Getting in the seat of a high-speed fighter jet is supposed to be a thrill, not a chore. Taking to the sky and engaging in dogfights has always been appealing to me. That is why it is such a disappointment that Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 takes a lot of the fun out of the whole experience thanks in part to frustrating level designs and poor A.I.
Taking a page from a Call of Duty style storytelling, the player is placed in the shoes of multiple pilots. The story here is quite flimsy and is just here as a placeholder for the action. It pretty much boils down to stopping nukes from being launched.
The atmosphere for the gameplay is actually quite entertaining. The soundtrack alone has the feel of old-school fighter jet movies. It has a very Top Gun feel to it all.
H.A.W.X 2 is to be praised for its presentation. The game does encompass nearly all things in the age of modern air warfare. Not only will you take control of numerous fighter jets, you will also take control of AC-130 gunship and UAVs. These inclusions try their best the breakup the kind of gameplay experienced here. Also when in fighter jets you get to get the full experience of them. You'll have to keep your jet at an optimal speed or it will go into a stall. You'll also have to land jets in certain occasions once the mission has concluded. When first presented with this, I immediately flashbacked to my days of playing Top Gun on the NES and got a feeling of dread. However, these instances are quite easy to breeze through.
Where the game starts to go into a nosedive is the actual fighter jet gameplay itself. Level designs can suck all the fun out of these high sky dogfights. A big majority of these missions tend to be protection details and they are quite sketchy. There was one extraordinarily frustrating mission where I had to protect a ground assault team and an AC-130 gunship. However, the gunship was so high up in the air; you could not see it so there is no real discerning of how much danger the gunship is in. Also, I never once say any of the enemies shoot up at where the gunship was suppose to be, so I have no idea what was attacking it. There was no consistency with these missions. Players are instructed to designate certain targets as high priority before they destroy the thing you are protecting, yet there were countless times where no matter how fast I destroyed all the targets, my objective would lose more than 50% of its health in a heartbeat and the remaining forces would quickly mop up the rest of the forces and I would fail the mission. If I decided to switch to the other targets, not only would I fail the mission, I would just fail it faster. The game fails to recognize that you are engaged in combat with these targets and there is no real strategy with some of these missions to prioritize targets. These kinds of missions were just infuriating and had me screaming at the screen at times.
A.I. downright just doesn't really work. The main set piece of this game is that you are a part of these elite squadrons of pilots. However, they seem really useless. They really don't help you with taking out bogeys. In the latter mission, it felt like an entire fighter squadron-on-one match as I was trying to line up shots while trying to avoid incoming missile fire. In these occasions my wingmen never took one shot. They just seemed to fly around behind them. There was one mission where you could designate your squadron to target bogeys, but it was just for that one mission. It made no sense to even put in the game if they were just going to quickly take it away from you.
Controls do feel quite trying at times. When in the air, the fighter jets can decently maneuver, however what really shows the faults of the controls is flying in constrained spaces. During the finale of the campaign there is a part that takes precision flying and the slightest maneuver will cause you to crash. There were even numerous times where I wouldn't even touch the controls and my plane just instantly went into a nosedive. This really showed that the controls were missing a way to lock in the altitude of your plane so you could do incredible stunts such as skidding real low over water or maintain a viable altitude to take out ground targets with greater efficiency. There does seem to be a threshold as to how low you can go. Once you reach it, no matter if you are trying to pull up just a little bit, the game recognizes it as the plane crashing. It is a flawed game mechanic.
Ubisoft really dropped the ball with this title. What should be an exciting fast-paced aerial combat game comes off more frustrating than anything because of its control issues, poor A.I, and just downright infuriating level designs.