The world is on the edge of crisis. Insurgent attacks have been increasing worldwide. Three Russian nukes are missing. Who is going to save us? Who else? The US Air Force! H.A.W.X. 2 is finally here. I really enjoyed the first game, so I have been looking forward to playing this one. Sequels can really make or break a series. If it’s good you will have made fans for life that will continue to buy the series. If it’s bad you can also have people swear it off that quickly. So how does H.A.W.X. 2 fair? Let’s find out.
Ubisoft definitely worked on getting many more elements into this game so that you couldn’t say it’s the same game as H.A.W.X. one. You have multiple game modes including Story, Free Flight, Arcade, and Survival. Story and Free Flight are self-explanatory. Arcade allows you to replay missions from the story but with a difference in objectives. Sometimes the objectives are totally different. Survival puts you against hordes of enemy fighters. Your job is to survive.
Some missions will have you take off from the ground and then meet up with your squad in the air. If there is a base or Aircraft carrier in your mission you should be able to land there at any time to get patched up and restock on weapons. Taking off and landing is pretty simple, but trying to do that while there are a group of enemies in the skies will prove to be difficult. You will also find that missions can be a bit longer due to the fact that you can now land and restock. Several times I got to parts of a mission that I thought was the end, only to have them say land and restock so we can keep going.
You can get a bit more tactical in this HAWX. When you are dog fighting in areas you can take out things like radar towers, which will cripple your enemies targeting, take out aircraft carriers which will limit enemy reinforcements, or take out SAMs. Most of the time, you aren’t required to take these items out, but even if you are, they aren’t set as priority. You must prioritize them yourself and make the best call for you.
They have added new weapons, as well as making sure that you only use weapons for the appropriate targets. If you lock on a ground target you can’t use a HSM (Heat Seeking Missile), you have to switch to an AGM (Air to Ground Missile) for that target. They have added precision missiles which makes it much easier to hit ground targets. When you switch to precision missiles, you change to a camera under your plane and it allows you to designate targets for missiles to hit. There are also guided missiles where after you fire them your camera will switch to the missile and you can control where it goes. If you need to get the missile down fast you can also switch it to terminal speed which speeds it up in the direction you’re facing. They also kept popular weapons from the first game like cluster missiles that hit multiple targets and radar guided missiles.
In this game you need to be a bit smarter about using missiles. On more than one occasion I ran out of missiles and then had to rely on my cannon to take down enemies. One thing that can definitely make you run out of missiles fast is the fact that enemies now use flares to drop heat seekers off of them. At first I thought, “Great! This will be kinda cool.” That quickly turned to frustration when I realized that CPU enemies have unlimited flares. Not all enemies use them, but if you see an enemy use flares once, more than likely they will use them EVERY TIME YOU FIRE A MISSILE. So basically if I saw an enemy use flares I wouldn’t even try to use missiles anymore and just take him down with my cannon
In this game not only do you play as the H.A.W.X. squad, but you also play through pilots of the Russian and British Air Force. Depending on who you’re playing as will determine what planes you have access to. The stories start separate, but by the time you’re about 5-6 hours into the game they will begin to intertwine. As you play through the campaign you have a few different types of missions. Stealth bombing, escort, defense, and assault are the most common types of missions. A lot of the missions where you are assaulting, it’s primarily your job to keep the ground forces alive; so it’s more like defense in those cases. In some missions you also get to play as UAV’s. Most of these missions are boring and unneeded as all you do is use the UAV to track vehicles and try to listen in on conversations. I believe these missions are pretty much filler content to progress the story. In some missions though, you can use the UAV to set targets for missiles.
There are a few missions that are one of a kind. An example being a mission where you have to keep changing the frequency of your radar to track down helicopters that are jamming radar. There was another mission that comes to mind where you needed to escape from a Russian airfield. You start on the ground and need to take off. Only problem is there are Jeeps you need to avoid as they are shooting at you and other planes on the ground. Oh, I forgot to mention you have no weapons. Also, some missions give you options that you don’t get in others such as using night vision or being able to tell your squad where to attack. I like the missions where you can tell your wingmen where to attack because then they actually do something. Most of the time your wingmen are absolutely useless.
One thing they added that I definitely do not like is midair refueling. It feels totally pointless. Yes, you do get repaired and restocked…sometimes; but at those times where I have used midair refueling to do that, I really didn’t need to. Sometimes you are forced to do a midair refuel just to have the mission end directly after that. This is one change they didn’t need to make. They added challenges to each mission. Each challenge will give you XP toward your level, which allows you to unlock planes. The only problem with the challenges is that you really don’t know what they are until you complete them. A little goal notification or something would be nice.
I have to say that I am pretty disappointed with the visuals. The planes look good, as does the various landscapes that you fly over and effects coming off of the plane. The bad part comes in the detail. In the first H.A.W.X. there were no cut scenes, so you really never got up close to buildings, vehicles, and people. In this game you do, a lot; but there is no detail on the units. Up close, roads, buildings, vehicles, and even people look pretty bad. There was one cut scene were a truck was driving, but no one was driving the truck. When they show Ghosts getting air dropped they look like toy soldiers. Even the buildings around runways aren’t detailed. This leaves the game looking very bland. One of the things that bothered me the most was the lack of catapult on Aircraft Carriers. The track was there, but there was no interaction with it. I guess they just want you to use your imagination.
I also didn’t really like the vanity AA(Anti-Air) fire. Some levels there will be AA fire coming from buildings, but you can fly right through it with no effect to you. No to mention it didn’t look that great; they were just fuzzy yellow balls. There is AA fire that can hurt you, but my problem with that is a lot of the time there is no turret doing the firing. One example is on the level where you are escaping from a Russian airfield. You have to fly low through a mountain range. If you look at the source of the AA fire coming at you, it’s coming directly out of the mountains. This make the game look very cheap. Lastly in terms of visuals, the cut scenes look horrendous. Honestly, the cut scenes look like they are straight out of a PS2 game. They look fuzzy, have bad lip sync, and also don’t have a whole lot of detail. In terms of looks, Ubisoft really dropped the ball on this one.
Sound wise there are quite a few things they could have done better. Two things they did do well were the music and the voice work. The music gives you that 90’s movie type of feel. Sounds like something you would hear out of “The Rock” or “Independence Day”. I thought the voice work was done well. The only person who got on my nerves was the female H.A.W.X. member. This is only because she was a bit over emotional. Not in a crying, sobbing sort of way, but I kind of got tired of her saying, “There are people down there!” or “How could they do this!” I thought the sound effects were a bit lack luster. The sound of planes exploding could have been a bit louder instead of sounding like I was blowing up a meteor from missile command in surround sound. They did improve on the sound bullets make as they are shredding other planes though.
My biggest gripe with the sound is the warning sounds. The warning for incoming missiles is barely audible over the sound of a dog fight. This lead to getting hit by missiles I didn’t even realize were coming after me. The sound they used to warn you about a stall was louder than the incoming missile warning. I know that a window pops up when a missile is coming after you. But to be honest with you, when you’re in the middle of a hectic dog fight that window does nothing to draw your attention to it. I don’t even think there was a sound for when someone locked on to you. I never heard it if there is one.
If you played the original H.A.W.X. you may notice a difference in the controls. The controls are a bit tighter and take a little getting used to; but once you do I think they are better than the original. I think it makes it a bit easier to maneuver and dodge incoming missiles without going into OFF mode. For those that don’t know OFF mode allows you to do a bit more maneuvering than normal by taking the camera out farther and allowing you to center your flying around someone you have targeted.
Ubisoft expanded a bit on the multiplayer this time. You can do Team Battle, Coop Mission, Coop Story, Coop Survival, or Coop Arcade. There are also ranked matches and player matches. The difference is in ranked matches you are put against players of your same skill level and confined to specific rule sets, where in player matches you can adjust the rules as you see fit and anyone can play. In ranked match you also can only choose the rule preset and map before searching for a game. In terms of specific rule presets there is the regular match which gives you the same settings as the standard game, the Gun battle which gives you only gun cannons and less health, and hardcore which gives you less ammo, less health, and you are locked in the cockpit view. You can use these presets in player match as well, but you are not required to.
Each map in team battle has specific conditions. Open range has antennas on the ground that block radar and shoot at you, while in Tokyo’s last stand not only do you have the enemy team, but you have CPU enemies as well. I do like the fact that players can join a match while it’s in progress. This means you can start matches with only a few people and have it fill up later. I don’t like that there is no timer to keep matches moving while in the lobby. You have to wait for all players to ready up before the match continues. The thing I dislike the most about multiplayer was the lack of players. Doesn’t seem like H.A.W.X. 2 is getting a whole lot of multiplayer love. I had trouble finding ranked matches. Even when I searched for player matches, I couldn’t find that many.
Found a few bugs while I was playing. There is a level where you have to protect a transport plane, then a vehicle carrying friendlies. I was destroying enemy units when I noticed that they would appear in place even after destroyed. It took about 5-10 seconds for them to disappear off the screen. Sometimes I noticed the audio for the engines would cut out. One thing that made me extremely angry was the fact that my 360 froze in the middle of a mission. There has only been one other game where my 360 froze, and that was H.A.W.X. one. I don’t know if this one was a bug or not, but in one mission, I seriously dodged missiles for about 10 minutes straight. They just kept coming one after another. That was very frustrating as I couldn’t even get a chance to shoot down enemies.
Overall, I think this one was a swing and a miss for Ubisoft. All things considered it really felt like this game was put together by Ubisofts B team. Lack of detail, lackluster sound, empty multiplayer, and the fact that quite a few missions are just annoying and frustrating to play makes me say wait until this game hits the value pile at your local game store. While the game play of H.A.W.X. one wasn’t mind blowing, it was still good and mixed with the story it made it a great game. The story of this game isn’t nearly as compelling as the original. It’s a shame, I really had high hopes for this series.
*Images taken from Gameplanet