Remember this game? I mentioned it back in my Armored Core V review, I think. It has finally been released in open beta, and I have been taking time to play it, and I can now bring you my review of Hawken.
Hawken doesn’t really have a plot of any sort. Most FPS games have some sort of backstory set up as a reason as to why fights are taking place, Hawken lacks that. The backstories are normally paper thin excuses as to why you should care, but they usually fall flat. Some better games play around with the stories and expand on them a bit, but it really is just an excuse as to why you should shoot that other guy.
The issue with the lack of any backstory is it removes some of the reasons why players should care about the game. Counter-Strike had no real backstory, but some story was explained as the teams were Terrorists and Counter-terrorists, with missions including things like bombing a target. Even though it lacked a backstory, the gameplay itself gave reasons to fight. terrorists are bombing things, Counter-terrorists must stop them.
Gameplay is another big concern in any FPS. The first big question to be asked is if the gameplay itself is inherently fun. As it is a FPS game, the main thing you will be doing is shooting and running around. Movement controls must then be reasonably responsive and fairly simple to grasp, while shooting things should be inherently satisfying. If you get stuck on an inch high transition from a street to a sidewalk, that isn’t fun. If the energy weapon makes a ‘pew pew pew’ noise, it isn’t fun.
Hawken is reasonably good, as far as all that goes. The movement controls are annoying at times, but shooting enemy mechs and getting into fights with them isn’t boring, but it isn’t pulse-pounding excitement, either. The main movement issue is that you will get stuck on walls and things. There is no real easy way to judge the width of your mech, so even experienced players get killed because they scraped along a wall, making them an easy target. The other weird thing is how the boost works.
To boost forward, hold w and shift. To dodge, press shift and a or d while not moving forward or backward. That is a bit strange, but fair enough. To boost backwards, you would think you hold s and shift, since that is the boost and backwards keys. What actually happens is it snaps you around 180 degrees so your weaponless rear is facing the guy shooting at you. It takes a firefight where you wanted to move away from the guy while still shooting at him, giving you a chance at escape or victory into you trying to get away and being turned into a smoldering wreck.
Hawken also includes RPG elements, where you gain levels with a mech by using it in battles, allowing you to get points which can be used for skills, such as a reduced RADAR signature, or additional health. There are three upgrade trees, each with a different specialty, and you can take abilities form each or all in one tree to customize the mech to your playstyle. You can also buy internal components to upgrade the heat capacity or weapon power, defense ability, as well as deployables like turrets, shields, and other useful things.
Customization ends there, however. You can change the primary weapon on your mech, but you get the choice of the primary weapon it came with or the other primary weapon it came with. The ability to put a grenade launcher as the primary of a heavy mech with a sniper rifle secondary simply doesn’t exist. the ability to build a mech doesn’t exist, either. You earn credits by playing matches, and buy pre-built mechs with that. You can change out the internal its, put points into skill trees, and replace your deployable grenade with a rocket turret, but you can’t go build something perfectly suited to your playstyle, unless your playstyle happens to coincide with one of the pre-built models.
Hawken does have that Mek-fu controller that it seems will be released, and I have my comments on that too. What is really neat is that the controller supports tablets and smartphones, and Hawken is going to be on Gaikai, so you can take the controller and your tablet anywhere there is good enough service and play Hawken. Sure, Gaikai requires quite a lot of bandwidth to play, and that requires what can best be described as a ‘perfect’ connection. Streaming anything on a mobile device isn’t cheap, so unless you are using the wi-fi abilities of your tablet, the cost of playing the game will be horrendous.
The other complaint is that the controller has too many buttons. I’m not trying to be some sort of Luddite, complaining how the atari controller was the best, but the Mek-fu has too many buttons. It might be good for MechWarrior, but I haven’t even found enough controls in Hawken to use up all of the buttons the controller has. They keyboard is nice, since it will allow you to use teamchat and allchat while using a mobile device, and means you won’t need your keyboard out as well as the controller.
The biggest issue I have is that it feels like there is nothing really special about Hawken. A mech based first person shooter is fun, and the fact that it is free is quite nice. The gameplay isn’t horrible, but it isn’t anything special, either. I guess what I am trying to say is it feels like it lacks longevity. It doesn’t look or feel like the kind of game we will look back on in a few years and remember fondly. It doesn’t have any really special element about it. As it stands, it feels like they made a mech based FPS game, but forgot to make it anything special. Better mech games are to be found, and better FPS games are to be found.
Score: 3/5 not bad
Pros: Not bad at all
Cons: Nothing really special about it
Verdict: Not bad, but not great either. If I was asked to sum up the game in as short of a phrase as possible, ‘not bad’ or ‘it’s just okay’ come to mind.