Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Ubisoft Bucharest 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Ubisoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 7, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-8 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
In the Danger Zone
by Adam Brown

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the old adage “if man were meant to fly, he would have been given wings,” playing Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 has made me seriously rethink this decision. Much like the issues Icarus had with his wings made of wax and feathers, HAWX 2 feels like Ubisoft was trying to fly too closely to the sun this time around, resulting in a failure to reach their lofty goals. I’m not saying this sequel is a horrible game by any means; however, it has several issues, not the least of which being an identity crisis, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 screenshot

With the name Tom Clancy in the title, you know to expect HAWX 2 to involve some sort of random government conspiracy or impending nuclear disaster. While I’d love to sum up exactly what the game’s storyline is about, I can honestly say it was so uninteresting and unimportant to the gameplay that I found it hard to pay attention to, especially due to the game’s subpar cutscenes. I know the game starts off by saying some nuclear missiles were stolen from Russia, ostensibly making resolving that issue the focal point of the adventure. However, since the majority of the game is just a mishmash of dogfights and aerial combat, it can be easy to lose sight of any of the context behind it.

I specifically mention the subpar cutscenes because they are easily the worst part of HAWX 2’s visuals. While the game’s aircraft and environments look great, it seems odd the cinematics would look drastically worse than the gameplay. You’ll notice most of the human characters just look awful, and there are seemingly constant framerate issues while these clips are running. Thankfully, the gameplay’s visuals are much better, with sleek and glossy planes, incredibly detailed environments (thanks to GeoEye satellite imagery), and some nice effects, such as dust trails being blown on the ground by closely passing aircraft.

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Taking a decidedly Modern Warfare approach to the missions, you’ll be dropped into the shoes of American, British, and Russian pilots throughout the course of the game. As the story jumps back and forth between these different pilots, making it even more difficult to follow what is going on, the only thing that attempts to help you know who you are currently playing as are the different nationalities’ accents. However, as I stated earlier, following the story isn’t a prerequisite for actually playing the game, as all you’re required to do is follow the disembodied voice’s instructions.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 screenshot

Unfortunately, this winds up being harder than it sounds. Many times throughout the course of the game, I was instructed to destroy a target but wasn’t given any clue as to where it could be found. The game attempts to give you some direction, usually outlining your target in a yellow box and pointing you in the right direction. However, this isn’t always the case, as I had to fail the same portion of a few missions several times in order to figure out what the disembodied voice actually wanted me to do.

Things get even worse when you take into account you’ll typically be asked to destroy something, while also being attacked by other fighters and trying to protect friendly ground forces. You’d like to think you could rely on help from the wingmen who accompany you on almost every mission; however, they are almost completely useless. While you are fighting for your life, trying to get a lock on enemy planes and dumping flares to survive incoming missiles, your wingmen seem content to fly around in circles, rarely being able to take out a single fighter on their own. It seems incredibly odd your friendly A.I. wingmen are so completely useless considering how intelligent and difficult to evade the enemy’s planes can be. This just leads to frustration, as it often seems like you are carrying the entire weight of these conflicts on your back, with little to no help coming from the people supposedly there to help you.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 screenshot

Fortunately, HAWX 2 attempts to break up the pressures of these constant battles, giving players some missions that don’t involve dodging missiles and returning fire. Liberally sprinkled throughout the campaign are missions that will have the player taken out of the cockpit and placed in slightly different situations than they are accustomed to. This includes controlling a UAV and manning the guns on an AC-130. The missions involving the UAV are mostly quite boring, having you tracking individuals, listening in on conversations, and tagging targets. Taking control of the AC-130, on the other hand, is much more entertaining. In one mission, you will be tasked with helping to cover a ground transport’s escape, using this over-powered craft’s weapons. While it plays out similarly to the AC-130 segments in Modern Warfare 2, it offers a nice alternative to dogfighting.

Screenshots / Images
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