Platforms: PC | PS3 | X360 | Wii
Developer: Ubisoft Romania
Right, let's get this out of the way straight off of the bat...HAWX 2 is not a flight simulator. In much the same way as you wouldn't turn to Burnout for the ultimate, realistic driving experience, this game is most certainly not for fans of 'proper' sims. If you like your realism to be accurate, detailed and pedantic I'd turn away now. HAWX 2 is an action title that prefers to mix and match a little: an arcade game couched in the realistic wool of modern warfare and mapping engines.
As with the first game, not to mention the ever-popular and bizarrely numbered Ace Combat series, HAWX 2 attempts to find the middle ground between the arcade and the simulation. It is neither a game that comes bundled with a manual thicker than the Bible, nor is it a score-chasing button-masher that will give your a severe case of RSI, and because of all of this murky gene splicing it's aimed squarely at that most fictional of demographics 'the average gamer' - able to be picked up and played by damn near anyone with an interest.
Unfortunately, HAWX 2 appears to feel that your standard, high octane dogfighting where two squadrons of ace pilots duke it out for supremacy of the skies isn't good enough and that what the arcade combat flight sim genre really needs to do is diversify. Allow me to clarify, in terms of missions you'll be sent out on there's your standard fare of protection runs, running and gunning down tanks and missile pods, hitting enemy airstrips and taking down enemy fighters.
On top of that, though, you occasionally be forced to take control of a UAV or the sights of an AC-130. Now I wouldn't normally mind bringing the rain in serious style with a shell-spewing gunship, but you see in HAWX 2 it just serves to break up furious action with compulsory monotony. It's not even particularly meaningful either: All of your targets are pre-marked so there's absolutely no challenge or fun to any of these parts, like playing hide and seek against someone with a big spotlight above their heads. They're only really in place to push forward an instantly forgettable narrative where every sentence of dialogue is peppered with at least five references to 'insurgents'.
When you're flying around things don't get much better either. The environments haven't been pepped up since the last instalment and models aren't as detailed as you'll find in Namco's rival franchise. Furthermore, the actual mission objectives you'll received from the returning David Crenshaw are vague to say the least. You'll be pointed in a general direction and essentially left to your own devices. Finally, whilst you'll almost never get shot down yourself, your utterly inept wingmen will never cease to astound you with their ineptitude and protecting convoys is an exercise in futility. That meter might say 30% but you can bet your bottom dollar that it'll reduce to zero a second later without warning and you'll fail the mission.
Thankfully, HAWX 2 manages to assuage several of these discrepancies with two things: unlockables and multiplayer. Let's get the former out of the way first. Every time you fly, you'll earn yourself EXP which can be used to further your rank and attain higher positions. You can do this by just trucking on through the missions and ticking off objectives, but there are also a number of in-game challenges to whittle away at as well. With each rank you'll be able to spend points on upgrades, new planes, damage limitation and extra firepower, which is a nice touch that actually feeds back into the gaming experience.
But for all of its faults, HAWX 2 really comes alive with a friend. Whether working out tactics together in co-op or taking to skies in opposition over the Net, it brings a whole new dimension to the game. Co-op in particular suddenly becomes a far more enjoyable experience thanks to having someone on your side who can actually watch your back as opposed to spraying useless projectiles around without direction like a drunk at Oktoberfest.
Newbies might be a little offput by the online dogfighting. Easily the most fun aspect of the game, sadly you have to put the hours in playing the singleplayer modes and earning EXP to net yourself the better planes and weaponry. That said, fans of the genre will probably stick with it. If you can ignore it's curious foibles and desire to fit in with the modern warfare crowd, HAWX 2 does mark a fairly good middle ground between arcade play and a more realistic simulation. When all's said and done, there are a few thrilling moments to be had, especially if you take the game online, but those looking for a game to really make them feel like an aerial badass might be left disappointed.
- EXP challenges and unlockables encourage replayability
- Multiplayer is a blast
- When you actually get to do some dogfighting it's pretty enjoyable
- Weak UAV sections
- Useless wingmen
- Irritating hidden 'timed' section
The Short Version: Whilst HAWX 2 broadly succeeds in sitting in the middle of the arcade-simulator divide, the main bulk of the game is actually pretty short on the on the fun factor. In attempting to shoehorn in extra elements, not to mention crowbar a plot devoid of personality into the mix as well, HAWX 2 ends up something of a mess. Take t back to basics online, though, and aerial combat enthusiasts will find something to really engage in, even if they have to put the legwork in to get there.