Hawken Hands-on Preview from E3 2012 -- You Look Mech-alous!By Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 12, 2012
Hawken would be an impressive game no matter how it was developed, but knowing it comes from a tiny, nine-person indie development house makes it even more praise-worthy. I played the upcoming mech-combat game at E3 2012, and it looks and feels like a AAA game all the way. Big props to Adhesive Games for that.
This is an old-fashioned, giant mech combat game where you and up to nine others square off in different types of multiplayer matches, everyone encased in a ride-in mechanical monstrosity that is bristling with weapons: Machine guns, booster jets, rockets and other, more esoteric death-dealers are part of the package.
You start each map by choosing your loadout. You can pick the weapons you want to bring along as well as the relative strength of your mech. Go for a strong, defensive mech and you pay in terms of speed. The opposite is true of more fleet-footed ‘bots. You can also choose your special weapon. These range from big explosives to mech-decoys to distract and bedevil your opponents.
For E3 preview purposes, we played team deathmatch in a ravaged, future-dystopia city, filled with crumbling buildings and metal obstructions. Hawken does a good job making you feel like you’re in a vehicle, without it being annoying--the game moves differently than a typical FPS. There’s weight to your mech. When you lumber around, the ground seems to shake beneath your metal feet.
Although there’s a lumbering quality to your mech, this is far from a straight up mech-simulation. Hawken has its arcade-y elements as well. Each mech has defensive, dodge moves and the ability to instantly spin around 180 degree that add fluidity (and chaos) to the play. Overall, it feels slightly heavier than most shooters, but it’s still an action-packed game with an Unreal Tournament feel.
The level we played at E3 was tiered, with a blasted highway overpass as the top-level. It seemed at times too big for the number of combatants in the arena, forcing you to sometimes walk around looking for enemies. It’s a big level, but packed with stuff: Buildings, lampposts, cars, etc, giving it a relatively claustrophobic, close-corridor feel, which is an interesting choice in a mech game. Distances weapons and being able to move fast were less important, on this level, than a heavy hide and some big-ass guns.
The environment looks very impressive, with tons of detail and a great post-disaster warzone sheen, but the color palette was heavy enough on the greys to make it sometimes confusing to spot out opposing mechs, a small problem.
I would have loved to see how the game would be different when played in a more open environment like a forest or something. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance when Hawken is released, free-to-play for PC, on December 12.