April 7, 2012

Exclusve: Hawken

[Update: Added Gameplay Video]

Don't forget to enter into the PAX East Give-Away

Free to play Mech combat game, Hawken, held its own private event the first day of PAX East 2012 in the back of a sports bar/bowling alley. This was the first time that Hawken has ever been demo'd. To anyone. I got to go hands on before the major press and big conventions could get their paws on it. Knowing that, I had already started to gain respect for those at Meteor and Adhesive. The developers are truly making this game for the fans and the only things they asked of us was to play the game and for our honest feedback. They wanted to know, down to the smallest detail, what we liked and what we hated. 

Hawken PAX Private Party
Private Hawken Party at Jillians in Boston
They were also readily open to answer any questions one may have. We discussed player caps: would 6v6 or 8v8 be better? How about maps, are they big enough or too small? Did you remember your way around them or do you often find yourself lost? Furthering the conversation about maps, the developers assured us that each map will not just be a color scheme. Instead, each map will have unique characteristics that set them apart from the others. One level in specific has a giant sandstorm that sweeps in every so often that lowers visibility (think Uncharted 3). Unfortunately, one of the biggest questions, whether Hawken would support map creation was left unanswered. I have faith that if enough interest is shown, they will not let us down.

Exclusive Trailer given to me at Event

The above trailer is an exclusive trailer distributed to those that attended the event. The game itself is gorgeous and runs extremely smooth. While talking to one of the developers, I learned about an interesting technique used to save money in the art department and create environments that pull from fewer data files. Almost everything in the environment is actually built from the mech suits. Wall textures may be expanded shoulder pads while street signs may come from the tubing along the mech's inner legs. I thought this technique was rather clever and should lead to the game running very smoothly. Please do note that the environments did not look like they were pulled from the mechs and I never would have known if not for the developer saying so.

I attended the event with my friend Mike (who will be writing for the site following PAX). Mike wasn't too excited about leaving PAX early to head over to a glorified mech-game demo. Hes not really a mech fan, or a PC gamer, and prefers his shooters along the lines of Call of Duty. We were the second people to show up and therefore the first ever outside group to play Hawken. We sat down and slipped on our headsets. Read through the controls and cluelessly picked our mech-type and weapons.

Exclusive Gameplay Video

One five minute game was all it took to fall in love. The controls were extremely responsive and tight. The mechs controlled wondrously; none felt overly clunky or heavy. In fact, with the sprinting and hovering abilities, the game almost felt like a standard mech game on fast forward. Yet, it felt right. The gameplay was extremely satisfying and outright fun to play. Its hard to describe in words how it feels to blow a mech to bits with your flak cannon and quickly turning to sniping a repairing enemy mech attempting to hide in a corner.

The mechs felt powerful, but no weapon seemed too strong. There was a counter for each weapon attachement, so if you were struggling with your machine gun against a team of snipers a quick class change to lock-on missiles would quickly solve the problem. With the addition of hovering and the ability to boost individual mech stats, such as armor, speed, or power, there was no foe that could not be bested by quick customization between deaths.

The sound design was beautifully displayed by the Astro headsets the team had setup. As your mech suits stomped through the city I could hear electronics whirring and your mechanical limbs' hydraulic systems. Guns felt heavy and powerful when firing and upon impact explosions sounded fierce. All of the sounds flowed perfectly and I could not hear any cutting out. I apologize for the above gameplay video lacking these beautiful sounds, but as I stated earlier, the game was using headsets for audio.

Hawken Desert Map
Hawken's Desert-themed Map
Even my skeptical friend Mike had a blast playing Hawken. We completed a grand total of seven games and I almost had to drag him away once the event ended. I have no doubt when the game launches this December that he will be knocking at my door asking to play.

A game like Hawken is truly amazing in the fact that it can completely change a person's outlook on a genre and an entire platform.

12.12.12 is just a little too far off. Luckily you can sign up for the beta here. And I highly recommend you do so.


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