WHEN IT COMES TO FLIGHT COMBAT GAMES they generally fall into one of two catagories: either arcade games or full simulator. The former forgoes realism and even physics for fast-paced, guns-blazing action, while the latter can require hours of tutorials and practice just to get off the runway. Both HAWX titles fall into the former category. For those who played the fi rst game there are several major changes across the sequel, both for better and worse. The physics have been overhauled and planes now display more aerodynamic physics. Gun combat, which was largely superfl uous in the fi rst game, has become a much more important aspect of dogfi ghting, and you can no longer fi re missiles at extremely short ranges. The annoying all-aspect missiles from the fi rst game (which could fi re at enemies from almost any direction) were the bane of multiplayer matches in the fi rst game, and thankfully don’t appear in the sequel. Also in multiplayer, the new "hardcore" mode caters for the more advanced players by restricting pilots to the cockpit view and outfi tting the plane with a realistically limited armament. HAWX 2 also features an interesting XP system with several different unlock specialty paths to gain different aircraft and special abilities. Each aircraft also gains XP when you use it, unlocking ability increases, new skins, and customisable weapon loadouts. On the downside, the storyline is, in short, terrible. It attempts to inject variety into the campaign by including Call of Duty-style set pieces like controlling the guns on a C130 gunship, or controlling a UAV on a hovering espionage mission. These missions, while not bad in their own right, don’t feel like a good fi t compared to the unshackled aerial acrobatics of the rest of the game. Instead they can come across constricted and linear. The story itself is never really engaging or believable, and the split focus over three air forces comes across as disjointed.
One of the enjoyable aspects of the fi rst HAWX was replaying the campaign with friends over multiplayer and unlocking new aircraft to use as you gained in level. The fi rst time through, the default aircraft might have been the only one available to you. However, on a later playthrough you might have several more advanced aircraft unlocked to choose from. You would often have players choosing aircraft and armaments that complement each other; one might take a ground attack aircraft loaded with bombs, the other might choose a nimble fi ghter to keep the bogies off their wingman’s back. In HAWX 2, the campaign forces the player to play with set aircraft and armaments, the lack of options feeling like a step backwards from its predecessor. While you can "replay" a single mission with the option to choose other unlocked aircraft, it is only as a one-off, with no campaign continuity present.
Another aspect of the original HAWX that appears to have been lost in the sequel was the seamless integration between single player and multiplayer in the campaign missions. At the push of a button players could open up their game to any other players online who wished to join in. In HAWX 2, co-op play is buried in the multiplayer menu as a type of multiplayer game, along with co-op mission and team deathmatch options.
Speaking of multiplayer, the few maps on offer come across as a bit of a sparse offering. The developers have tried to add interest to the maps by including elements like enemy ground forces or surface-to-air (SAM) emplacements. In reality, players are generally so busy dogfi ghting that they largely ignore these extra distractions, which are more of an annoyance. One particularly unplayable map features a giant oil rig structure covering the entire area and a height restriction that forces players to remain weaving in, out and under the tangle of pipes. Please give us some nice huge area maps that allow players to scream along canyons and duck behind mountains in a Mach 2 game of cat and mouse. One can only hope that DLC will bring some more map options in the future.
I loved the fi rst HAWX for its co-op campaign despite its fl aws and annoying multiplayer. HAWX 2 has some fantastic multiplayer moments, especially on the tougher diffi culties. However, it’s a pity that the storyline and campaign missions don't experience the same level of improvement.