Hawx 2 is the sequel to the 2009 Arcade Flight Combat game developed by Ubisoft. There are many new additions to the Hawx Franchise this time round such as a return of the PEC challenges and rewards from Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Splinter Cell Conviction and the Uplay system. There will be more on these later.
The story begins with the Hawx Squadron being deployed in the Middle East to find out about various enemy leaders appearing at trouble spots and uncover a plot regarding stolen Russian Nuclear Weapons. This time around you get to control one of three pilots from Russia, UK and the USA. However, these can not be selected as the story forces you to control each of the pilots in turn A la Modern Warfare 2. I felt that this detached me from the characters.
Persistent Elite Creation or P.E.C. is a system created by Ubisoft that rewards the player for completing certain tasks within the game such as kill a certain number of enemies with a certain weapon or even recovering from a stall at 10m or lower from the ground. These are tracked across both the single player and multiplayer game modes. As you earn Experience points and level up you are awarded Unlock Points which allow you to unlock new planes and abilities such as increased damage with certain weapons, camouflage, automatic flares and your guided weapons ignoring enemy flares. In addition to this is the new Plane Mastery system, as you earn experience points whilst flying each plane you will unlock new skins, bonuses e.g. Increased Weapon Range and new Weapon Load outs. These are plane specific so any earned for one plane do not carry over to other planes that you decide to fly.
Uplay is one of the greatest ideas in the history of achievements. When you complete certain goals just like achievements you get a message appear on screen. You then go to the Uplay menu and you can exchange the said points for in game content e.g. new planes or skins. Each game normally has four things to be able to purchase and points can be used across different games. You just need to own the game you wish to buy content for and have loaded it up once, so no buying content before a game is released.
The Hanger makes a welcome return so you can view the statistics and compare the different planes to find the right plane for the job. There's no point in taking an Air to Air Fighter in a bombing mission. You can also view the skins that you have unlocked for the planes but you can only change your plane and load out.
The Campaign now supports up to four player Co-op and allows for jump in, jump out gameplay. So now you and three of your friends can act out your Favourite Top Gun moments. There are a number of new additions to Hawx 2 that were missing in the main game including Take-offs, Landings and Midair refuelling, If you run low on ammo you can rearm as well. These do make for a more immersive experience and are over simplified so they do not ruin the arcade feel of the game. These take place at various times of the day and each feels different so landing on a desert bases runway during the day feels distinctively different that landing on a Aircraft carrier at night. A few of the more recognisable mission include the Controlling of a Gunship providing covering fire for ghost teams and using an unmanned UAV to gather intelligence. These provided a nice break from the usual dog fighting and bombing runs.
Completing the campaign missions unlocks the ability to play the previous mission or map in one of the game modes such as Survival mode where you battle increasingly difficult waves of enemies and Free flight mode where you can take a leisurely flight around the map with no enemies or allies to get in the way. This is very useful when going for some of the PEC challenges that involve recovering from a stall below a certain height.
Multiplayer Adversarial involves just straight up Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, where different planes have different roles such as Air to Air and Air to Ground. This is so you can choose a well balanced team and work together; if for instance you and your buddies all had planes that specialised in air to air you would have the upper hand in a dogfight but would have limited ability against SAM sites and Flak guns.
There are a few problems with the game; for instance the planes look good and so does the scenery but at the same time the visuals of the landscapes feel bland especially when compared to the First Hawx game and it's not exactly ground breaking. For some reason that I can't put my finger on, it doesn't quite feel like you're flying the most advanced fighters ever and the difficulty level of the game can be quite steep to begin with due to the enemy A.I. being very accurate with the missiles. Personally, I would give the survival mode a miss to begin with until you have levelled up a bit and have unlocked some of the abilities I mentioned earlier like automatic flares, unless you like dying or have a group of friends that want to give it a go. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Altogether this is a fun game that will keep you busy for a while and the plus points far outweigh the bad points but I would only call this an essential purchase if like me you're a fan of the original or find it at the right price.