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

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Sep 13, 2010

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 takes the arcade-simulation, impending World War III formula established in HAWX, adds a couple new features, and mostly flies by the numbers from start to finish. There are a few moments where you'll get in a groove and feel the need for speed, but these instances are a bit too infrequent, and the overall experience, unfortunately, suffers because of it.

The Pros
  • Large scale and frenzied dogfights
  • Clancy universe tie-ins still great
  • Co-op is the way to play
The Cons
  • Ally AI = Goose, enemy AI = Maverick
  • Multiplayer still lacks depth
  • Generic story and mission types

HAWX 2 Review:

In typical Tom Clancy fashion, HAWX 2 tells a tale of international intrigue, governments overturned by manufactured threats of nuclear annihilation, and the top gun pilots tasked with providing the aerial support needed to bring down the greatest threat the world has ever seen … you know, since the last Clancy game. Oh, and just to mix things up, this time, a rogue group of Russian military types are behind it.

While the story is certainly as generic as they come, on the plus side, as in the first game, it is fantastic crossing paths with other Clancy game units, like the advanced warfighters from Ghost Recon, or, in HAWX 2, a Russian operative who probably shared a locker with Splinter Cell: Conviction’s Kestrel.


Let’s (Dog)Fight!

HAWX 2’s story doesn’t push the series or the genre forward in any significant way, and neither does the combat. Like its predecessor, you’ll engage in a series of missions that will have you dogfighting, bombing ground targets, and marking targets during night runs for proper assaults in the morning. New to the sequel are Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare-style missions that break up the feverish, high-intensity air combat sections, but Modern Warfare did them better, and they end being more boring than tense here.

Assistance mode makes a return, once again letting you jump to a more cinematic camera angel from which you have increased mobility and the ability to make your plane to all sorts of unrealistic maneuvers in order to evade incoming missiles or get the jump on enemy planes. While assistance mode still adds something unique to the combat experience, the enemy AI this time around is so absurdly impeccable that it becomes something you’re constantly trying to exploit as opposed to a mechanic that you genuinely enjoy using because it’s fun.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that you’ll oftentimes be the only ally pilot in the air who feels compelled to fight. As such, most scenarios play out the same way, with you being constantly missile locked, flying in circles around enemy planes that are “too close” to fire missiles at, yet somehow they are able to lock onto you. This wouldn’t be such a problem if your allies, the same ones who are constantly reminding you of how many missiles are locked onto you, would lend a hand every now and then. Also, while I’m shaking my head, the game ends with one of the most infuriating sequences I’ve come across in a long time that does nothing but highlight the worst elements of the game’s controls.

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Cleared for Takeoff? Sure.

In terms of new features, HAWX 2 throws in takesoffs, landings, and mid-air refueling. The takeoffs are unnecessary, except for one instance later in the game where it’s actually used in a compelling way. However, the landings actually play a bigger part during the larger battle sequences, since you’ll have to land to repair your plane and restock up on ammo (except in co-op mode where it’s much easier to just crash and respawn with full health and ammo than actually land). It definitely adds some intensity to the battles as you have to decide whether to take on one more enemy or scramble back to base to recover. You only refuel a couple times, and, like the takeoffs, they don’t add anything substantial to the overall experience. 


Fly The Unfriendly Skies Together

Most of the frustrations found in the single-player portion of the game are alleviated in co-op. You can play the entire story with up to four players, or just take on individual missions. It’s amazing how much better of an experience it is to have other capable pilots flying alongside you. So much so, in fact, that it feels like the game is primarily intended to be a co-op game, which might end up surprising gamers looking for a solo flight.

The multiplayer is, once again, sadly underwhelming. Blasting friends out of the sky provides passing moments of enjoyment, but since the combat itself is fairly limited in terms of what you can do and what you’re tasked to do, it gets old fast. Unless you are a dogfighting addict, multiplayer will most likely provide an hour or so of decent gameplay and you won’t be playing it a few months down the road. 

 Coming In For A Landing

In terms of bridging the sim/arcade divide for flight games, the first HAWX was a solid first flyby, which is why I was hoping HAWX 2 would take that foundation and build something substantial on it. Instead, the sequel introduces a couple new throwaway features, tosses in a few Clancy references, and hits cruise control. If you liked the first game, you’ll probably enjoy the sequel, but chances are you’ll be left wanting so much more. I certainly was.