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H.A.W.X. 2 Extras
While single player campaigns can be fun (often the selling point for a game) the extras that are included can add to the replay value of a game. So you understand my bias in this review there are two things to know about me; I own many flight simulators of the impossible variety, and I am a completionist. In other words, I like to be challenged, and I like to keep trying till I get it right (whatever it is).
By the time you finish the campaign you have accomplished several "achievements" and gained access to a handful of custom modes. You can refly the campaign missions by the book or using custom settings. You can also fly the missions in an arcade mode. It took me some time to figure out the exact differences between these various play styles, mostly because they all seemed redundant. For example, the custom mode allows you to replay the campaign missions with you pick of plane and weapons (if you have unlocked them). The arcade mode also lets you refly the campaign missions with alternative scenarios (e.g. radar guided missiles only).
Well, by this time I had only unlocked two planes. It again took me some time to figure out that I had accumulated XP points that could be spent in an upgrade tree with 5 different branches. This allowed me to unlock additional planes, weapons, passive abilities, etc. It took me some time to figure out alot of how things worked in the game. I still haven't figured out exactly what is wrong with the game, but I do know that the leveling/points/XP/upgrade system is not intuitive. Neither are the menus. Basically you need to gain experience by doing anything. You can refly the campaign, custom, arcade, etc to gain experience points. Once you have enough points you gain a level and an XP point to spend on your upgrade tree.
To gain experience faster you can complete challenges during your games. This was again very much like the acheivements in Modern Warfare, but in a plane. I really like achievements and often feel compelled to complete them all; especially the hardest ones. In HAWX 2 the challenges are suited for aerial combat and general flight. Some of them you have to purposely try to obtain like recovering from a stall 10 meters above the ground or flying in assistance off mode for 30 seconds while staying under 20 meters. During the many single player modes these challenges help to break up the monotonay of enemy planes circling incessantly.
When you unlock a plane it comes with some bare essentials. By spending time and gaining experience in a plane you can unlock additional abilities, weapons, skins, armor and speed. Of course the most desired planes aren't unlocked until the end of the technology tree, so by the time you get there you might have already mastered a few others.
Experience can also gained during multiplayer combat; indeed some of the challenges can only be completed through multiplayer matches. As with everything else, it took some poking around to try and figure out how the multiplayer works and what the different modes mean (like the difference between a gun battle and a deathmatch). There is also the option to play the campaign missions (default, custom and arcade) in co-op. Online game browser is fairly scant on information. It would be nice to see detailed explanations of the game types and the match settings for matches that other players have setup.
The PC version of HAWX 2 hasn't yet mustered a large following. The leaderboards contain the names of a few hundred pilots, the vast majority of which appear to have only flown in one or two online games. There seems to be maybe a hundred regularly active players. During the evenings in the U.S. I occasionally see an online match, but most often there aren't any games.
The last extra is the survival mode. Survival pits you against waves of aggressively harder enemies where your sole objective is to survive. If you thoroughly enjoyed the dogfighting from the campaign then this will give you much more to enjoy. Early enemies are easy to pick off by missile or cannon, but the later enemies have an uncanny ability to get and stay on your tail, unlimited flares and unlimited missiles. If you need a little help just get a friend and play survival mode in co-op.
I like to unlock abilities and enjoyed the variety of planes available. Without the extras included with the game I don't think it would be worth buying. I didn't get to spend much time in the multiplayer due to the small community, but from what I saw things seemed just as redundant as the single player modes. While there were a couple new game types there wasn't anything new or novel. Multiplayer could be improved by having some really novel game modes, or at least more game modes. I think something as routine as capture the flag could be made fun when flying mach one through some tight canyons! However, unless Ubisoft can garner a larger community of flyers then no amount of novel gameplay can keep things alive.