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Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 Wii somehow renders the Clancy brand utterly inoffensive with a bland take on aerial warfare.
It's not uncommon for the versions of multi-format titles released on the Nintendo platforms to be significantly different from those released on 360 and PS3, and indeed this is a totally different HAWX 2 from the other versions.
As well as being a simpler experience aimed at a potentially younger audience, HAWX 2 has a different story set between the two 360/PS3/PC games and telling a side-story about the hilariously named fighter pilot Cole 'Arrow' Bowman. It's a straightforward aerial combat game where you control Cole's plane as he dogfights enemies and blows up ground targets.
Cole's a mercenary, flying fighters for DDI, a private military contractor in a near-future where PMCs are bigger than ever. Over the initial missions, Cole begins to develop qualms about the life of a hired killer, reservations that will lead to him transferring to the HAWX.
While this is a laudable instinct, the game is so cagey about exactly who the DDI pilots are actually fighting that it's almost impossible to judge whether switching sides to the HAWX is a morally sound move or not. They're just the 'enemy', a series of planes and other vehicles devoid of any context. There's little human context beyond radio chatter between pilots, and events on the ground are abstract.
We see little of the characters outside their planes.
Come to think of it, the ground is pretty abstract too. HAWX 2 uses something called 'GeoEye', which creates landscapes from satellite imagery of the real world. While this looks fairly OK from high up, get too close to the ground and, real-life sources or not, the world below looks like a smudgy smear of polygons. While flying over the sea it's easy to not realise you've come out of a barrel roll upside down - one blue blur is the same as the other.
Although the plane controls are effective enough, and thankfully avoid use of the Wii-mote's unreliable tilt controls in favour of the nunchuk, a lot of HAWX 2 feels stripped down. Shootouts are simplistic affairs, and conducted over irrelevant patches of blurry scenery. In-game dialogue repeats itself with depressing speed.
I expected to be offended by the Clancy-verse's jingoistic militarism, but HAWX 2 is just too bland.
We see little of the characters outside their planes. They're represented during the action by comic-book style illustrated headshots. Cut-scenes set in the air use the main game engine, but those showing the characters out of their vehicles aren't fully animated, instead using still, watery paintings in what may be supposed to be a stylised comic-book effect, but instead looks like someone scanned in the storyboards for the cut-scenes and threw some basic animation effects at them rather than rendering them properly.
Even by the standards of Wii ports, this is unappetisingly cheapskate stuff. The core flying mechanics are fine, but the story is thin and the gameplay simplistic. I half expected to be offended by the Clancy-verse's jingoistic militarism, but HAWX 2 is just too bland to even get annoyed by - unless you paid for it, of course.
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