Hawken – Ascension Update Impressions

This game was reviewed on the PC.

For those of you who haven’t heard, on December 12, 2012, Adhesive Games (in conjunction with Meteor Entertainment) released the official Open Beta of Hawken. Giant fighting robots: what’s not to love? Okay, to be fair, these are giant fighting mechs, but you get the picture.  Hawken is a free-to-play mech shooter that uses the Unreal 3 engine, and it recently got a rather large upgrade via the Ascension patch. New mechs and stats will change the way the game is played on a lot of different levels, giving new players a chance to catch up with some of the devoted followers already involved with the game.


Hawken takes place on Illal, a post-apocalyptic M-class planet that has been mined and industrialized to the point where there is simply not enough to go around. The depletion of the planet’s mineable resources has caused the people to engage in heavy mech combat, and this is where you come in. You will be responsible for maintaining, upgrading, and piloting one or more mechs, and taking out the competition. Fight your way by yourself or with a group in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Missile Assault (think Capture the Flag), and Siege matches, and build your mechs up to become the ultimate master of destruction!

HawkenYou can purchase or unlock multiple mechs to use in the game, and each falls under a specific class:  A Class is a mid-range, all purpose mech; B Class is a long-range high-accuracy mech; and C Class is a close-range defensive mech. This helps give gamers options for mechs that best suit their playstyles, and helps to improve diversity on the field. Run, jump, and strafe your way in and out of cover, and land powerful arsenal against your opponents to win.

Each mech gets a Primary and a Secondary Weapon, plus Abilities, Items Internals and Optimizations to further boost your mech. Like many shooters, your weapons have advantages and disadvantages to them. For instance, an Assault Rifle (Primary) is rapid-fire, but loses its accuracy if the fire is continuous as opposed to short bursts. You also have to take into account overusing your weaponry, as your mech can overheat. If your mech overheats, you’ll have to wait for it to cool down before you can fire any weapons again. You’ll also be able to heal your mech with Repair Drones at no cost to you, though there are downsides to this process. While your mech is being repaired, it cannot move, which makes you an open target for your opponents. Plan accordingly and time your vulnerable moments as best you can.

HawkenAbilities and Items are almost like a third and fourth weapon, as they are boosts that you can use upon request in the field, and other than a cool down, they have no limit on how often you can use them. An example of an Item would be an EMP, which can be used to temporarily stun an opponent – just be careful where you use it as you could stun yourself in the process. Abilities include boosts like Camouflage, which temporarily removes you from radar for a brief period of time, making it difficult for your enemies to locate you. On top of these perks, players can utilize passive upgrades in the form of Optimizations, or Internals which work like upgraded parts inside the mech, like a Brand-new Regulator that adds +20% Experience points to the mech when in use.

Hawken is a stunning game visually when you compare it against its genre, with realistic scenery that will send chills down your spine – dilapidated buildings, dust kicking at your metallic heels, and broken structures scattered around city streets really give the game its post-apocalyptic feel. A new map addition with the Ascension update is called Last Eco, a forested area that is one of the only remaining places on the planet rich in resources. This scenery is a distinct change from the other maps, with lush green leaves and wooden trees growing high above the mechs, who use them as obstacles or hiding places in battle. In fact, everything about the game is realistic, even down to the mechanical buzzing and whirring in the background, or the loud cracks and booms as arsenal connects with your opponents. It’s a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale and cartoony MMO universe, where most characters look like downgraded version of offline titles.

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If you’re a previous addict who’s missed out on playing Hawken recently, but are thinking about giving it another try, there are some notable changes that came along with the Ascension patch that may pique your interest. There were some big improvements to the Tutorial, giving players a better understanding of the game mechanics, and providing an offline Team Deathmatch so testing out mechanics and mechs before jumping online is now a possibility. The HUD is also different, and you’ll notice you can now see the status of your fuel levels and damage taken. Unfortunately, the realistic damage imagery (like the cracking of your view screen) has been removed, which may cause a loss of immersion for some players. There is also a new system that replaces the Tech Tree, which is a Mech Rank leveling chart. Earning XP during matches now goes towards leveling your Pilot levels, which can unlock free mechs for use or upgrade existing ones.

Hawken is still in open beta, and has been for almost a year, but they are still testing and attempting to improve any glitches or mechanical annoyances, so your feedback is extremely important. For a full list of upgrades and changes to the original Hawken beta, make sure to take a peek at their patch notes.

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October 2, 2013 - 2:00 pm