HAWX 2 SP, MP & Co-Op Hands-On Preview - Top Fun
Written Thursday, July 29, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Dear internet, I solemnly swear and hereby promise not to make any Top Gun references throughout this HAWX 2 hands-on preview, but do take into consideration that I am writing this piece with the Top Gun soundtrack blaring out my speakers. If I do make reference to said franchise, you have the permission to forcibly insert the jet engine of a Harrier Jump Jet into my anus.
Anyway, after having checked out HAWX 2 at E3 last month, we recently headed to an airfield just outside London and got holed up in an aircraft hangar to have an extensive hands-on with the latest instalment in the series. With 4 missions, a smidgen of co-op and even a quick blast on the multiplayer, it’s clear that HAWX 2 is shaping up to be more of the same and if dogfights are your thing, then HAWX 2 surely won’t disappoint.
It’s abundantly clear that with HAWX 2, Ubisoft Romania are looking to create a more cinematic experience, and the new-to-the-franchise cutscenes will look to give players a reason to take to the skies, other than to blow shit up. With three separate factions each with their own specific missions – and each with their own particularly authentic original score – that make up the game’s campaign, you’ll no doubt be treated to the usual Tom Clancy-esque conspiracies that have pretty much been a staple in the series from day one.
The action kicked off on ground level within the confines of a military base that’s rich with life and activity. On the short taxi trip to the runway alone, we pass radio towers, choppers taking to the skies and a large fuel plane that lands on the strip we’re about to use to propel ourselves into the skies. After being given the go-ahead, it’s time to take-off on a routine patrol and recon mission. Take-offs in HAWX 2 are as simple as Jessica Simpson; one button to start the engine, the trigger to accelerate and then when you reach around 260 kph, pull back on the analogue stick. It really is that easy. Incidentally, landing the plane is just as simple, and aside from deploying the landing gear and slowing the plane down, the only thing you need to worry about is the trajectory of the plane – obviously, if you’re coming in at too steep a decline, you’ll nosedive onto the runway, which probably isn’t the greatest idea.
The mission, known as “Contact” in the preview build, required that we fly from point-to-point to investigate the presence of a suspicious convoy. It’s your basic flying tutorial disguised as a mission, but it’s not long before Ubisoft Romania throw some action our way. After stumbling onto the convoy and discovering they were indeed hostile forces, we were instructed to use a couple of our limited supply of precision bombs to take it out, but it’s not long before you realise that the resistance in the area is a bit more than a few military Humvees. Using what we had left of the precision bombs and our fairly limited supply of rocket pods, it was our job to completely obliterate them. And that we did.
The controls in HAWX 2 are as they were in the original; with the double tap on the right trigger flicking the Assistance-Off mode on and off, the Y button changing targets, etc, although it should be noted that adopting to use the ERS (Enhanced Reality System) in the dogfight is no longer an option, with the studio opting to save it for choice situations only. The only notable annoyance was that to change perspectives from inside the cockpit to a third person view, you now have to do that in the pause menu, which is a far cry from the click on the right stick from the original – whether that’ll be changed for the final game remains to be seen, as the Ubi reps were as baffled as me as to its non-inclusion.
Moving from the decimation of ground targets to the air, the second mission took the action back to the skies and although Ubisoft Romania are keen to stress the dogfights are more “personal” in HAWX 2, anyone who played the first game for a good period of time will tell you that the difference is minimal at best. Still, fans of the original will be glad to hear that the combat is just as fast and intense as it was before, and veterans will be locking on air brakes whilst in the Assistance Off mode to perform some advanced manoeuvres and picking SU-24s out the sky in no time whatsoever. Funnily enough, that was the premise for the second mission; to take down a squadron of hijacked planes and their accompanying fighter jets.
About midway through the second mission, “Interception Course,” we got our first chance to sample the new mid-air refuelling, and truth be told, it was a little fiddly and underwhelming to say the least. After carefully hitting the trailing ring behind the large fuel plane, it was our job to pull up behind the plane and insert the plane’s fuel nozzle into the fuel plane’s trailing funnel on its right wing. It’s worlds apart from the usual fast and frenetic gameplay. Not only do you have to control the plane’s speed to get behind the fast moving fuel plane, but then you also have to line-up the two nozzles. Ever tried getting your house key into the front door when you’re plastered? That right there is the mid-air refuelling in a nutshell.
The third mission we went hands-on with, painted Ubisoft Romania’s sign of intent, and that’s to mix the gameplay up from one mission to the next. In “Oil Rig,” the HAWX squadron are tasked with the protection of a... wait for it... an oil rig! Taking off from an aircraft carrier, the squadron are ordered to destroy some heavily fortified rigs, whilst protecting a local fleet from a barrage of missile attacks. Other than having our first chance to land a plane – we did it with surprising ease if you must know – we also had chance to use the new ground missiles, which make attacking ground targets that much easier. Rather than just diving down at them from a great height which was the case in HAWX 1, the ground missiles follow an upward trajectory to begin with, before almost dropping vertically when above the target; a simple, but deadly effective addition.
The fourth mission, which we played in 4 player co-op, was both a joy and a chore all rolled into one, and while we didn’t get time to complete the whole mission, it’s definitely apparent that the 4 player co-op is as much of a draw now as it was last year. Why was it a chore you ask? Well that’s simple, and that’s because in our mission to sink a fleet of tankers that cruised around the map’s coastline with a bevy of precision bombs, we were constantly bombing the same targets, wasting valuable ammo and generally showing those brave air force pilots out there, how not to do it. However, that wasn’t the game’s fault; I blame the deafening roar of the planes that circled the hangar we were holed up in. That, and a distinct lack of communication. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a lone wolf in all honesty, a bit like... oh wait, I said I wouldn’t reference that...
The multiplayer on the other hand isn’t as familiar as the rest of the HAWX 2 experience, and with the inclusion of ground based units vying for your attention, it adds another dimension to the proceedings. Not only do you have to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing, but also what the ground units are doing. This can mean any number of gun emplacements, AA guns, tanks, etc, can be pinging missiles galore at you while you’re trying to take down your foes. Of course, your opponents have the same obstacles to overcome, so concentrating on the ground units first may free your aerial combat up, but you could also ping your opponents while they concentrate on doing what you were just considering. One thing is for certain, whether you’re shooting down enemy units on the ground or enemy planes in the sky, you’re still earning XP for your overarching career. The multiplayer in general though is more like a game of chess than the original ever was; which in essence was an arena that saw me constantly spawn and then die, for hours on end. Not fun. The sequel though, could make for some much more interesting and engaging tactical battles, which is most definitely a welcome addition.
More of the same seems to be the mantra for Ubisoft’s latest instalment in the HAWX franchise, which as it stands, isn’t such a bad thing – we loved the original after all. The take-off and landings – especially in co-op – do actually enhance the experience somewhat and there is something so empowering about rolling through the airbase and seeing choppers take-off and fuel planes land as you prepare to take the skies. That being said, I’m yet to be convinced that mid-air refuelling is a worthy addition and with its temperamental and finicky controls, it just seems so out of place when HAWX 2’s emphasis is obviously on its arcade and fast paced fighter plane combat. If you didn’t like the first, I’m not sure the sequel is doing enough different to persuade you to part with your cash, but fans of the original better set some time aside this September to don the aviators once again.
TOP GUN! Phew!
HAWX 2 is scheduled for a September 3rd release in Europe.