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News: Hawken Hands-On Impressions

Posted on : 23-11-2012 | By : | In : News

Hardware:

8

We’ve been meaning to post our impressions on Hawken since the NDA was lifted for the closed alpha and beta testers (of which we were one). As we’ve been quite busy, it took us a while to get around to this. Whilst we’ve had all manner of weird PR about the game trying to make out it isn’t a mecha game, the truth is that this is very much an old school hardcore mecha game (in the best possible sense). What follows are our impressions from playing the alpha and beta builds.

In terms of PC based mecha games, you have the resource management titles such as MechWarrior and then the more analogue intensity seen in games like Heavy Gear. Hawken sits somewhere between the two but with a streamlined arcade edge.

To clarify, you control your mecha in the first person. You have a finite amount of boost power and your weapons will overheat on extended use (causing them to lock up). Boosting can either be done laterally in any direction or upward, though the latter is a bit slow for combat and is more meant for you to get into position. The ground based boosting can also be used to dodge and quick turn. This type of movement setup is akin to a simplified system seen in the newer Armored Core games and consequently makes the game feel quite arcade like. Some of the references to Virtual On by the team aren’t really valid though, as you aren’t locked into fixed vectored dashes in Hawken. Weapon management also falls into two broad categories, controlling heat and finding your optimal range. This works very well and is a shrewd decision, as it means you can’t use mid-range weapons at a distance and expect to be effective. It brings opponents closer together and makes the subsequent combat nicely intense.

What links all this together is a real sense of weight to each of the mecha and the fact that each of them are pretty fragile. It really does come across as a gritty real robot type of game and that learning to work together is far more important than just speeding on ahead. The fragility is also counterbalanced with a self-repair system that leaves you prone once activated. The game helpfully shifts to a third person camera at this point to allow you to keep an eye out for incoming threats.

All of this harks backs to games like Phantom Crash, which is no surprise considering that Kow Yokoyama was a big influence in Hawken’s mecha design. Though the big difference here is that Hawken looks very impressive. It’s this that will sell the game and all the, admittedly very cogent, mecha game mechanics won’t impede its success. If anything the visuals will act as a passport of sorts to non-mecha gamers to learn something new (to them at least).

So in that sense we can sort of understand the odd PR; as they seem worried that branding the game as mecha orientated will alienate people (this being primarily a belief held by Western games publishers). The truth is that they really need not worry as the presentation out weighs the perceived barrier of entry.

As for the whole freemium setup, it’s actually not that bad. You earn in-game currency or you can buy it (these are helpfully split into two separate metrics). The important thing is that you can buy everything with either currency (though the bought one can get you more things quicker). The customisation fits nicely into this and is also pretty broad. For those expecting the same kind of detailed customisation seen in Armored Core, then you’ll be disappointed. Whilst you can switch chassis parts around much of the customisation is aesthetic. The really differentiation is based around a mecha class system. The latter makes more sense from a multiplayer balancing setup, as the team is quite small so less complexity will mean it gets balanced quicker. In addition, streamlining the customisation down to a class system makes the game more accessible for those that aren’t stat fetishists.

Overall then this will be a truly great mecha game and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you all on the field of battle once it’s released to the public this December.

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Comments (8)

Anyone manage to play the MWO beta yet?

Yep.

Thoughts?

Not sure I can say much about it yet but it’s pretty good.

Needs less streak cats.

look for gregsolidus if you want to go PUG stomping.

Maybe I’m late to the party and everyone has gone home, but I’ve been playing this game and I do like it, but there are hardly any people playing it, I’m talking about UK/Europe mostly as that’s where I’m at. I’m finding at most 6 people online to play with or less, so sad last night just roaming the battlefield on my own. The lack of interest is quite shocking, I hope for their own sake, theirs a massive boost when the game actually comes out, no doubt it will do well in Asia, the states is pretty big so it might do ok there, but it seems like Europe dont care, I guess the stigma of mecha games strikes again, no doubt if this was a normal FPS it would have many more players, for a game that is F2P and already has such low players, its quite worrying for the future, I hope it picks up.

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