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Customer Review

on 13 February 2014
[All the following refers to at highest, Medium difficulty settings for the game, possibly even slightly lower, I forget!]

1) You cannot complete some missions without playing through them at least once and working out which part of reality is being twisted, thus how to complete the mission according to the game's contrived algorithm, rather than how you would LOGICALLY go about it based on the information given to you, what you can see in advance of flying just 100m from it (too late then!) and the given weapons available etc.

2) Speaking of which, the game is so un-intuitive that it even gives you sudden new weapons or manoeuvres to perform, like precision bombing, which you haven't ever practised! Without telling you how they can and CAN'T be used, often. Annoying to get a 'Wrong Plane Position' message, or 'Target Too Close' message. OK, WTF are the distances, then? Sure it tells you ONCE, and you have to remember, from ten missions back!
Whilst counting-down a timer to give you pressure! Failing and repeating is inevitable - NOT the hallmark of a good game in the hands of a (reasonably) skilled player, is it? NOT rewarding, just tedious as others have mentioned. Most missions may not have these issues, but are STILL very often unintiutive to work out how to complete them in the ONE playing. Like you get in real life - no second chances. Any game worth a toss enables 'natural' gameplay like this, not repetitive 1980s-Arcade-style trial-and-error... you'd think things would have progressed, right?

3) All the above is made the worse by the poor control system. OK, I'm still new to PS3 (yes, in 2014!) but I've been playing games since 1985 at least. Poor controls are poor controls, and the finesse offered by the PS3 controller is limited for certain games (shooters, flight sims etc) but HAWX2 even manages to mess that up and make it worse than its potential! POOR. I got more used to it, but by that time had nearly-completed the game's Story Mode. Also as other posters have commented, the control system is limited by the game's own contrived way of handling the control input... HAWX on PC was a joy to play, even with the same issues mentioned in points 1 & 2 above. At least it didn't make it artificially hard ON TOP OF the limitations/mistakes made in the control system.

4) I'm 'Level 21' but never got any weapons upgrades or interesting planes - the F22 handles like a TRUCK compared to the venerable Mig29 (maybe the most realistic part of the game, as the Mig29 and especially the Su27 are manoeuvrable fighters indeed, as is the F22 but not via a Dualshock3 in HAWX2!) This made the game basically about hammering HSMs at fighters and hoping I had enough AGMs (forget using cannon to shoot ground targets due to over-speedy auto-throttle, slow-down when ANY transparency, smoke/explosions are happening at low-level and the controls' lack of precision).
I completed the game, sneered in disgust at the names in the credits, and went to play the Free Flight option. I got to choose from a Mig23 and something WORSE. Great. That's the reward for completing the game? Hmm why? Others have mentioned playing online gets you more... great, what if I'm using my PS3 as entertainment because I have no internet available, for example? Or... cynically driving players to PAY MORE for DLC and whatever the fishy-smelling Uplay from Ubisoft is...

5) AUTO-THROTTLE! Terrible! To fly slow and with precision (how else do you have time to visually-acquire targets that the game's rubbish targeting system fails to do for you?) you HAVE TO hold the BRAKE button down constantly, which leads inevitably to a stall - OR you have to worry about hitting it perfectly in combination to all the rest that is going on, whilst your poor fingers are ALSO having to control the joystick and you NEED to keep two fingers on the rudder buttons to achieve ANY level of accuracy.
Especially when trying to strafe and concentrate cannon fire on... ANYTHING. Which then requires the thumb to be over the 'O' /Circle Button. Meaning you cannot hold down Triangle to 'padlock-view' (lock the camera onto) the target at the same time - which is essential to such targeting in real life OR a game! Then, in addition, you can't see the target clearly for the targeting box around it... until you're close enough to accurately put rounds on target - but you're going too fast due to the auto-throttle, so without accurate controls/targeting to manage a quarter-second burst on-target - you inevitably overshoot and have to go around again (whilst getting hammered with missiles and flak / cannon). BAD GAMEPLAY, NOT REWARDING PROPER SKILL AND EXPERIENCE.

6) Enemy aircraft manage to pull-off ridiculous manoeuvres - even harder to beat than the 'Cobra' manouvre that exists in real life. They can turn 'on a dime', even the cumbersome Mig31s, and whilst this means they stay still in the same patch of airspace for a couple of seconds, you still can't get them with cannon for some reason. THEN they, in a sudden switch from you being on their six, are head-on to you, firing with cannon and HIT YOU. Funny how even if you expect this, after a few practise runs - it's still REALLY hard to hit them, even with a few rounds. Even when they are 'sitting still' for those couple of seconds in mid-air. NOT realistic, for whatever reason. Probably the control/speed/targeting issues.

7) CONTRIVED A.I. and 'assistance' from the game. I'm not talking about the A.I. 'actors' like your wingmen and ground allies... which have been commented upon as being really worthless and unrealistic, never shooting more than 1/100 enemies in a mission. NO, I'm talking about the fact that the whole difficulty of shooting enemies suddenly changes, based on some unknown 'challenge' the game decided to put you on in the middle of a mission!
Suddenly, once the 'challenge' is over, the planes become FAR, FAR EASIER TO SHOOT. This is so ridiculously unbalanced that it spoils the game more than anything else! Artificially-contrived suddenly-on/off hard difficulty, instead of a SMOOTH learning-curve. I could deal with a harshly-steep learning curve that pays-off, but where's the pay-off here?
Maybe the game saw I was struggling and ramped-down the difficulty for me and your experience may vary - but it was so clunky in any case! No game is any fun with this kind of clunky learning curve and contrived obstacles to learning the game's dynamics, is it?

There's no satisfaction in being brutally shot with 30 missiles per minute, that track you really well at times, even if you flip to 170 degrees or more at the last second - whilst YOUR missiles miss unless there's a perfect line-up on the enemy's six and they - suddenly, in this contrived manner - stay still. Whilst the enemy aircraft seem to have many more flares than you do... Then if the game is satisfied that you're masochist-enough to have somehow gotten through this, suddenly it makes every enemy aircraft a sitting duck in comparison.

8) Not specific to this game but related to the control issues:
Why doesn't PS3 and all games developed for it (and the XBoxes should do the same) FOLLOW CLASS-COMPLIANT WINDOWS/DIRECTX JOYSTICK STANDARDS? That way, people can buy a good joystick and at least TRY to use it on their other systems, which the games should be able to support with little impact to gameplay (especially if the controls are far-from-perfect anyway). Whilst the developers can save time if they're familiar with DirectX Joystick protocols... Oh yeah, Sony wants their control and their $ cut, for licensing and such, right? That would be cool if it made for a high degree of integrity for the gaming experience, but DOES IT? On the evidence of this game as one of the leading titles, no it doesn't.
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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