The Plot. Like all Tom Clancy games and the previous HAWX, this one also tells a story about government conspiracy and some great hero who comes in and saves the day. This time it's Russia and a separatist government who seizes power and starts messing about with some nuclear weapons. At one point you'll have to blow up (!) like 20 of them. Yes, Tom Clancy, blowing up nukes mid-air is not a bad thing to do, not at all. Anyway, you get to fly as either a Russian fighter pilot or an American HAWX squadron pilot. Crenshaw from the first HAWX is also present, but here he acts as a commanding officer.
General thoughts. First of all, I liked it. Not because of the flimsy controls or some of the frustrating missions, but because I'm into fly-sims and this one is exactly how I like it. It's not complicated, but it's not too easy either. It's just enough for it to be fun, but still feel realistic enough.
In the first HAWX you could enjoy a ground that only looked pretty 15,000 feet from the ground, but i HAWX2, they put a little bit more effort into actually rendering the buildings and at some point you're even going to do some close-call flyby action. That is quite awesome. So this is something that has been improved greatly.
While in the first HAWX you started and finished all the missions in the sky, in HAWX2, you get to actually take off and land your fighter. Sometimes it's an aircraft carrier, sometimes an airfield, sometimes you get to refuel mid-air. All of these actions are quite tricky at first, but soon you understand, that the arcade assists make all of this quite simple and fun. It just feels a lot more natural, if you get to take off at the start of the mission, return to the airfield if you're out of rockets, flairs or you're just broken and you get to land your fighter once the mission is done.
I did have a lot of problems with controls in this one. I'm using a Logitech Freedom 2.4 cordless Joystick, which is as good as normal joysticks get. It has loads of functions, it's quite sensitive, but the game has to know how to handle it. I mean, come on. If the throttle slider has a million different positions, you can't have only four positions in the game. Even the cheap joysticks have more options there. If you turn the slider half way down, you don't expect the game to turn off your engines. It's realistic enough that if your engines aren't burning, you lose speed quite quickly in the middle of a dogfight, but if the slider is half way, it's not supposed to stall right away. Also, when starting the game, initially the Joystick buttons aren't even set up properly, so the first mission was about me setting the controls to work the way I want them to. I couldn't get some of the sensitivity right until the very end of the game so the last mission was a real pain.
At one point you also get to fly a Harrier, which is known for it's VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capabilities, but in HAWX2, it stalled just like all the other fighters. Maybe I just didn't know how to turn the burners in the vertical position, but I sure as hell was not instructed to do it. I mean, if you have some cool airplanes, why not make them work like they're supposed to. An A10 Thunderbolt isn't supposed to act like a fighter in a dogfight and no MIG could counter the maneuverability of an F22 Raptor. This was the same in the first HAWX.
It's a bit of a shame that HAWX2 lost some of the perks that HAWX had, like the chance to pick a fighter to use in the mission and even pick the weapons you want to use. I mean, it makes sense that in the Story Mode you just fly what you get assigned, but in some missions I thought that I could do a lot better with a different type of fighter and a set of weapons. It's supposed to be more fun than realistic, right? Another thing that bothered me was the choice in weapons. You got to use all sorts of different weapons against fighters in the first HAWX, but the main thing you'll be using in a dogfight in HAWX2 is a simple HSM (heat seeking missile). Somewhat of a disappointment. I was hoping for a more fascinating arsenal.
An interesting thing they added to the HAWX2 was the chance to use the AC130 Spectre. You didn't get to fly the thing, but you got to support ground action with it, which was way fun. You also got to do pretty much the same with drones. In some missions you used them to guide bombs, in some to listen on the enemy's phone calls and such. Even some of the weapons on the fighter were used like this, where you could aim a surgical strike or a bomb of some sorts in a different perspective.
All in all, I really liked this game. I would seriously recommend this to anyone who is into arcade-style fighter sims like I am, anyone who has a joystick and don't have any games to use it with or just anyone who likes flying. It can get frustrating at times, but in the end it's fun and fast-paced. Now I can go back to playing the Arcade missions.