Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 Review

Gaming

Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2
Developer:
Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Flying
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3 (PC, Wii)
Released: 3 September

Zooming onto Xbox 360 this month (among other formats), HAWX 2 set out to ‘break the limits of aerial warfare’ by building and improving on it’s predecessor, the original Tom Clancy’s HAWX. But it’s hard to tell whether or not it prevailed. Initially, you are blown away by the experience. The immersive experience of the first take-off should have you totally mesmerised . It’s all very well done, with the gentle taxi to the run-way followed by clearance from flight control and then roaring of engines as you accelerate down the run-way to achieve a suitable speed for lift-off. Magic. And, from here on, the campaign begins.

Upon starting out, you are greeted with a series of tutorial tasks which introduce newbies to the game, as well as allowing players of the original to reassociate  themselves with the HAWX world and any new controls that have been added. These tasks offer a masterclass in all the techniques needed for the missions that follow, from evading enemy missles in aerial combat, to basic flight controls. Before release, many gamers were doubtful of the aeroplane physics and their realism, even over on the official HAWX forums. Unfortunately, it seems their fears were just, because the flight controls and physics are a little dodgy. When playing through the missions, HAWX 2 feels uncertain of it’s identity. Although we have to bear in mind that developing for a control stick rather than a fully-fledged flight stick is difficult, HAWX 2 seems to be stuck between two realms. On one hand, the stunning graphics and aircraft from real life suggest a realistic approach, whereas on the other, the arcade flying physics and the controls the accompany them say otherwise. Fair enough, the game has to be exciting, with an accessible control scheme, but the mix of arcade and reality leaves a strange aftertaste.

Cleverly, the story links with that of the upcoming Tom Clancy’s game, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, in that the infantry units which you provide air support to are often the soldiers you will play as in Future Soldier. This is a nifty touch by Ubisoft, and the fact that the two are intertwined may mean that people planning to buy Future Soldier in the near future will want to pick up HAWX 2 as a prologue, advised you are looking for an insight into the story. To build tension and a sense of atmosphere, there are even special bombing sessions which break down the campaign mode so it isn’t all flying. While these feel like little more than interactive cut scenes, they act well as a resting period to give you a break from constant flying. Plus, dropping a series of bombs on various enemy ground units is fairly satisfying, especially when you decide to upgrade what you are firing out at them. Let’s just say the largest explosions look like near nuclear explosions on the Infra-Red vision, and in a very sadistic way, the flash of colour and the accompanying sound are somewhat beautiful. It is in these sections that the majority of the story-telling is done through the voice-acting, as well as the cutscenes, of course, and it is mainly these missions that will be linked to the missions on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier.

All in all, the campaign mode is average on single-player mode. It gets repetitive, fast. However, thanks to the ability to embark on the story with up to three other comrades in Co-op, online or local, there is still a great dealof fun to be had in the campaign. As things are always more fun with friends, playing with some human players can really spice up the game, even warrating an increase in the difficulty settings if you work together well enough.

The same applies for the multiplayer mode. Playing online with a real person on the end of your heat-seeker-missiles, rather than an AI, is much more satisfying. You can play with up to 8 players online in 3 different game modes, over 5 multiplayer maps. The game modes to choose from are; Regular Match in which you gain points by destroying satellites positioned around the map, on top of obliterating your opponents; Gun Battle, which, as the name suggests, is a straight-up aerial dog-fight; and Hardcore, for those who have developed a mastery of HAWX 2 and are looking to step it up a notch.

Much like campaign, multiplayer is enjoyble while it lasts, in fact, it is superior to the campaign in that there’s a lot more fun to be had. This is based not only on the principal that playing with a group of friends can make any game more entertaining, let alone a good one like this, but that once you start co-operating together, HAWX 2 becomes a very tactically orientated game. You can link attacks, co-incide with a team mate to attack two different places simultaneously, target specific areas of weakness in your opponents, or just fly as a unit, double teaming other players and eviscerating them with your superior fire-power.  Yes, similarly to the campaign, after a while multiplayer loses it’s appeal as there is only so much variation to be had when flying and shooting, but unlike the campaign, online multiplayer offers a whole new level of depth tactically, because you can work in-sync with other like-minded gamers to take down the enemy. Also, with the huge amount of freedom that comes with flying and the airspce that is the sky, no two matches will play out exactly the same. Whether it’s a different stunt used to dodge an inbound missle, or an alternative strategy which you haven’t seen used before, there’s always something new happening  This is something you can’t do and won’t find in the single player part of the game.

Conclusion
Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 provides adrenaline-fuelled aerial combat-based action , which is pleasing on he eye, and for the start at least, an immersive experience. The campaign is average on it’s own, but the ability to play through it co-operatively with up 4 players  promises some good times, and the online multiplayer dog-fights are entertaining while they last. Sadly, there is only so much variation you can cram into a flying/combat jet game, and though the scenery and targets may change, it quickly becomes very familiar. The intricately detailed real-life aircraft mean HAWX 2 has real appeal among enthusiasts, and the option to downloads new skins and customise paint jobs is just the icing on the cake. It’s arcade-reality mix make for an odd pairing, and while some will dislike the unrealistic physics, others will just appreciate being able to perform incredible aerial manoeuvres simply and easily.

7-5-capsules-out-of-10

Pros

  • Fun while it lasts
  • Campaign features 4 player Co-op
  • Stunningly detailed real world aircraft
  • Physics and controls mean anyone can do great stunts…

 Cons

  • …because the game physics and controls are so unrealistic
  • Aerial action gets same-y
  • Mix of arcade gameplay and realism leaves a strange aftertaste
I've been playing videogames since I was about 8 years old. The first ever console and game I got was a red Gameboy Pocket with Pokemon Red.

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