Review: Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2

By Nick Rudenno

Let’s face it – at some point we’ve all wanted to be Top Gun’s Maverick. Rebel of the skies, barrelling through valleys at Mach 5, disobeying the orders of Jester and his kowtowing subordinates, performing caffeine spilling stunts with your best mate Goose, enjoying shirtless volleyball with close friends … wait, maybe not that last bit. However, there’s no denying that Top Gun inspired many a young lad to take to the skies. Unfortunately H.A.W.X 2 never had me proclaiming “I feel the need, the need for speed”.

That’s probably the first thing that struck me about the game. When you first get airborne there is no real sense of speed. The aircraft feels stagnant, almost floating in mid-air. There’s no cloud cover to swoop through, no jet-stream trailing off your wingspan and no speed blur. Surely, when you’re metres from being a fireball amongst trees and squirrels, they would appear as a blur whilst barrelling towards them.

Maybe it was just me, but at times I had a real problem with the depth-perception of objects and the surrounding environment. Something, which appeared huge from a distance, would often be quite small in reality, as I’d often find myself flying right past my objectives.

The air combat is the main payoff of H.A.W.X 2 and for the most part it works well. Big dog-fights are engaging and it’s really satisfying reeling in the last enemy plane after a long battle. The explosions are good, but could be better. It would be nice to see more variation in how the planes explode and fall from the sky. After a while, the combat does get repetitive though and you will find yourself performing evasive manoeuvre after evasive manoeuvre dodging the endless barrage of enemy missiles. It is worth pointing out that the early missions are a bit mundane but get progressively more exciting as the difficulty level increases.

The game also lacks a nice flow. The story is ok, but sticks to the now cliché convention of a few unscrupulous characters making off with a bunch of rather large bombs. Some cut-scenes look great and work well, while others feel really out of place and graphically inferior. You will also find yourself performing mundane UAV reconnaissance missions. I can see why they have been included because the developer is trying and mix things up, but in the end they should have stuck to the high action flying missions. I don’t remember Maverick ever eavesdropping on bad guys in the desert. He was busy playing volleyball. Seriously, what was the deal with that part of the film? Volleyball? Was that meant to be cool?

You can’t play volleyball with your mates in this game, but it does feature drop-in, drop-out co-op play for the entire campaign. I did try to give this a go, but sat in the matchmaking lobby to no avail. I have heard that co-op works really well though and is one of the best aspects of the game. I can see how it would be more enjoyable with real people taking the place of the often unhelpful AI.

On a whole I feel that flight sims have always been a hard sell and H.A.W.X 2 is no different. The game seems to be uncomfortable in its own skin. Is it a flight sim, or is it an arcade shooter? There are some good moments to be had here but on a whole it lacks the polish and variety of many other games that have just hit the market. Maybe it was because it was developed in Romania, where there is probably not a lot of R&D money. Still it is under the Tom Clancy and Ubisoft banners, and maybe a little more time spent on some of the more intricate aspects of the game would have been worth persuing.

2.8 Shacks out of 5