Saturday, 22 December 2012

Hawken Beta Impressions


I love mech games, cannot get enough of them frankly.  I have always been a fan of robot on robot action ever since I saw Transformers as a child and watched my brother play battletech, just something about robots kicking the shit out of each is awesome it's hard to explain.

Now that isn't to say I buy and play every mecha game out there for example I don't play armoured core and I haven't jumped into Airmech but I do have a great interest in the daddy of mech combat games out there and that is Mechwarrior.  Mechwarrior Online is a great adaptation of the classic tabletop wargame and is going from strength to strength since it's open beta launch in August.

Around the time of E3 another mech combat title made itself known in the form of Hawken.  Hawken is a different beat altogether from Mechwarrior so don't expect similar playstyles between them.  Hawken is set on a distant colony world in the far future where corporations battle for control of resources or something to that effect.

I wouldn't really describe Hawken as having mechs though, more like battle armour.  The suits are large but not like Battlemechs which are huge by comparison.  Hawkens robots are much smaller and quicker and the game feels like a robot version of other first person shooters like Call of duty.  Combat is fast and very twitched based, again very different from mechwarrior online.

Hawken is in open beta so there is still plenty of content yet to be added, although there is still plenty to play around with if you make an account.  The game uses in game credits earned from matches to buy equipment, or you can just buy currency with real money to unlock content quicker.  I have to say that the prices aren't too bad and the free to play route to unlocking mechs and content isn't huge since matches don't last that long anyway.

Each mech has several unlock levels associated with it and the weapons attached to that mech can be improved with use in combat.  So basically the more you use a mech the better it gets to represent your pilots skill with that particular setup.  I like this idea and would love to see it added to mechwarrior online.  Your pilot can also earn optimisation points which can be spent on numerous skills in three different trees.  The trees run the likes of offensive, defensive and utility each giving further boosts to your mech or small percentage increases to your weapon damage or armour, along with plenty of others.

The levels are pretty impressive looking as the aesthetic in game is really cool.  They remind me alot of Killzone and it's broken down industrial locales covered in rolling dust clouds and sun bleached walls.  Navigating these maps can be a little tricky though when it comes to the vertical nature of the maps.  Your mech can boost and hover allowing you to reached higher spots, but sometimes the game will be a pain about letting you reach a spot you know you can, while other times you will see buildings which aren't as high be out of bounds for a mech to jump on.  I guess it was done for balance to prevent snipers dominating the field but it just restricts movement.

The only real gametype worth your time is siege which is fun but ultimately flawed in my opinion.  Both teams have to gather energy from specific points on the map and return it to their base to fuel a battleship.  When the battleship launches both teams then fight to control a AA missile base.  Now the flaw here is that the team that controls the AA is the winner.  There is only a single AA base and it is always smack bang in the centre of the map, giving your team 360 degree vision of the map and essentially control of the match.  Teams who lose control of the AA are left with little choice other than to shoot the enemy battleship and try and push the other team off the AA, but it rarely happens.

Other modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch and a match similar to control points involving weapon emplacements.  They work pretty much how you expect them to but can suffer when a player who has paid for the best gear jumps in and canes everyone.  Pay2win is firmly in control here.  Where Mechwarrior has the same damage values regardless of mech chassis or weight class, meaning a light mech firing a large laser will do the same damage as an assault firing the same weapon.  A hawken player who dropped a bit of cash on the other hand can dominate a match against free players.

Don't get me wrong there is plenty like about Hawken if you didn't enjoy mechwarrior onlines more tactical combat and deliberate pace.  Hawken is very much an every mans robot shooter and it does it well.  Given time Hawken could easily become one of the best online shooters out there as the foundations are very solid and I will keep an eye on it's development.

So give it a go, signup is easy and the game launches very quickly after the initial download.

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