Jeff Markiewicz On November 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy franchises cover nearly every aspect of military operations. Some of these include Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and Splinter Cell. These franchises are nothing to joke about; they are top tier titles that have a history of delivering. But then EndWar and then H.A.W.X. were added to the stable and turned out less than stellar. They were still fun titles but nowhere near the level of the other Tom Clancy titles. Now H.A.W.X. 2 has flown in and the sector for this genre is still sparse, can the squadron at Ubisoft Romania finally have they breakthrough hit they’ve been seeking?

This is a sequel to H.A.W.X. 1 but the stories are completely different and don’t even seem to intersect. The first one had some grand clichéd story that was matched in predictability with its ridiculousness. But it was an entertaining ride nonetheless. This time around it still has the world implication but has definitely been toned down a bit and overall it helps the story. You play as several different pilots and see the events and major characters from different perspectives. Terrorist attacks all over the world have the NATO forces stretched thin and Russia is under political turmoil and are at the point of a Civil War. The fact that they just lost several nuclear weapons doesn’t help the situation. From here you can start to see the wheels churning and can predict what’s going on. Where this beats H.A.W.X. is with stronger characters and more interesting set pieces. Overall, its still a generic videogame story and is basic and hollow at its core but it’s good enough to keep you playing, even if you’re already predicting what happens next.

H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade flight title and despite its presentation of looking serious and hardcore, the gameplay is quite simple and easy to get into. The HUD of your aircraft has indicators and there are an array of sounds that let you know what is going on. When you lock onto a target, you’ll get a lock-on tone and the target reticule will be red. If you’re targeted the game lets you know with a similar tone and a camera of the incoming missile for you to avoid. A sharp turn right before it hits lets it go whizzing past you. In H.A.W.X. 1 one of the perks of assist off mode was this ability to pull crazy maneuvers but here you can handle avoidance quite well with assistance on. In fact, the game barely even tells you how to take assistance off and only those who played the first will use it. Just like sitting in the cockpit, it has its perks and disadvantages. The best part is that it lets you track your target much more easily. Unfortunately, especially in this mode and with the help of some poor AI, you will commonly find yourself spinning in circles trying to lock onto the tail of the plane that’s turning in the same circle trying to target your tail. When you start to think about what’s happening, it’s quite comical and a wrong tone for this title. The other gameplay feature that takes a backseat that was dominate in the first is the approach assist. If you had to get through a radar net or line yourself up to take down an enemy plane, this was a nice but lengthy tool. In H.A.W.X. 2 is only used for landings and refueling, two new additions to the franchise.

The major additions to the gameplay have nothing to do with the combat. They are in-air refueling, takeoff and landing. In-air refueling basically has you fly behind a plane and try to line up your nozzle to their hose. The game does this by gradually zooming in the camera on these two objects as you get closer. Takeoff has you navigating airports to the runway and then reaching a certain speed to take off. Finally landing requires you to slow your speed, lower your landing gear, line up your approach and then break to a stop. None of it is fun and sometimes borderlines on frustration. Typically the in-air refueling is timed so you’re trying to get it done or else you instantly fail. It doesn’t help that if you use the intercept course to line up your approach, it kills a significant portion of that time. Landing isn’t much better when if you undershoot the runway by a couple feet and instantly explode. Overall, it merely seems like the landing and takeoff portions were added for a couple cinematic moments in the story which just aren’t pulled off due to the blandness of the design not to mention can be frustrating even after you’ve done it several times.

The game has a full perk system that as you progress and level up, you spend on different skill trees. There are passive and active abilities to pick up. The passive abilities just keep piling up but the active ones have to be selected before flight and typically are online in nature. The other things these trees unlock are new airplanes. To add to the depth of this system, mastering each airplane unlocks further perks and weapon load outs for that plane. It’s nice and gives some weight to the leveling system but the issue is when you take it to the air with your friends.

The game switches up the gameplay a bit this time around. In addition to the typical flying and fighting aspects, there are UAV missions where you have to listen in on people conversations and silently tag buildings or vehicles. Some missions require you to escort ground vehicles or defend ground targets. They work relatively well and vary up the gameplay somewhat from what you’re used to. The other perk in how they’ve designed the missions is that they are over relatively quick. Rarely will one go for more than a half hour letting you get in and out quick as well as getting a dose of story in between to keep you going onto the next mission. The one issue that does exist in some missions are timed events and if you’re off miles away fighting enemy jets and through some scripted event or escort you’re needed to be elsewhere, it can force you to go back to a checkpoint or even repeating a mission entirely. In the end, the game is fun at its core but entirely forgettable. Some parts are frustrating and those end up being your strongest memories instead of what it really is, a decent but mediocre arcade flyer.

Online have the basic competitive modes like deathmatch and team deathmatch you come to expect from the genre but it also has some other nice modes. There are some assault and defend modes that have ground targets that you can eliminate for points as well as dealing with the enemy air. It adds a little spice to the game and lets you benefit your team other than getting shot down all the time. Cooperative play lets you go through the campaign with your friends. Considering the multitasking you have to do for some missions, it’s a nice addition just like the first. You can do quick match or custom similar to what you’d expect. The way planes are balanced though, it’s like a racer where some are definitely better than others. If you get to the end of a skill tree you’re almost guaranteed to receive a nice goodie. Now there doesn’t seem to be one particular best one and when you make your own load outs, the possibilities are large, but you’ll see most gravitating to the top planes. Overall online has potential but is held back my lack of community and some weird decisions. It can easily be anticipated that a game of this sort will unfortunately not have as many players as some larger franchises and decisions need to be made to compensate for that. But when you go to quick match, it doesn’t just pair you up with whom is online, you quick match based on the level and mode which means there will only be people available in the first option. Often you’ll find yourself playing one versus one, which makes you happy the game supports that. Then since you’re playing the same level over and over with few people, it just kills the decently crafted perk and leveling system.

Sometimes just flying around the world in third-person looking straight down at the top of your plane and the world underneath is simply beautiful. The airplane is well modeled and thanks to satellite imagery, the ground looks realistic. Shadows are realistically cast on the plane and air trails come out of the back. Other times when you’re in a dogfight in a narrow valley and just pop over the crest of a snowy mountain and dive back down the other side yields similarly good feelings. On the flip side when you’re on the ground is looks bland and simplistic, even during takeoffs and landings. Before a mission you’re shown the plane you’ll be using but no lighting is applied whatsoever which just makes it look boring and basic when you rotate it around. The first game had some epic fights near the end that paid off with their grand scale but with the time passage, doesn’t feel that great here. Overall it looks decent but not much has changed since the last time which just makes it feel old and bland at times. The added emphasis with taking off and landing definitely didn’t help.

A lot of the sound design is forgettable. The beeps and clicks of your plane do their job. Launching missiles and watching the enemy explode is alright. They aren’t particularly bad but there is nothing special about them. Even with the full 5.1 surround sound standing behind it, it’s not particularly impressive. The voice actors do their jobs relative well and convey the gravity of the situations nicely. The soundtrack is quite cliché, one aspect is stereotypical Russian music and the other has parts seemingly ripped out from the Terminator theme. Despite a lack of originality, it sounds good and has a nice additive effect to the game. There are some good aspects and some you’ll forget once you turn off the title, overall though, it does its job.

H.A.W.X 2 is suppose to sit in the middle of spectrum of fun and realism but doesn’t really succeed. Arcade fliers like Crimson Skies of last generation showed aerial combat can be a blast. The Ace Combat series is most similar to the title but over a long history, hasn’t managed to make a AAA hit. HAWX is struggling just the same. It took dominate gameplay features of its first title and threw them in the back seat and didn’t really add anything substantial in their place. It attempted to add takeoff and landing to the repertoire of this franchise and it just falls flat. It almost seems like they added them just to try to add some weight behind two moments in the game and since the feature is boring and frustrating, it’s hard to get into the moment when they happen. What H.A.W.X 2 does deliver on is a more toned down story which still has the global implications but just not as ridiculous as before. And the second thing it delivers on is a decent soundtrack. Sure it rips off Terminator and is entirely generic, it does it well. In the end, it’s hard to say that H.A.W.X. 2 comes close to Ubisoft’s other Tom Clancy franchises but it’s not a complete dud. I did have a little fun in between the boring and frustrating moments. The mission structure and story kept me pushing ahead through the game. If you want to head to this danger zone, a rental might be your best option.


Some of the charm and uniqueness has been stripped away and the elements introduced fall flat. The game is fun but forgettable. Leveling system is nice but since few are online, it’s hard to get into it. Story a notch above the first but still predictable and clichéd.


Satellite photography once again shines. If you’re close to the ground, especially during take-off and landing, it looks ugly but in the air it can look great. It still lacks the impact the first title had though and parts of the engine are starting to show their age.


The soundtrack is actually pretty good despite lacking originality and being cliché. Voice acting is decent and gets the job done.


H.A.W.X. 2 is somewhat fun at its core but is an entirely forgettable experience. Some parts are frustrating and those end up being your strongest memories instead of what it really is, a decent but mediocre arcade flyer.

Buy Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 online for the Xbox 360 from

Click here to buy Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. online for the Xbox 360 from

One Response

  1. SavyGamer says:

    Man, Ubisoft needs to work harder on this series.