The influence of Call Of Duty – specifically the first COD to sport the Modern Warfare moniker – should never be underestimated. We’ve seen titles come and go that have tried to emulate its perfectly formed multiplayer reward system and seen games attempt the overall presentation of the game itself to little success. The fantastic sales of COD have not gone unnoticed by the team behind Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X 2 and the first person shooter has had certain elements lifted from it to be included in this sequel to the 2009 flight combat title.
But this isn’t a wholesale rip-off, H.A.W.X hasn’t suddenly become an FPS with flight sim elements, players are once again asked to save the day from a looming international threat through shooting machine gun bullets and guided missiles into land, air and sea targets. More so than the previous title however, the narrative delivery has taken a leaf out of the Modern Warfare big book of near future warfare stories. Use of the first person to draw the player into the plot, extreme mid-mission objective changes, the action switching from hero to hero and side-to-side, plus the usual betrayals and twists you’ll see a mile coming; they’re all here and all handled just well enough by H.A.W.X as to not seem too derivative of the Activision juggernaut.
While COD4 (arguably) used these narrative techniques to effectively convey the horrors and confusion of combat, H.A.W.X is a lot more patriotic in its approach to war and never really questions if you’re fighting the good fight. If you’ve played a Tom Clancy game or read a Tom Clancy book before, you know what to expect; military lingo, worldwide conspiracies and technology porn, with macho men fighting for freedom using excessive force against an unbelievably well equipped enemy.
Once again utilising the impressive GeoEye tech to render the game’s landscapes, at times the title can look stunning, either in the close to the ground bombing runs or in the high altitude dog fights. Cities are dense with varied buildings and terrain, dust swirls off the runway when jets take to the skies and when flak cannons start firing the air lights up like a rather deadly Christmas tree. It’s disappointing that the cities themselves aren’t populated with civilians or enemy infantry men, but smaller units such as tanks and APCs are bountiful. The plane models though are a little jarring as, while they’re accurate and from a diverse range of craft, are a little bland up close.
While not ‘bland’ per se, the combat is largely unchanged from last year’s model, for better or worse. The unique Assistance Off mode hook of the original still doesn’t work too well, the camera angle is just a little too disconcerting during a heated battle, which makes control unwieldy, though the standard fighting is rock solid arcade combat fare. It’s little more than locking onto target craft with rockets for long enough to neutralise them, occasionally whipping out the guns in close quarters, but it’s visceral and satisfying and exactly what you’re looking for in a Tom Clancy game. Missions are strung together well with the previously mentioned narrative that’s just compelling and convincing enough to spur you on further, racking up the XP and levels that return from the first H.A.W.X. There’s a comprehensive multiplayer mode too which you might get a few air miles out of, but for me the single player is where it’s at.
Where H.A.W.X 2 borrows from COD it borrows intelligently, improving upon its predecessor in terms of style greatly. But its substance is the same and consequently the series doesn’t move the genre forward and will most likely not attract too many new players. With ties to the upcoming Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Tom Clancy die-hards will find a neat little title here and for those sick of Ace Combat but in need of a new flight-based shooter this is an excellent, albeit similar in quality, alternative.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 7/10
Platform: Xbox 360 (PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Windows) Release Date: 03/09/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X 2 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of seven days on an Xbox 360 Pro. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.