Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Arcade, Flight Sims
Developer – Ubisoft Romania
Publisher - Ubisoft
System Link: 2-8
Online Multiplayer: 2-8
4 MB to Save Game
In-game Dolby Digital
When Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. arrived on the scene in March 2009, it was met with mixed reaction. While some praised the game’s storyline and co-op gameplay, many cited concern with game’s visuals, framerate drops, and lack of multiplayer. Fast-forward a year and half later and the sequel has arrived in the form of H.A.W.X. 2. While arcade based flight games have never been my forte, ever since my younger years I have always enjoyed the rush of some of intense virtual aerial dogfights. So how does this next instalment in Tom Clancy’s arcade flight shooter pan-out? Well, I am left with some mixed impressions. While some issues from the previous game have been addressed, there remains some deficiencies which prevent this game from being considered a must buy.
As far as the visuals are concerned, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is hit and miss. On one hand, I was somewhat taken back with how good the planes look. They are incredibly detailed and look awfully similar to their real-world counterpart. Now I am no jet fighter expert by any means, and I really can’t tell the difference from one plane to the next; this being said, the planes are slick looking, each plane has different characteristics, and they look great in high definition. Additionally the games environments are also well done. Some of the mountainous landscapes are incredibly detailed and are an impressive sight. The draw distance in the game is equally impressive. The mountains do not lose any of their detail even from a far. You can see landscapes from miles away just as you would in real life without any blurring. I should also mention some of the lighting and shadow effects are stellar and are certainly a high point in terms of the games visuals.
On the flip side, some of the games cut-scenes are not as sharp looking as one would expect from an Ubisoft title. Most notably, the human characters are more last generation looking than next generation. It almost appears as if the cut-scenes were made to accommodate last generation consoles such as the PS2 or original Xbox. Another concern I noticed was with the game’s fire and explosion effects. Perhaps it is because the bar has been raised with respect to these types of effects over the years, but the fact remains some of the effects in the game were not a sharp as I would have liked. It seems like each plane explosion is a boiler plate template and there is really no variance from one explosion to the next.
Overall, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 visuals are decent and a couple of years ago we would have been blown away, yet, with so many fantastic looking games already on the Xbox 360 this game comes across as somewhat average looking.
Overall, the sounds in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 are decent. Don’t get me wrong, the sounds of the jet planes engines roaring in the sky are impressive. Cranking up your home theatre system while the jets are taking off is highly recommended and will certainly give your subwoofer a great workout. The swooping orchestral soundtrack is something right out of a Michael Bay movie too, and it works for this game. Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is a good sounding game in many ways, so what is the problem? Well, my main complaint would be we get nothing original here. The voice work, music, and sound effects may be solid sounding, but in the end they are pretty much forgettable and unoriginal. It is really nothing we haven’t heard before. So for that reason alone I have a tendency to be somewhat disappointed when games like Modern Warfare 2 or Halo: Reach are so good in this area.
I feel it is best to begin with games basic storyline which, as you will quickly find out when playing, takes a back seat to game’s aerial dogfights. Nevertheless, being a Tom Clancy game it comes as no surprise H.A.W.X. 2 has a storyline; however, you are forewarned this one is a little more difficult to follow compared to its predecessor. H.A.W.X. 2 incorporates your typical Tom Clancy plot involving high levels of espionage and unrest. The game takes place after the events of the first H.A.W.X. game. You, along with your H.A.W.X. squadron, have been deployed into the Middle East where a high level of violence is taking place and various enemy leaders are appearing in various hotspots. Soon after, your team uncovers a plot regarding stolen Russian nuclear weapons. This is where the game begins as you control three groups: one American, one British and one Russian, each with its own pilots and supporting cast. Overall, the story does gets lost in the gameplay and takes a back seat to the aerial dogfights as I suggested above. Its not that it is a bad storyline, but I just found it a tad difficult to follow which is primarily due to the way the game is played out.
Similar to games like Rainbow Six Vegas and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, H.A.W.X. is not an open world game, but rather you have to play through each mission one by one. It can make for a linear experience and I cannot help but think H.A.W.X. 2 would be better served as an open world flight game. Following the storyline and staying interested in what is going on is difficult as you are jumping from playing as the American, Russian and British squads. There just seems to be no flow to the game, or story for that mater.
As you progress along in the game’s single player mode, you earn PEC. This is H.A.W.X. 2‘s experience point system. Persistent Elite Creation (PEC) is a system created by Ubisoft that rewards players for completing certain tasks within the game. For example, by shooting down a certain number of planes, or accomplishing a certain feat, you will earn PEC's. Not only do you acquire PEC's in single player but you also earn them in multiplayer as well. Gain enough PEC's and you can unlock new planes and abilities. Abilities can include increased damage, flares, etc. There are also experience points to gain from accomplishing certain tasks with each specific plane. All in all, H.A.W.X. 2’s experience point system is very cool and adds an incredible amount of depth. It is certainly one of the strong points in the game.
As far as the controls are concerned, H.A.W.X. 2 can be finicky. There is certainly a learning curve as the controls are not as simple as I would have expected. I could not help but think the game would be better off served in a bundle with a flight stick. At times the controls seemed awkward and did not feel natural. After a couple of hours in I finally felt I had a firm handle on the game’s controls, but that learning curve was indeed steep. The controller seemed to make for a less immersive experience and I found myself fighting with the controls far too often.
Some of the new additions which were not around in the previous H.A.W.X. game include take-offs and landings. Seems like such an obvious omission; nevertheless, this sequel does include them. Overall it is a nice little addition and I have no complaints with this aspect of the game as it seems like a no brainer to include this element. H.A.W.X. 2 also features some mid-air refuelling. Again, an addition like this make the experience more true to life without compromising the integrity of the game. Whether it be landing on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the sea or landing on a strip in the Middle East, the game is much more immersive this time around and feels a tad more authentic to boot.
You do get a bit of variety from your standard flying as well. For instance, some of the game’s missions include manning a gunship where you provide cover fire for ghost teams, or you will use an unmanned UAV to gather intelligence. These missions provide a nice break from your typical aerial gun fights, which unfortunately can become tedious at times, and is the biggest issue I have with H.A.W.X. 2.: It can simply get boring and stale after awhile. Some of the aerial dogfights can last up to half an hour. It gets repetitive, and simply put, I would much rather spend my time playing something else half the time. The AI is deadly accurate too, all the while I seem to take forever to lock on and mow them down. This chess match can last far too long which results in losing interest real fast. Some of the gunship missions and night missions give some variety, but its not enough to detract from some of the games more tedious segments.
The co-op multiplayer aspect of the game is enjoyable. The single player experience supports up to four player co-op and allows for “jump in and jump out” gameplay. This aspect puts H.A.W.X. 2 a leg up on its predecessor as now you and a friend can jump in a play any point in the game. There is an adversarial multiplayer aspect to the game but in my opinion it feels tacked on more than anything. Fortunately, there are some nice additional modes besides the traditional multiplayer and single player experience. Survival Mode is similar to Gears of Wars 'Horde Mode' where you take on waves of enemy planes. Arcade Mode is where play-out missions from the campaign but you can customize the experience. Free Flight Mode allows gamers to fly the skies without having to encounter any enemies. The latter mode is a true ‘tourist’ mode indeed.
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