H.A.W.X. 2 (Wii) Review
One of the benefits of a top-notch franchise like Tom Clancy is the consistent popularity – anything with the Clancy name will garner at least a modicum of success, because people have come to recognize and trust the brand, for better or for worse. This allows developers to branch into riskier, more innovative ideas. In the case of the Splinter Cell series, these innovations paid off tremendously. In the case of HAWX, well… things haven’t exactly been rocketing skyward.
The original HAWX was a clever yet flawed effort to establish a high-concept, realistic flight simulation. This is always slippery ground, because people yearning for a good dogfight won’t always find their needs met by a hyper-realistic flight simulator. This sequel could have the potential to send things in a better direction. Unfortunately, Wii owners will not be able to make heads or tails of it.
Why is the Wii crowd left sitting in the launch bay? As you might guess, the problem lies in the fundamentally unique design of the console. The Wii version of HAWX 2 is nothing like the “true” version found on other platforms. Players use the nunchuk to pilot their vessel, while the Wii-mote serves as an independent aiming device for their weapon. This could make the experience more approachable for those Wii first-person shooter players (and perhaps that was the intention) but it feels awkward within the context of a flight game.
The brevity of each campaign mission helps break up some of the monotony, but it is no exaggeration to say these levels can be very short-lived. In some cases, they won’t last more than a few minutes. Variation only really appears in the form of alternate mechanics such as autopilot, and many of these are made even more disappointing by their need to be unlocked. For the most part, you are hovering through basic attack or defend style games. The game does very little to promote the hardcore, tactical realism that Clancy games were once known for.
Typically, the Clancy games do come fully backed by an assortment of strong sound effects, and this seems to be the case here as well. The mission-complete menu utilizes somewhat embarrassing vocal music; anyone who hears this playing from the other room would never guess you’re playing a Tom Clancy game. Graphically, HAWX 2 does the best it can with the Wii, which isn’t wildly impressive. What is interesting is the apparent decision to incorporate stylized cartoon characters, which might have worked out well enough, until we are once again reminded: Cartoon characters, really? In a Clancy game?
The game’s cinematics also utilize a hand painted, water color style of imagery. Think Company of Heroes, only simpler and less evocative. All these aesthetic components convey a distinctive, yet childish atmosphere to the game. While there’s nothing exactly wrong with them, they feel completely inappropriate for a Tom Clancy game. HAWX 2 feels like it was sugar-coated and mass-produced for a crowd on the Wii that was too young the play the “real” version. If this is the sort of treatment planned for future Clancy games, I would humbly suggest that the publishers reconsider their options.