Published on October 21st, 2012 | by Stuart Wood2
Hawken: First Look
Summary: Large guns attached to even larger machinery. I need not say any more. For a free title, this is truly mind blowing. It only misses some graphic tweaking abilities in my opinion.
So guess what I spent last evening doing… Well I can tell you it wasn’t spending quality time with my family. Instead I spent my twilight hours in the cockpit of a giant armoured mechanical walker, armed to it’s metal teeth with devastating weaponry. I’m talking about Hawken, the upcoming free-to-play, mech-themed first-person shooter from Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment. The game is set on a planet that has been colonised by Humans in the distant future. Instead of the squeaky-clean and peaceful utopia that many would be expecting, we see a polluted and derelict war-riddled dystopia, where resources are minimal. Perfect then, for some large scale, mech based combat.
Large cannons mech me happy
My first impression of Hawken was that it seems like a cross between CounterStrike, Battlefield and Armoured Core. I’ve played all of those games, and have enjoyed each one. My expectations for Hawken therefore, were quite high. Luckily, after a few minutes of gameplay, I was not disappointed. My reasoning for comparing Hawken to these three games are fairly obvious if you’ve played them. Counterstrike is one of those ‘pick up and play’ games that don’t require much preparation, but still require an element of skill. The class-based system reminds me of Battlefield, and the sheer customisation potential for your war machine takes me back to the many hours in total spent pimping out my AC in Armoured Core.
Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach, Adhesive have given you the choice of many different mech classes, including Support, Sharpshooter, Scout and many more. Each class has it’s advantages and disadvantages, whether it be weapons range, or resilience to enemy fire. Each class also has access to certain abilities, such as being able to deploy turrets, refuel faster or transform into an near-impenetrable fortress in exchange for agility. I spent most of my time playing as the Support mech, which to me appears to be the all-rounder of the bunch. I did spend some time getting to know the Sharpshooter mech as well. Which one you pick will be down to your playing style.
Each class has a primary and secondary weapon, which is often exclusive to that class. Weapons can be upgraded to pack more of a punch, with points that you earn by killing others in the game or achieving objectives. Weapons don’t have an ammunition limit, but don’t think you can use the ‘spray and pray’ tactic. Whilst ammunition is unlimited, your cannons can and will overheat very quickly after continued use. If you keep that trigger finder down for too long, your weaponry will power down entirely for a short, but seemingly long period of time, leaving you entirely vulnerable to enemy fire. I’ve found that keeping a fair amount of distance, along with using the scenery or obstacles around the map for temporary cover is the best strategy. When killing enemies, you can regain health when picking up these orbs that they drop. You can also self heal by holding down the heal key. Your mech powers down and a small drone deploys from within, whizzing around you and buffing out those dents and bullet holes. During this time, you don’t have any control over your mech or it’s weaponry, so find a nice quite corner to do this in.
Unlike most first-person shooters, you don’t have the speed and agility of the Human form in Hawken. The machines are fairly slow, but you do have the ability to utilise boosters to get you out of a hairy situation. Aside from the usual run and jump, you are also able to fly around the map to a limited altitude. This is useful for reaching platforms to gain a height advantage, or for simply making yourself a hard target, like the bunny-hopping coward you are. To limit your use of this there is a fuel gauge, which you need to keep an eye on as it will deplete as you use any advanced movement. Like your weapons though, this will replenish after a short while. Turning can be a bit slow, but you can adjust the mouse sensitivity within the in-game menu. I did have to increase my sensitivity when playing, but my mouse is nothing special.
Hawken features several game types, including team deathmatch and free-for-all deathmatch. You can also play a seige-type game, where both teams try to occupy bases for control over the map. All game modes I’ve played allow me straight back into the action upon being blasted to pieces. This keeps the action fast paced and interesting. You gain points for killing others and completing objectives, but you can also buy points for upgrades if you are that way inclined. Luckily Hawken is not ‘pay to win’, everything you can but is available by simply playing the game. Any DLC is strictly aesthetic only.
Sound and graphics
As you would come to expect from a title these days, the graphics are pretty and highly detailed. On lower settings you do notice a loss of detail when viewing things close up, but the overall polish of the game is to a very high standard. Unfortunately Hawken doesn’t appear to have any way of tweaking the settings, only two drop-down menus for texture detail and graphics quality. This means an all or nothing experience for those with lower powered machines. Hawken did use 95% of my CPU on average, but the machine I tested on has an Intel Dual Core 2.93 GHz chip. Most players will have more up to date gear than that. Frame rate was also very good. Graphics were served by my also modest 9800GT on low settings, and throughout, I suffered no drops in frame rate. Those with fairly old machines need not fear, you should still be able to play, even if it is on low settings.
The UI in-game is detailed enough, but also simple to see key information. Weapon overheating status is near the crosshairs, and health is clearly displayed on the dash. The Dash doesn’t get in the way like I was expecting it to, but it does make the whole experience more immersive. One thing I like is that the windshield cracks when on low health, nice little detail. Sound is clear and ambient sounds really put you in the action. The cockpit speaks to you with warnings and various beeps to notify you of impending destruction or overheating. This leaves you to keep an eye out on the action, not the dash.
Hawken is a fast-paced, high action FPS which ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s pick up and play feel means that you can do just that. If you like any of the games I mentioned previously, I would definitely recommend you give this one a go. After all, the game is totally free. For some sexy gameplay footage, check out the Hawken Firts Impressions video, from Ben Hedworth: http://youtu.be/WtxxXJmlZGU