Hands On With Hawken

I first learned about Hawken during one of my random YouTube trolls in a particularly slow day.  Being a fan of the Mechwarrior and Armored Core series, I investigated further, found out who was handling the PR, and decided to invite myself to a party being held by its publisher, Meteor Entertainment, in the Luxe in downtown Los Angeles as they descended on the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Once I arrived at the party, I was greeted by a number of employees of Meteor, as well as my fellow journalists.  “Tell me everything about this game” I demanded, and they delivered.  Once done with filling me in with details about how this new upcoming mech game worked and where it originated, they set me in front of a PC that was already logged into the middle of a deathmatch, and I embarked in my journey surrounded by a suit of armor that towered over buildings.  I advanced on the enemy and gave them what for.

Hawken is a mech-game that handles as a third person shooter.  Assemble your mech from any number of combinations of legs, arms, canopies, and weapons; then hit the field running.  The interesting concept of Hawken is how the mech handles on the field from a control standpoint; unlike most shooters, the movement in the game is slowed slightly to give you the feeling of stalking your prey in a five-story hulk of metal that’s armed to the teeth, but not exactly quick.  This will level the playing field between gamers who are used to fast paced shooters, as opposed to those who might be a bit slower on the draw.

But don’t mistake the handling of a mech with slowing the pace of the game, because the action is surprisingly quick.  Units converge on each other and fire projectiles consisting of slugs from high-powered, heavy caliber firearms or mounted missile stacks.  Get a group of three or more mechs in a given area and you can find yourself going from top gun to a pile of slag in mere seconds.  Situational awareness is key as you’ll often find that as you’re riddling your pretty full of holes, one of their teammates is quickly reducing your armor to scrap metal before you can whirl on them.

Teamwork is an essential key to gameplay as well.  Lone wolves will quickly find themselves on their own against two or three adversaries, and the outcome rarely fares well for the loner.  This is especially true in the game’s

Hawken’s high-definition graphics look surprisingly realistic with the gritty look of both the technology and the environments that they combat in.  This isn’t the world of Star Trek where functionality is accented by a futuristic fashion.  The cockpit is very utilitarian in its design, giving you what you need to monitor your health and manage your weapons, without leather bucket seats.  The world around you is riven by war with fire damaged buildings all around, providing you a sense that where civilization once thrived, there’s nothing left but the cold, dead, husk after many years of war.

Originally designed as a game for consoles, Hawken has moved to the PC, which is most likely the best option.  With all of the high-def textures, insanely detailed environments, and insane multiplayer experience, I can only think that the restrictions of the XBLA guidelines would cripple the potential that this game has.  I also took a look at a version running through Gaikai on a netbook equipped with only an Atom processor with a silky smooth framerate and looking just as gorgeous as its pro-gaming system counter-parts.

Overall, Hawken looks like it’ll be a game that will bring some satisfaction to mech and shooter lovers alike, and could make some serious waves when it releases on December 12, 2012.  Be on the lookout for this title, as it looks nothing less than spectacular.

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June 6, 2012 - 8:00 am