title. There are a few changes, but the core gameplay remains the same as the first. This is not by any means a bad thing and I think that the game will be popular amongst the casual arcade air combat gamers, as it has everything that they could want – fast moving air to air/ground combat situations. On that front the game offers an adrenaline fueled experience. But those expecting the game to have moved on and offer more, will be left wanting and waiting for H.A.W.X. 3.