Although Hawx 2 and its predecessor are undoubtedly two of the most accessible games to be released beneath Ubisoft’s esteemed ‘Tom Clancy Presents’ umbrella, that doesn’t mean that they’ve been somehow watered down in the slightest. Their storylines are both bullishly effective tales of hi-tech information warfare, and appear to be as meticulously researched as any Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon or Splinter Cell title. But Hawx 2 pretty much trumps its precursor in practically every department.

In terms of story, the sequel has clearly taken its cue from the Call Of Duty series. The first game had a relatively straightforward (though complex) plot that primarily followed US Air Force pilot David Crenshaw, and although Crenshaw returns here (as a newly promoted Colonel) this time the tale skips between three different campaigns; one American, one British, and one Russian. The gameplay isn’t effected by the shift and the odd younger player may get confused, but these three strands really do fit very neatly together indeed.

The core gameplay remains effectively unchanged, and the controls continue to sit at a vastly appealing halfway-point between arcade and flight simulator. The original’s masterstroke of mapping strafe commands to the shoulder buttons (in the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions anyway) has returned, and the first hour or so functions as an impeccably paced tutorial for newcomers, but one that won’t alienate or annoy either fans of the original, or the genre hardcore.

One notable change (and one of the flew legitimate complaints aimed at the original) is that you can now take full control during take-off and landing, and these stand as some of the most rewarding moments in the entire game. You’re also able to perform mid-air refuels by connecting two tiny gasoline nozzles, occasionally in the midst of a hectic battle. There is an ever-present option to seek automated assistance when performing any of these manoeuvres, but only the youngest (or most inexperienced) of players are advised to take it.

The quality of the AI has been ramped up considerably too, and you’ll have to employ a much more precise selection of tactics than simply hammering everything with your heat-seeking missiles. Many of your enemies (especially later on) will dodge, strafe and use countermeasures to avoid them. You may possibly have been able to make your way through the entirety of the original Hawx by using nothing but those missiles; here, you probably won’t get beyond the third mission before you’re forced to use your machine gun cannons.

To give proceedings a little bit of extra spice, there are also a series of new stealth missions, some of which see you in control of either a UAV device or an AC-130 gunship. One of these missions – in which you protect a convoy of friendlies from persistent attack, as they make their way across a Middle Eastern desert to safety – is a non-stop, morally dubious joyride of utter carnage that will probably call to mind the similarly excellent sequence in the first Modern Warfare title. And it fully warrants the comparison.

So Hawx 2 is a solidly superior sequel, and when it’s firing on all cylinders it may occasionally remind you of Factor 5’s original Rogue Squadron game, which is far from faint praise. Online multiplayer is stellar, co-op campaign play is offered, and the levelling-up system is refreshingly simple and elegant. It’s a broader, more polished and generally more entertaining endeavour than the ace original, and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone, fan or not.

Watch Tom Clancy’s Hawx 2 trailer here…

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