I turn a corner and come face to face with hot death.
My would be murderer, you see, has twin guns pointed in my general direction. The fight or flight instinct kicks in–and I do both.
I boost out of bullet range, turn, and then unleash heavy metal of my own into the enemy’s chassis. It explodes after enduring a few gatling rounds.
This an event the occurred while playing Adhesive Games’ Hawken. How good is Hawken? Well, put it this way: Adhesive Games has inspired me to pick up a game genre in which I have the absolutely least interest in ever playing again–the first-person shooter.
Hawken, an Unreal-powered mech action-sim that recently received $10 million in funding, is a free-to-play PC game that appeals to the inner pubescent boy who still dreams of piloting lumbering metal machines that rocket around bombed-out environments while delivering Macross-style missile swarm payloads.
Hawken puts gamers in one of three mech types (light, medium, heavy), each of which has a particular skill set inherent to its class. Light mechs are lithe machines that dance across the battlefield, but lack heavy armor. Medium mechs are the most well-rounded as they balance speed and armor. Heavy mechs are essentially slow-moving walking brick walls with incredible protective gear. You can further customize mechs by selecting a secondary type within a weight class, such as Brawler or Sniper. I positioned my light sniper, a support class, on a perch and began picking off rivals who were pursuing a teammate as I switched between first-person and third-person views (after several minutes of being mechanically trashed by the opposing team, of course).
The mechs tote main and sub-weapons mapped to the left mouse button and right mouse button, respectively. Moving the mouse aims your reticle, and tapping the left mouse button fires off rounds. Tapping Shift fires up your mech’s booster jets that let you slide in and out of battle. It’s not unlimited boost, so you need to meter it for the appropriate situation (in my case, that typically involved high-tailing it away from an incoming missile barrage). Fortunately, your “fuel” auto-generates in a few seconds. You also need to watch your heat meter—if you overheat, the mech shuts down, leaving you open for attack. If your mech takes too much damage you can do a quick auto-repair by pressing “C,” which also leaves you vulnerable.
Hawken is a more action-orientated game than the pure sim that is MechWarrior Online, but less manic than the Armored Core series. This creates results in a game that has balance in terms of feel. It’s not methodical, nor is it a pure button-masher. In terms of controls, piloting mechs is less cumbersome than the E3 2012 build. Heavy mechs were once overpowered, but thankfully they’ve been nerfed. They’re still strong, but it takes a skilled pilot to wreak havoc.
When Hawken exits its closed beta on 12-12-12, in-app purchases will let the public customize their mechs in terms of parts and color, and purchase new weapons that transform rivals into scrap. Customization wasn’t available during our initial E3 2012 hands-on, but we dabbled in it during the press-only beta on 10/20/12. You can alter a mech’s entire frame-work, and though it’s cosmetic, it helps distinguish your build from others. There are also a number of weapons you can buy using the game’s currencies (Hawken points, Meteor points) such as repeater rifles, assault rifles, deployable turrets, and grenades.
Creative director Khang Le recognizes that free-to-play games rely on a few users to purchase items, but he emphasized that non-paying customers won’t be handicapped; there will be gear that can only be found by playing the game, not flexing your wallet in an online marketplace. “Pay-to-win” is a no-no.
If you’re looking to get in on the mech-on-mech action this season, Hawken just may be the game for you.
The closed beta goes wide in a week’s time.