I’m reasonably certain of the existence of a design doc which dictates the major nuances of every Tom Clancy-licensed game. Buried within the requisite lists of friendly, hostile, and turncoat countries, obligations to incorporate bleeding-edge military tech, and deliberately semi-plausible global conflicts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a requirement for a number of specific number of “hell, yeah” moments. Not only do these adrenaline bursts come often in the interactive Clancy universe- they come quick. Nearly every Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, and H.A.W.X. title offers a mercifully brief tutorial; within five minutes players are shooting or strangling antagonists in an effort to safeguard Lady Liberty.
Recent release Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 works best when it’s working within in these parameters. When players are flying multi-million dollar machines capable of raining a fiery death upon trifling troop transports and annihilating airborne antagonists with a single button press, the title is worth every penny of fifty dollar admission. Sadly, the title is held back by the inclusion of weapon-less surveillance sequences with only dilute H.A.W.X. 2‘s otherwise fiery delivery.
Following the multilayered mechanic popularized in the Call of Duty series, players alternative between American, English, and Russian pilots to both quell an insurgency in the Middle East and track the disappearance of some stolen nuclear weapons. As with most Clancy titles, dedication was devoted to meticulously creating the hardware and environments, while the humans models look and sound utilitarian. Like a Michael Bay film, you’ll want to focus your attention on the inanimate objects; the two-legged creatures are just a inconsequential impetus for all the captivating military fetishism.
A majority of H.A.W.X. 2‘s missions offer the requisite attack, protect and escort variants with a few noteworthy changes. Many missions are now punctuated by sequences which require players to taxi down runways, land on carrier decks, and even complete mid-air refuelings, giving the title a slight simulation feel. No longer are AI pilots oblivious to your missile launches- now foes try to deliberately evade your weaponry. Occasionally, opponents will employ flares to confuse your heat seeking missiles. Although this tactic forces players to become proficient with their cannons, it means rivals have infinite flares compared to your dozen.
Regrettably, friendly AI didn’t get the same boost in intelligence. Squad mates can be seen firing at opponents, with little success. Worse, units which you tasked to protect often head impetuously into obvious danger, requiring the maddening mission restart. H.A.W.X. 2’s solution is to invite up to three online teammates for some co-operative assistance. Coordinating a successful assault with a group of friendly jet jockeys is a rewarding experience, and one that pays in-game dividends. Earn enough high-flying experience in the main campaign, and you’ll be able to purchase the more lethal aircraft for the game’s competitive arenas. Unfortunately these perks and purchases create a bit of an imbalance, allowing veterans to dominate the antagonistic skies.
While the title’s multiplayer component may scare novices, it’s hardly H.A.W.X. 2’s largest blemish. When the title tries to mimic the pulse-pounding tension of a techno-thriller, it lurches waywardly. Several times during the main campaign, players are required to conduct audio surveillance on intel subjects with the use of a UAV. Typically, this means keeping a moving object in a box and sporadically dropping target beacons- hardly a compelling mechanic.
A handful of quibbles shouldn’t stop aircraft aficionados from deriving gratification in H.A.W.X. 2’s target-heavy, satellite procured landscapes. Although developer Ubisoft Romania has made a number of (mostly successful) changes to the original game, the title still adheres to the Tom Clancy framework. Allowing players to hop into the cockpit of a bleeding edge, super-sonic, death-dealer has rarely felt so visceral. Hopefully, a sequel will have players downing a few unarmed UAVs, thereby acknowledging H.A.W.X. 2’s blunder, and demonstrating that the thrill is in the kill.