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Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 - hands-on

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We rather liked the original Tom Clancy’s HAWX, what with its deft mixture of arcade and sim elements that allowed the player to customize the experience to fit desired levels of hardcore-ness. Our recent hands-on with HAWX 2 revealed that we’ll definitely be getting more of the same, but with a few doohickeys sprinkled on. We played through four complete missions, and each one provided a unique hook that made it stand out from the others.


Above: The A10 Warthog has always been a favorite of ours, ever since the UN Squadron days. Of course, we had to fly it under that bridge

First up is the introductory mission called Contact, which starts things off with the newest HAWX feature – taking off. Sure, it doesn’t revolutionize the gameplay, but it is a nice added experience that makes the whole journey feel more real. It’s fun to taxi along the runway and wait for clearance before surging across the tarmac and roaring up off the Earth. This first mission also builds anticipation well – initially your job is to conduct recon against suspicious vehicle movements. You’re expecting to start raining hell right away, but instead come across several false alarms, which again takes the gaminess away and makes it feel more realistic. We won’t spoil what happens later in the mission, as it takes an unexpected turn.

Next we take on the role of a Russian pilot moving to intercept a fleet of stolen bombers. Alongside fellow squadron members, we take part in an absolutely huge air battle, with dozens of fighters and bombers weaving in and out of a veritable hurricane of bullets and missiles. After taking down the enemy craft, we then are ordered to finish off remaining bombers that are far off – which will require in-air refueling. We turn on the pilot assist system, which seems oddly to work against us rather than for us. It takes forever to follow the designated path to the refueling tankers, but we assume we can trust the system to know something we don’t. We’re not so sure, because we get there literally with twenty seconds remaining, and then guide the touchy nozzle into the tanker’s hose-cone with mere seconds left.


Above: Sometimes, one missile just isn't enough

With a fully belly, it’s on the final part of the mission. Here, more fighters and bombers are attacking a base in snowy mountains. We switch to the distant third-person view and proceed to dogfight at low altitude, almost scraping across the rocky peaks. It’s not easy taking down the enemy here – they take sharp evasive turns and constantly spit flares to throw off our missiles. A combination of rapid missile barrages and peppering cannon fire finish of these squirrely bogeys.

The third mission launches us from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and here the take-off contrasts with that of the ground-base from the first mission. The launching is neck-breakingly fast thanks to the catapult system, hurling us off the deck in barely a second. This mission tasks us with re-taking a small city of interconnected oil rigs. We have to deal with radar towers, SAM launchers, naval destroyers, and other fighters. Here, swapping between air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles must be done constantly.

After taking down half the enemy forces, we’re given the suggestion to return to the aircraft carrier, land, and reload our weapons. We don’t seem too low on ammo, but decide to try it out. We switch on the guidance system, and again, it seems more of a hindrance than a help. Since the system must build a pathway on the spot that guides you to a safe landing, it devises a bizarre, convoluted trail that sends you banking all over the place in an attempt to line you up perfectly for an easy landing. We’re betting it’s easier just to line yourself up roughly to your landing point first before turning on the guidance system.


Above: Swooping close to the oil rig towers is just too tempting to pass up

Of course, after weaving all over the ocean and finally approaching the deck, we explode instantly when we land. Whoops – looks like we didn’t notice the text in the lower left corner of the screen informing us how to lower our landing gear. Strangely, when we respawn, we have tons of ammo and so don’t need to land to finish the mission. We do manage to explode again – although this time because we weaved too close to a tower on an oil rig.

The final mission takes us on a night bombing run in a distinctly fighter-looking craft that uses guided smart bombs. We take off from the aircraft carrier, flip on our night vision, and head for the coast. We have to stay above 5000m in order to avoid anti-aircraft fire, although this just provides immunity – we tested it out and dropping below the designated height did not result in instant death. Anyway, switching to the precision bombing view locks your craft into autopilot and gives you a nice top-down perspective. In order to take out the enemy ships, it takes pixel-perfect aim, but with plenty of bombs available it’s easy. In a nice touch, the bombs visibly curve in their flight paths as their computers guide them to their targets.

Finally, enemy HELOs come after us once we’ve caused enough havoc, and since this time we’re not equipped with any missiles, we must use guns to take them out, and this also requires entering the anti-air danger zone. This proves surprisingly easy even if we take some damage. The last part of the mission sees three enemy trucks racing in opposite directions away from the city’s heart. We shoot back up to the flight ceiling and swap to bombs… only to find we don’t have clearance to fire because the risk of civilian casualties is too great. Not only is it a realistic touch, it also means we have to swoop low and take them out with strafing runs with our cannons.


Above: Your squadron buddies certainly aren't useless. In fact, we caught them stealing our kills numerous times

With the enemy properly vaporized, we fly home, this time remembering to lower our landing gear first. Looking back on the four missions, the diversity of gameplay can’t be argued. Does the sequel play it safe by not pushing the envelope? Perhaps. The additions it does have all seem to contribute positively to the complete package, even if the assisted piloting for refueling and landing seems a bit wonky. Will the game set the flight genre world on laser-guided fire? Not likely, but it looks like it will satisfy fans of the original HAWX, especially if it can maintain the gameplay diversity through all of its missions.

Aug 5, 2010

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10 comments

  • cali420king - October 14, 2010 4:57 p.m.

    oh, the plane menu is extensive. lots of goodies. but even in replay mission custom, it only lets you use certain planes. the whole menu is not available. I can understand that on carrier based planes. those should be limited to planes that are rated for it like FA-18, tomcat, harrier (which does not have hover mode btw.), but I cant see why the menu is limited for land based take off. I would also have liked every mission to require take off and land to complete. in aces high, you didnt get your kills scored until you landed. lol am I a flight sim snob?
  • cali420king - October 14, 2010 4:53 p.m.

    this game is only ok as far as feature usage for single player. after you have completed the entire game, you still have a long way to go to unlock planes, skins, armor,missle range increase,weapons packs and all kinds of other cool stuff. but when you go into the hangar to change weapons packs, it lets you do it, save the config, but wont let you use that set up on mission replay. so basicly, its only available to do that if you are live. also, I have found many glitches in the game that should have been picked up by the testers. portions of sound go out like radar lock and firing sound, while explosions and enemy hits on your plane will still be going. also, there is a glitch that after you hit 35-40k feet, cockpit view will suddenly open up to third person view, and then back again while dog fighting. the controler configurations are terrible and no real way to reconfigure to make it better for you. I find my hands getting really sore after a couple of hours. the game missions are plenty fun and graphics are pretty good as well. makes my wife air sick to watch me fly. some of them are really difficult even in recruit mode, and if you are a great digitla pilot. couple of times I wondered how the game designers expect anyone to play and win. the realism has in's and out's. the final battle of the game you fly an F-22 Raptor through a really long, narrow tunnel, would never happen in the real world so it loses me there. targets and weapons are fun and realistic looking and so are the land scapes. however, some of the missions are hard for the only reason that the low light or dark missions its really hard to see. even with night vision on. also, the dash board and HUD is nearly non existent, as well not very usefull the way its set up. flying aces high II online, I have gotten to relying on the dashboard for speed, level, alt, yawl and so on. all in all, I give this game about a 5 on the 1/10 scale. sega dreamcast had a game called aerowings and aerowings II that offered a very unique cinima style replay of your flight and combat. you could let the game change camera angles for you, or you could do you own edit down of your flight. it also required flaps, gear, speed control that was fixed and easy controler usage. I was disappointed that this game didnt offer anything like that.
  • allthegoodnameswheretaken - August 6, 2010 6:25 p.m.

    So what you're saying is the A10 and F-117 are confirmed?
  • Cwf2008 - August 6, 2010 3:45 a.m.

    The A-10 is a damn sexy plane in real life too :D...but this looks a lot better than HAWX 1 and i like that game...hmm might get it.
  • civver - August 6, 2010 12:07 a.m.

    Taking off and refueling seem more arduous than fun. The carrier take-off sounds neat though. And the other stuff might be good.
  • MailMan - August 5, 2010 11:05 p.m.

    unless a new ace combat is announced soon, i might just cross the street, this dont look too bad
  • Helios - August 5, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    I really liked the first one. It frustrated me more than a few times, but it was still fun. This one looks like it will be just as good as the first, if not better. One can always hope.
  • Baron164 - August 5, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    I will definitely be picking this up eventually. I loved the original but they picked a crappy launch date. Come on, Halo Reach comes out shortly after this and I unfortunately can only pick up one of them in September. So I'll have to wait a few months before I can fly under bridges and buzz some aircraft control towers and get catapulted off an aircraft carrier.
  • sixboxes - August 5, 2010 9:09 p.m.

    This comment - "The A10 Warthog has always been a favorite of ours, ever since the UN Squadron days." - made my day. I felt the exact same way about the A10 in UN Squadron and since.
  • TruckThunders - August 5, 2010 9:07 p.m.

    Nice to hear they've added a lot of new features to the game. The first game was fun, but felt very basic without and landing/talkoff sections. If they've fixed the cockpit view and made the achievements fun, I'll probably pick this up.

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