Aerial dogfights are supposed to be evocative of soaring birds of prey effortlessly diving and weaving through the sky, but Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 for the Wii flies more like a chicken than a majestic falcon. Like a chicken, HAWX 2 is ungainly in the air, and sluggish controls make it difficult to manoeuvre with the precision and speed you'd expect from the world's most advanced flying vehicles. Your opponents, too, don't act with the aggression or grace of raptors, flying around in mostly smooth, easy-to-track arcs that make most dogfights a dawdle to blast through. The best air combat games can elicit high-altitude thrills and white-knuckle tension, but HAWX 2's boring dogfights and poor controls mean it barely makes it off the ground.
It's not just the gameplay that has feet of lead; HAWX 2's story has all the finesse and subtlety of a cluster bomb but without any of the impact. You take the role of Cole "Arrow" Bowman, a young, hotshot pilot (is there any other kind?) working for a private mercenary air force with some decidedly murky motivations. Needless to say, Cole eventually finds himself flying for the eponymous HAWX squad and soon gets embroiled in a globe-threatening plot filled with double crosses, triple crosses, unresolved familial disputes, space lasers, and more. All of this, however, is conveyed in an extremely poor fashion: nearly all missions start with absolutely no explanation as to your objectives or how they fit into the overall narrative, and most of the cutscenes (which are presented through a series of watercolor-like stills) are laden with wooden, cliched dialogue. Even for a game with the aforementioned space lasers, HAWX 2's plot is hard to take seriously, and it's even more difficult to become invested in any of its cardboard cutout characters.
Things don't fare better when you're in the air. A Wii Remote and Nunchuk are required to play HAWX 2 (no other control variations, such as a Classic Controller, are supported). You use the nunchuk's thumbstick to fly your vehicle, and you directly target your foes onscreen with the remote. While you get to fly a variety of planes in HAWX 2--such as F-15s, Harriers, Mirages, various attack helicopters, and even a space shuttle--they're all uniformly unresponsive, making you feel like you're driving a cement truck rather than a nimble jet. The planes don't respond well when you need to make precise, tight manoeuvres, so even simple actions like following a friendly unit's gently curving flight path are difficult to achieve. This lack of finesse makes trench-run-like missions, where you have to guide your plane through tight confines, quite frustrating. While there's only one default view per vehicle, HAWX 2 does try to break things up by changing the viewing perspective you fly your plane from. The most common is a close view from behind the plane, but there are other perspectives, such as one where your plane is fixed on top of the screen (usually when you're flying a bomber), a cockpit view for helicopters, and even a zoomed-out, top-down view akin to a 2D shooter. This last view is particularly bad to fly in, because it's extremely tough to tell what height you're flying at, making crashes into mountain peaks a common occurrence.
It seems like your opponents in HAWX 2 suffer from the same movement malaise that you do, with most of them being little challenge to gun down. You won't see any tricky moves or tail-to-tail dogfighting--your opponents mainly fly in long, straight lines, only occasionally exhibiting complex or hard-to-track manoeuvres. Having your aiming tied to the remote makes the already easy combat even easier, because you don't even need to be facing your enemies to spray heavy machine gun fire at them. It looks even stranger onscreen--machine gun fire doesn't emanate from your plane's wings, but rather from behind as if an unseen wingman tracking your vehicle is doing the shooting for you.
There's only about six hours of gameplay in HAWX 2's single-player campaign, and there's little reason to play through the campaign more than once. The game does have a basic co-op multiplayer component, where a friend can join in with another remote and help out with shooting duties. This may be a neat feature for those wanting to share the experience with children, but because there's no difficulty spike when playing with a partner, there's no challenge at all. Playing a few single-player missions unlocks a top-down shoot-'em-up minigame, but since the plane controls here are even more sluggish than in the main game, it's not at all fun to play.
Rounding off this game's list of woes is its presentation. The game's world--from its skies and seas to its plains and mountains--are ill-defined and bland, so much so that it's sometimes tough to tell the difference between them. While the planes have a decent amount of detail, none of them sound realistic. The guns and various missiles you have at your disposal all sound like they'd be unable to blow a hole in paper, much less a heavily armed tank. The planes don't sound at all menacing, which is apt in its own way because HAWX 2 for the Wii certainly doesn't live up to the birds of prey its crack team of aerial aces are meant to invoke. HAWX 2 flops rather than soars and is a disappointing entry into this young franchise.