'H.A.W.X. 2': Standard-issue air combat
October 9, 2010
Digital jet jockeys crave the thrill of making a tight turn to outmaneuver a MiG or swooping down to obliterate a tank.
And Ubisoft’s “Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2” delivers it — in a standard sort of way.
The game’s story involves the typical international conspiracy involving terrorists and ultra-nationalists bent on establishing a new world order. Along the way, you get to test your flying abilities as American, British and Russian pilots in a wide variety of jets. You also get to spend some time controlling unmanned aerial vehicles and the weapons of an AC-130 gunship.
It’s all pretty familiar — like the average arcade flight game with a little “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” thrown in.
The results are pretty predictable, too. The dogfights can be lots of fun — though nothing new — and the other elements feel like they’re tacked on just to provide some diversity in the experience.
Flying each of the dozens of fighters or attack aircraft is pretty easy. The flight controls are very simple and very responsive. The targeting system can be very forgiving. It’s definitely an arcade-style game, not a flight simulator. That will disappoint those seeking something a little more complex, but the average player looking for some aerial action should be satisfied.
Engaging in dogfights is easily the best part of the game and, fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to mix it up with multiple foes. High-altitude acrobatics, afterburners and flares can keep you alive until you have the opportunity to lock onto your foe and fire your missiles. When two squadrons of aircraft encounter each other, things quickly get chaotic — and you gotta love that.
It also can be pretty fun using the weaponry aboard the AC-130. If you’ve played “Modern Warfare” or other special ops games, you know the drill. You circle slowly over enemy facilities at nighttime, peering through night-vision equipment as you pour lethal doses of cannon and machine gun fire into your foes.
On the other hand, the UAV missions can be a bit dull — track an enemy, drop some markers or eavesdrop on telephone calls. Although these missions move the plot along, they don’t really offer much action.
Ground attack missions can be fun, but they all too often involve some sort of time limit — such as, you must destroy all incoming enemy tanks and vehicles before they overrun a friendly base. Unfortunately, these deadlines are often way too tight, even on easier settings.
Such difficulties seem to crop up more and more as the game progresses, which can be frustrating. It doesn’t make sense that a game that offers such accessible controls and game play would throw in missions that are so difficult.
The graphics are good, but not great. The planes all look very good and the settings are pretty impressive from high altitude. However, when you swoop down for a better look, the buildings, landscapes and ships just aren’t very detailed. This low-definition tendency is even more apparent in cut scenes, where people and objects are rather stiff and blocky.
In addition to the story mode, “H.A.W.X. 2” offers a variety of solo, co-op and multiplayer options. You can replay missions with new challenges added or see how long you can last in a “survival mode.” Or you can go online to replay the missions in cooperation with other gamers or join a team battle — a popular feature of the original “H.A.W.X.”
Overall, “H.A.W.X. 2” doesn’t offer a lot of new thrills, but many gamers will be satisfied with a chance to revisit the old ones.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 2, Wii (available in November)