Preview: Sean Cargle recently got some hands-on time with the upcoming free-to-play competitive mech HAWKEN, and it’s looking like you should keep an eye on these machines of war.
Adhesive Games‘ Hawken is a game that you need to listen to. Stomping my way through the eerily gorgeous futuristic metropolis’ and desolate desert cities of this drab world, I could hear everything. I could hear the crunch underfoot as my mech stepped heavily onto a street. I could hear the sounds of machinery at work all around, and I could distinctly take note of the hydraulics as I pushed my heavy machine of death through the sky. It felt great, it looked great and it sounded lovely.
You can tackle Hawken in many different ways, with mechs coming in different shapes and sizes. There’s the light mech, my personal favourite and which I have dubbed the agile ninja mech because of how superbly you can ambush the heavier mechs in it, or there is the medium all purpose mechs, which can handle just about any situation, and finally the heavy mechs that have god like weapons that can snipe enemy mechs from afar or bombard them into the dirt with artillery. The medium builds were the least enjoyable, as it was always better to get to grips with the more specialised play styles of the light and heavy mechs.
The first map I jumped into was called Titan and was for Hawken’s objective mode called missile assault. The map was shrouded in darkness, a steam-filled and constrained futuristic city that wouldn’t have looked out of place in The Matrix. Unlike the usual deathmatch affair, missile assault has missiles fire across the maps from silos and which ever team holds them the longest can triumphantly watch the other team’s base violently explode.
Go ahead, Mech my day
Andromeda is the map that you’ve seen if you’ve ever watched any Hawken trailer before. It is of a lighter tone than Titan and feels much more like a real city, with a freeway going through the middle, buildings everywhere and advertisements and billboards plastered all over. Alleys and Sahara were the two deathmatch maps, and also the two that were most interesting to play on. They were each futuristic desert locations, and Alleys had quite a few height levels, which made it feel complex, giving it a Blade Runner vibe: the influence of renowned sci-fi once again showing in Hawken’s visual design.
Sahara was the one map not set in a city, and this time around I found myself to be out in an area with few buildings, hills, and not a lot of clutter in comparison to the other maps. They were both designed differently to the other two maps and in a short period of time I began to notice the unique qualities of each map, making each fight a varied one.
Hawken uses a League of Legends style of character/mech system in which you have three trial mechs that you can use every week for free and after that they will switch to three new ones, but you can purchase any of them permanently and only if you purchase them can you customize them. I used the three trial mechs throughout most of the hands-on time, and they did the job, but once I started messing with the customizable mechs it was pretty obvious that there is at least a small gap in terms of quality.
One of my main concerns is about how slowly you earn currency: it seems like it would take a very long time to unlock even one augment or armor module, both of which can increase your weapon damage, reduce your damage taken, increase thruster speed or various other options. Thankfully, at its core Hawken is skilled based, so even if you have those modules it shouldn’t upset the balance of the game too much.
After my short session with Hawken I came away rather pleased with it all. Hawken is fast-paced, action packed, exciting, competitive, gorgeous, has some smooth controls and is generally bug-free, even at this early stage of the beta. The time investment required for upgrades may skew things in favour of those willing to splash the cash, but the differences don’t feel huge, meaning when it comes to mech vs. mech, it’ll be the most skilled player who comes out on top. If you’re not good enough, the last sound you hear will be of cogs whirring and rockets exploding. Which, as it turns out, isn’t all that bad.
Hawken, from Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment, is due out on the 12th of December for PC.