If you’ve never had the opportunity to play a Tom Clancy-licensed title then approach H.A.W.X 2 expecting tonnes of over-the-top, world-on-the-brink action. Consequently, for any of you who have had experience with the series, H.A.W.X 2 does very little to alter the perception that the license isn’t going anywhere new, however much Ubisoft try to tell us otherwise. Bring each individual game into the wider picture however(anything from Ghost Recon to H.A.W.X and Rainbow Six have knowing nods to each other – indeed here the events of the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Solider play out below) what we are presented with is a robust and quality-laden experience that few can replicate.
Dipped in a good dollop of polish, H.A.W.X 2 is certainly one of the most impressive and entertaining flight combat-sims I’ve had the opportunity to play. While the game is insubstantial in setting itself apart from its predecessor (H.A.W.X was released early last year), if you’re new to the series then expect to be stuck to your seat in a g-force trance, because minor improvements to the weight of the game result in a much more well-rounded package. Ubisoft Romania have introduced taking-off and landing (ever nerve-tingling) whilst adding a number of missions away from aerial warfare that make it much easier to stay with the game for longer periods of time. Where the first was often tiresome for having huge bouts of play doing the same thing over and over again, H.A.W.X 2 can be considered an upgrade to the bodywork of the series, even if it never quite alleviates itself from the tag. The succinct flashes to the accurately modelled cockpits also manages to garner as much drama from pre-prescribed cut scenes that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible in the series’ default ‘follow’ cam.
Dropping you straight into the first-person cockpit view to taxi onto the runway, then pulling back on the throttle to engage the terrifyingly noisy engines of the jet, the developer manages to deliver a perfect introduction to the game, giving a good sense of being a part of the crew and dishing out the adrenaline-fuelled rush to the head on which H.A.W.X 2 is built.
Neatly implemented into the game through a ‘visual training’ exercise, the tutorial (set on our own fair shores of Scotland) does well to introduce the basics of flying, manoeuvring and combat that you will quickly need to grow accustomed to if you are to make it as a well trained fighter pilot. You are also introduced to the many types of ammo, the procedures needed behind ‘dog-fighting’, the use of flares to divert oncoming heat-seeking missiles (pressing down on the right thumb stick), the use of evasive manoeuvres to dodge projectiles, pitching, standardised flight controls and the ‘yaw’ mechanic to fine-tune. While that might sound demanding, the approach is paced moderately to allow the player to take in what it has in store before the next mechanic is introduced, resulting in a approachable (yet deep) control scheme. It’s when you become accustomed to the feeling of the jets that the game really comes into its own, when performing high-velocity barrel rolls and flicking between ammo types becomes second nature, like a maverick of the air. Yes, in addition to the electric guitar riffs from the thumping soundtrack coming at you through the speakers, the thoughts of Top Gun come to mind, sunglasses not included. The AI is also sure to garner compliments, developed beyond the cheap targets of the first; weaving, climbing in altitude and releasing flares to hinder your attacks in realistic ways.
H.A.W.X 2 is approachable for flight-sim rookies, shying away from the complexities that veterans of the genre might otherwise expect – although the highest difficulty setting with realistic damage is sure to test even the cockiest and assured fighter pilots! The addition of tangible assists, such as a guide to coming into land or the ‘yaw’ movement with ‘LB’ and ‘RB’ to make slight alterations to the craft’s heading, is also welcoming for those amongst you who might not yet feel at ease with the controls, despite the fact that the experience can suffer at times due to the often sickening rolls and disorientating camera movements that come with the territory.
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