Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 review
Ubisoft’s latest Tom Clancy title, HAWX 2, is a flight combat game that utilizes futuristic technology, aircraft, and weaponry. The experience is not limited to its exciting dogfights – there are also missions that involve UAV recon and obliterating insurgents with an AC-130.
Obvious effort and care went into the plot, but the storyline is difficult to follow unless you enjoy watching military officials drone on about orders, terrorists, or doomsday scenarios. I applaud Ubisoft’s effort in blending this story arc with titles such as Splinter Cell: Conviction and Ghost Recon: Future Warfighter. On the other hand, splitting the story between multiple factions makes the plot difficult to follow, and HAWX 2 is guilty of this.
Regardless, the cinematic scenes and in-game cut-scenes are presented with an excellent score that sets the mood throughout the game. I definitely found myself more engaged as I tore through the campaign. It helps that the visuals use a nifty “GeoEye” satellite-imaging technology, so all of the environments look fantastic. The weapon effects, aircraft designs, and visual filters (night-vision, infrared) are also impressive. It was marvelous shooting the water with the AC-130's machine guns, making patterns and shapes with the infrared filter turned on.
The intuitive flight controls and user interface make playing HAWX 2 a breeze. It is simple to understand the HUD, which helps you avoid missiles, locate enemies, and monitor your speed. Even the take-off/landing sequences are not a pain in the ass, as I expected – I enjoyed the prep talks before each mission, and celebrating success with a graceful landing was rewarding.
HAWX 2 extends its replay value with PEC Challenges and Ubisoft’s “Uplink” service, similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction. There are multiplayer modes for Xbox Live/PSN, split-screen, and co-op. The single-player campaign features 15 missions, so having this extra bit of content is a nice bonus. Although the online multiplayer modes are not the most exciting features in the game, HAWX 2 has a decent community of players ready for action, so you won’t feel lonely searching for a match.
I was decently surprised by how much I enjoyed playing HAWX 2. Compared to recent flight combat games like Top Gun and Ace Combat, Ubisoft’s latest is an ace, but it could still learn a few tricks before HAWX 3 takes off in the future. For example, the new refueling sequences were a great idea, but they are too difficult to perform consistently. Also, one mission requires you to protect your naval allies from ground and air targets. I constantly had trouble switching between the different missiles to destroy the countless SAM sites and enemy fighters that continued to sink my allies with ease.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 proves that the series has what it takes to fly higher than most dogfighting games. I was satisfied far more often than I was frustrated, and though the plot could have been a little better, the intuitive HUD and smooth controls kept me playing without being overwhelmed. I always enjoyed Rogue Leader and Crimson Skies, but HAWX 2 is one of the genre’s best in recent years.