Hawken Hands-On: This Isn’t Your Father’s Mech

There seems to be a resurgence in the giant robot battlesuit genre, and Hawken is one of the titles seeking to beat out competitors like MechWarrior Online and Reign of Thunder.

Hawken, a multiplayer mech combat game by indie developer Adhesive Games, is built on the Unreal Engine and will be a free-to-play PC release. Microtransactions will allow for greater customization and more weapon variety — without being pay-to-win.

At E3 2012, I had some hands-on time with Hawken and got to play in a small free-for-all. After I loaded into the game, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the mech — you feel every ponderous footstep; the environment reacts to you on impact. Great — you can’t have a mech game without that feeling of mass.

Despite this weight, Hawken isn’t a slow-paced game, and that’s what separates this title from my memories of ’90s MechWarrior games. The mechs are able to achieve a high degree of maneuverability through a sprint/dodge/slide ability which gives you a sudden burst of speed in a given direction. The map I played on was a tight industrial outdoor setting with some solid Z-axis gameplay — multiple vertical levels — and plenty of corners to duck around to avoid incoming gunfire. A jet pack allows you to fly a limited distance before needing to recharge, making it mostly useful for climbing to a higher level without having to resort to a ramp.

Onto the combat. One of the other players in the game clearly had a few matches under his belt — I’m not making excuses; I saw him sitting in that chair for a while as others came and went. My experience was thus a baptism by fire, with my newbie mistakes swiftly punished by a few consecutive deaths. I learned some important lessons: You have rockets — use them; you have a lock-on ability — use it; you have a dodge ability — use it; you have a heal ability — use it.

As I started getting accustomed to the controls and learning some tactics, I began my transformation from hunted newbie to newbie hunter, racking up a killing spree and learning the layout of the map — the escape routes, the ambush points, the shortcuts… I was having fun.

I only got a taste of Hawken that night, but what I tasted has opened my appetite. I look forward to trying out bigger maps, different game types, and alternate mechs. I want to try the customization. I want to play an organized team deathmatch with some clan mates barking orders over TeamSpeak.

I want to see more of what Hawken has to offer.

Hawken is scheduled for release 12/12/12.

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1 Comment on Hawken Hands-On: This Isn’t Your Father’s Mech

psycros

On June 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I’m all for the hard-core mech sim, but you need the Armored Cores, too. This sounds like it might be somewhere in the middle, perhaps more of a Gundham experience. Nothing wrong with that..there have been precious few games that managed to deliver an enjoyable middle-ground experience. I’ve always found this odd because the majority of mecha depicted in anime are neither the truly “giant robot” types nor the semi-believable Mechwarrior sort.