Hawken, arriving recently to open beta, is a glorious and gritty first person shooter of a new caliber. As a mech pilot, you control a hulking beast of metal in some stunning post-apocalyptic environments. Very akin to the Armored Core series, you find yourself neck-deep in customization options that allow you to play your way. Mech and first person shooter fans alike will find plenty to love in this game.
Hawken starts you off with a well needed, but skippable tutorial to go over the basic concepts of the game. Albeit a first person shooter, piloting your mech can be somewhat different that the Battlefields and CoDs we are used to today. Similar to the aforementioned Armored Core, you find your mech doesn’t necessarily move so swiftly. You dash and hover to the extent of your fuel, turn with a slight bit of lag as fast as your weaponized arms can handle, and suffer from the blind spots brought on by the fact that you are in the cockpit of a giant robot that can’t constantly keep its head on a swivel. All these set the tone and pace to this game. Therein lies the beauty, pacing.
Hawken comes alive with pacing. Outsmarting your opponent is integral. Getting the drop on an enemy, or hiding till their back is turned is the best way to score those initial hits. Boosting smartly can keep you away from enemy fire long enough to pull out your repair bot and continue the fight. Dashing or hovering into a good position can mean the difference between annihilation and the sweet victory you’ve worked so hard for. Across the various game modes, teamwork pays off. And it is just so cool following another vapor trail.
The attention to detail is fantastic. Your system boots up at the start of the match, going through a quick automated systems check. Heavy movement and fighting show up on your HUD. Damaging the mech turns your diagnostic screens red, glass cracks and breaks, alarms buzz. Everything in this game reflects a quiet but real sense of urgency. In a way, you are one with your machine while being a completely separate entity. Boosting, firing, watching all your gauges while focusing on the enemy ahead of you makes for intense and dizzying combat that keeps you at the edge of your seat. The strategies of advance and retreat play heavily in this game, which is difficult to find in any first person shooter. Your mech becomes more than a respawn as you watch it take damage.
There are too many customization options to count. Paint, patterns, parts, weapons, all spread across multiple mechs for many different situations. These fall under a heavy, light, and a medium all-purpose type. Any gearhead would be pleased. You also find a point allocation based system, further allowing you to customize the various attributes of your mech. Very similar to an MMO or RPG wherein you can increase your power, defense, or speed so you may fight as you see fit.
There are multiple game modes and even more maps. Your typical Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag type. A fourth game mode called Siege involves collecting resources to aid you in launching an attack on the enemy. Siege is in Alpha testing right now, but it plays just as excellently as the rest of the game.
Hawken looks gorgeous and sounds incredible. Everything feels right with the dystopia vibe. The dust settles over the scenery in a special kind of eerie manner. One can’t help but feel in awe the first time they see some of the massive environments. Your mech sounds just like one would expect, parts grind as you bump into walls, the boosters flare up and boom as you speed along. The sound of cannons and the destruction they cause are pleasing to the ears.
Hawken is in beta, but the development team is doing an excellent job of staying on top of things. My one problem had been finding a match. As of the latest update, I haven’t had that problem. There’s always plenty of players online, more seeming to join every day.
One thing I haven’t mentioned, the pay for content approach is seen in this game. Everything that effects game-play and stats however, can be worked for without money. Meaning that the game stays balanced between those willing to part with their cash and those that just want an extra cool mech design. Some of the more advanced mechs require quite a bit of work to unlock or a few bucks from the wallet, but the mechs offered in trial and the starting mech are fairly balanced and quite powerful enough to begin with. It really is the player’s choice, as a free game, this offers plenty.
Having seen the beta, I can’t wait to see the final product.