Saturday, March 15, 2014

3 days of...HAWKEN!

Great giant robot time killer

If you're like me you've been seeing giant mechs posted all over the internet as the world enjoys Titanfall in it's premier week. I don't have an XBOne yet, so I have to make do with what I've got. Looking through the Steam Store to scratch that itch, I came across HAWKEN by developer Adhesive Games. 

What it boils down to is an arena style combat game that puts you in the seat of a 30 foot robot to duke it out with other robots of similar style. In this regard it does extremely well. It's got all the features of a fun first person shooter, and includes the fairly standard unlocks-by-level design to keep you playing. 

It's pretty fun, and did I say free to play? That's right, in the time it takes to download and for absolutely free you can be piloting your own mech (albeit a simple mack-truck with legs) and battling with teams of others. Most of them in the same mech. As with other free-to-play games out there it's got the standard points earned through gameplay, and special points that you can purchase with your own money if you want to skip the grind. The only problem I had with this is that certain items, like any of the massive cosmetic choices you can customize your mech with, need to be paid for with real money. Otherwise you're stuck playing the entire game with just your standard slate grey looking chassis. 

I'm not complaining about the lack of equipment you can use when you play for free. They should hold some cosmetic things back for paying customers; it's a good business plan that I absolutely support. The problem is that when I buy the items, everyone else gets to enjoy watching me fight or blowing up in-game, while I never get to see my flashy mech in action. Instead I have to stare at the lackluster mechs that other people stick with because they don't want to put down any cash. Sometimes that strikes me as a bit unfair. 

Try not to wake the kids while you're stomping through future-metropolis
Other than that, the combat is surprisingly fun. I find it hard to get into games where the main focus is giant robots, because they either move too fast to be believable, or too slow to be fun. HAWKEN gets this balance just right. The result is a convincing heavy movement that also feels just fast enough to give you a thrill. The heavy movement of the mechs and the comparatively low damage their weapons do brings the learning curve down a lot so that beginners are on more equal footing with the rest of the players on the field. It's true that HAWKEN won't ever be competitive because of this, but it makes it much more fun and accessible if one person can't destroy a whole team with just his skill.

Add to this all the amazing small details and you've got a truly immersive experience. The screens of the mech display some static on drastic movement, and the motion blur is disorienting in battle much like it would be piloting a battle tool like these mechs. When you back against a wall you can hear the grinding of metal on stone, to signify that you're busting up the paintjob -- CMON BRO! Other details like cracking glass, electrical sparks, and fire in the periphery display an obvious representation of how you are faring. Upon starting a match, a boot screen is put on your display in semi-transparent fashion to indicate your computer systems are coming online. All these things make you feel like you're actually piloting a large robot from your desk. I truly appreciated every single one of these details as they've been done in a way I've never seen before.

Is that the blue screen of death?
Though the mech building, customization, battles, and immersion are great, the arenas and modes in which you fight are a bit limited from what I've seen. The worlds in which you fight are beautiful, but they lack some element that could make the game truly great. Interactive walls, or traps that you could set up. Also the cities in which you fight are amazingly well designed for arenas to battle giant robots in, and lack any of the personality you might find in similar cities we see today. Frankly, combined with the lack of players willing to spruce up their rides so I can destroy them, the world you fight in can be a bit bland. This is difficult to battle since much of the color you might see is in the cosmetics that cost money, and many people want more to put money into items that have real-world effects in game. So maybe if they allowed just painting to be free, it would allow everyone to express themselves individually and make the game prettier, without costing anyone any money. That's just my two cents though, and already I've put plenty more times that into the game. 

One of the best features is the ability to keep on
moving/taunting when you're being awarded as the winning team.
I will say this though, at the free price point you definitely want to consider this as an alternative to Titanfall. Minus the parkour of course. Keep in mind that this is early-access, so it will be getting better with time before the final release. It's still very playable right now, and a ton of fun. 

You'll like this game if: You just cant get enough mech action, and think that getting out to run is for cowards. Why leave your robot behind when for absolutely free you get giant robots running head on in squad combat with plenty of chaos and explosions!

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