STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 (Xbox 360)

Thursday, October 14, 2010.
by Randal Santia

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 Box art When I think of fighter jet combat games... I think of two things; dogfights and explosions. That?s exactly what H.A.W.X 2 delivers, and probably where it should have stopped.

Tom Clancy?s H.A.W.X 2 is the newly released ?Aerial Warfare? game from our friends over at Ubisoft. In it you?re thrust in the middle of a worldwide story of betray and covert operations in a Modern Warfare style of story telling where you?re hoping around into different scenarios and story lines which are supposed to come in a somewhat understandable fashion, and while it?s far from horrible, it comes up a little short. Further to the point, the cut-scene style methods are nothing to write home about, and feature some average cut scenes that aren?t distractingly bad to watch, but disappointing none the less.

Aside from that, you?re going to get what you expect. Some 20 missions that you have to work your way through that offer some variety to spice things up, but unfortunately the only ones that are fun, are the ones where you?re flying around a fighter jet. This game misses bad when it tries to steer away from what it?s good at in an attempt to keep it from being monotonous and dull by introducing missions that are exactly that. Controlling UAVs and marking objects or manning a mounted machine gun is pretty boring when all you want to be doing is blowing MIGs out of the sky! Some missions have you taking off and landing, and again while not horrible additions, it?s pretty simplistic, and come off feeling like tacky add-ons.

When it?s sticking to what it?s good at, H.A.W.X 2 does a pretty great job. The controls are as responsive and simplistic as you would want from an arcade air combat game, and don?t get you all tied up in something more geared towards fans of a simulators. Dogfighting is as awesome as you would expect it to be, and getting tone, and blowing the enemy in front of you out of the sky doesn?t get much more satisfying than this. You?ve got a wide variety of planes to fly in and work with, and while they aren?t drastically different from each other, it?s still fun to get a fresh coat of paint now and then right?

My only complaints in this aspect of the game are the really dodgy AI decisions and some downright horrific ground collision detection. The AI features some real inconsistency and ramps up from downright stupid to incredibly frustrating and annoying by the time you?ve finished the game. I had a few dogfights with one enemy go more than 8 minutes, and while some of it might have been my lack of skill, they did seem to be pulling out all the stops! On timed missions, spending all of your ammo and missiles on an enemy that drops flares faster than the Lions? receivers drop passes becomes very frustrating, and I?m not a fan of making missions difficult by introducing long and unnecessary chases that have little danger, and rely on a little too much luck to end them. The collision detection is pretty poor when you get near the ground or cliffs and makes the parts of the games that require a tight squeeze, kind of brutal. On more than a few occasions, I was pretty sure I had a ton of room, and the next thing I knew, Kablowie!

Multiplayer has some welcome changes from it?s predecessor. The game features a few different types of modes including on-the-fly ( pun intended! ) co-op where you can drop into a game, and then drop out to go grab a Snickers, as well as some all out team battle with up to 8 players fighting it out in the skies dogfighting it up! The co-op can be done in any of the game?s modes, campaign, single missions or straight up arcade mode shoot ?em up!

The game features a now familiar ?perks? system where you can level up and unlock new planes and abilities for your planes. It?s not exactly deep, but it gives you something to work on while you?re playing the game. Abilities include things like increasing the strength of your plane, or shortening missile lock time which can help you get the edge on your opponent before he drops the hammer and runs home to mommy!

The graphics and the sound of the game, are pretty spot on though I?ve got some complaints there too. When you?re flying high, everything looks great. The planes, the sky, the ground ( don?t stare too long or you?ll hit it! ), all look fantastic. It breaks down a bit when you get a closer look, but I?m sure that?s at the expense of better frame rate, and lets face it, it?s probably a good trade off. The previously mentioned cutscenes look ok, and they do the job of delivering the story. They?re far from award winning, but as I?m mentioned a few times, that?s not why we?re playing H.A.W.X.

The music and sound are pretty spot on. They did a great job of adding to the moment by ramping the music up or down, and the sound of weapon fire, or your enemy meeting his maker is awesome.

All in all H.A.W.X 2 delivers on what you expect from it, and falls short when it tries to mix things up. It?s still a very decent campaign despite it?s downfalls, but it definitely loses points on the replay scale as frustration, staleness and some weird quirks are going to keep you away from certain missions. It?s always fun to blow stuff out of the skies though, so it?s definitely worth checking out, and pick it up if you played and loved the first, because it?s still quality there.

The Way I See It. Try before you buy, at the very least you?ll have fun doing that!

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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