Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 First Look PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 26, 2010
Ubisoft’s surprisingly fun aerial combat title Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. was the first flying game since the brilliant Crimson Skies for the original Xbox that I seriously played and enjoyed. This was primarily because I was tasked with reviewing it for X-Play last year, but I still had an absolute blast with the game even though it was forced upon me. So naturally, when I heard Ubisoft would be showing off H.A.W.X. 2 at their recent pre-E3 showcase, I found myself particularly excited to see how the game had evolved since the previous installment.
Unfortunately, Ubisoft only showed off a couple brief sections of various missions designed specifically to demonstrate some of the game’s new features. The first mission shown was actually the opening of the game, which establishes that, once again, the world is on the brink of nuclear annihilation and it is up to an elite squad of aerial gods to prevent that from happening. After a brief cinematic in which a military base is seen mobilizing to assess a suspected incoming threat, the game’s creative director took control of his high-tech metal bird, and proceeded to taxi, take off and engage.
Take offs and landings are one of the new additions to the game, and there will be a wide variety of scenarios that will require different approaches to both. For instance, landing on an airfield in the middle of the day won’t require as much focus and attention as, say, a midnight landing on an aircraft carrier. Not that there will be any “easy” landings, but the difficultly will vary depending on the situation.
Once in the air, the planes look and maneuver just as sharp as they did in the first game, only now with noticeable graphical improvements. One of the most notable graphical bumps is the new damage system, which causes planes to now splinter and explode appropriately when taken down. There’s nothing quite like catching some poor fool flush with a rocket and then flying through the fiery debris as the nose, tail and wings break apart and flutter away.
The terrain is once again stunningly detailed thanks to the game’s GeoEye satellite imaging technology. Only now, the ground doesn’t look quite as muddied and flat up close as it did in the first game, at least based on the few maps I saw. H.A.W.X. ran at a blistering pace, and from what I saw, H.A.W.X. 2 keeps this standard intact while inching the needle forward in key areas.
Another big improvement is the new A.I. system, which has been tweaked to give enemies a sense of self-preservation. So instead of simply getting in your way, they will fly and fight with purpose and determination. In fact, in the couple dogfights that were presented, there were several moments where the computer pulled off maneuvers that made them look like human players were behind them. Not only does this mean combat will require more focus and cunning on the player’s part, it also means dogfights will be more intimate and intense than ever before.
As you’d expect, the game features a host of gorgeously rendered planes and more high-powered weaponry than you’ll know what to do with. One of the coolest new weapons demoed is a new precision targeted bomb that comes in especially handy when collateral damage is simply not an option. It also plays into the game’s new stealth missions, in which you’ll control an unmanned UAV, tag targets and then jump into a plane and take out the marked targets under the cover of night. These stealth missions will surely provide a great chance of pace from the high-octane sky battling that will no doubt characterize the majority of the game.
I didn’t get to see nearly as much of H.A.W.X. 2 as I would have liked, especially since the game looks to be taking everything that made the first game approachable and engaging and just layering on improvement after improvement. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of the game at E3 in a few weeks, and I’m sure you’ll hear plenty more about it then.
H.A.W.X. 2 will be released this fall on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii.