To steal a sentiment from X360A's HAWX review last year, in my mind the only thing that HAWX needed was Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and the title would have been pretty perfect as far as air-combat shooters go. After hearing the song wasn’t in the sequel – seriously Ubisoft Romania, what the hell!? – you have to ask yourself how can they better it then? By putting in Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” you respond? Well, no, not exactly, and according to Ubisoft Romania who were on hand to show off the HAWX sequel at this year’s E3, it’s all about three things: creating real experiences; improving the dogfight; and bolstering the co-op experience. They could have just called me Maverick and I would have taken that as a respectable response to my question...
By creating real experiences, we don’t mean that Ubisoft are going to ship an F14 with the limited edition of the game – yes, I’m still in Top Gun mode, leave me alone – it’s about making you feel like more of the experience, rather than just starting you in the sky and pretending that’s where planes start from, and that pilots use 150 foot ladders to get into their cockpit. That essentially means HAWX 2 will bring take-offs and landings into the franchise for the first time, whether it be from military bases or aircraft carriers out on the seven seas. Taking off in all honesty looked relatively easy, but I somehow doubt that landing will be as easy – especially at night. The runways will be littered with military personnel giving you signals as well, to give that illusion that you are in fact a combat pilot. Even better is the news that if you’re playing in co-op, you’ll all take-off and land together, although that might get a little messy. Let’s hope there’s a checkpoint before you come into land otherwise I can see it detracting from the game rather than bolstering it.
The real experiences aspect doesn’t stop with take-offs and landings, it also means that you’ll partake in some mid-air refuelling as well which doesn’t involve pulling into a mid-air petrol station and getting food poisoning from the day old hotdogs they sell at the counter – unfortunately though, we didn’t get chance to see this in action... the mid-air fuelling that is. Throw is some precision bombings, and it’s clear that Ubisoft Romania are looking to give you a much richer and deeper experience.
It seems as if the attention to detail has been a focal point for the design team this year too, with the Producer pointing out that no longer will ships miraculously disappear this time around – they actually sink in a realistic fashion. The same goes for the planes as well, and you’ll actually see the falling debris of the planes as you pick them out the sky.
Set across nine regions, HAWX 2’s campaign is set to offer a ton of variety from one mission to the next, and with three factions to pick from – Russian, UK and American – you won’t be short of things to do. You’ll not only find action missions in the sequel that include persuading a group of plane hijackers to return the stolen planes that they’re attempting to escape with, but you’ll also get involved in espionage missions where you must perform surgical strikes. Throw in some dogfight missions, recon missions, gunship missions with the AC130, etc and you’re looking at a much more diverse game than the first one was in terms of mission structure – something that the Producer revealed was one of the biggest complaints. Thinking back though, HAWX 1 had a decent array of missions if I recall correctly anyway, but more diversity is always a good thing.
We’re told that Ubisoft Romania are looking to improve the dogfight in a few key ways as well, but in truth, it was more PR speak than actual concrete information. The Producer on hand noted that they are aiming to make the dogfights more involved, more up close and more personal... whether that means that you’ll be taking out your opposing number on man date the night before you look to obliterate one another, who knows? Somehow though, manicures and red wine doesn’t seem like the HAWX way. I will say this though, the AI seemed to have been tweaked somewhat, meaning that that if you’re looking for more of a challenge, then HAWX 2 may just give it you.
It’s not clear how Ubisoft Romania are going to bolster the co-op experience yet either, considering that the original had 4 player co-op with drop in, drop-out capabilities, but they did say that everything you can do in the single player, you can do in co-op... but again, if I recall correctly, that was the same for HAWX 1.
It’s interesting to see the direction that Ubisoft Romania are taking with the franchise which we came to love as an arcade style air-combat game. Making you take-off, land and refuel might be taking the franchise in a direction that steers it away from its pick up and play roots, but we’re all for change. I’m not saying it will be difficult to do any of those tasks, but it may take the limelight away from the intense combat that made the title a hit in our books. Other than that though, HAWX 2 seems to be looking at just giving us more of the same, which on some levels is fine by us. We are promised more variety in terms of missions though and listening to one of the Producers reel off the list of tasks in the first 5 or 6 missions, the fact that he didn’t repeat himself is a testament to how the title is shaping up. Plus, who can argue with the return of 4 player co-op dogfights, because once again we can take to the skies with two Gooses... or is that geese?
HAWX 2 is scheduled for a fall 2010 release.