Ah mechs, great hulking armoured behemoths bristling with guns and jump jets. The staple of any true gamer’s boyhood dreams. It’s been a good while since we last saw a good mech game. Not since the days of Armoured Core or Mechwarrior have developers dared dip their toes into the sea of mech. Hawken changes that. Clothed in the conventions of our generation, Hawken thrusts mech combat back into the centre-stage spotlight of 2013.
Much like Planetside 2, Hawken employs a free-to-play model mixed with cosmetic microtransactions. Also like Planetside 2, you can work for your weapons. There is nothing that you can buy to improve your prowess that you cannot graft in game to achieve. However for those who do pay there are a wealth of skins and parts to customise your mech. From new torso sections to repair drone models to paint custom paint jobs. There are a million ways to beautify your mech; and trust me, you will want to.
To say the starter mech you are provided with is ugly is, indeed, an understatement. With a square block torso that roughly resembles a dusty 1970s oven with a windscreen wiper, it truly has a face that only an assembly line could love. But in that squat, industrial ugliness there is also beauty. That is the crux of Hawken and the ‘Recruit’ starter mech (Which I affectionately nicknamed ‘Otis’) is the perfect example of the Hawken world.
This is a post-industrialist world in which mechs are bought, traded and fixed up like second-hand cars. Each part looks salvaged and customised, perhaps from scrap. Every movement of your mech rewards you with a creak or crunch that at first sounds worrying but soon becomes your constant companion. Even the UI of the game feels grubby yet comfortable. Your POV for the game put you straight in the cockpit of your robotic exosuit and lets you loose on it’s array of dials and buttons.
All of the games key elements and data readouts are displayed cleanly yet novelly on the dashboard of your cockpit. One dial shows your boost levels, another shows your hull strength and another still shows your ammo count and lock-on warnings. All in all it really served to make me feel like I was really inside the mech.
“It’s combat is visceral and feeds back aggressively. Every punch, crunch, shot and charge reverberates through your cockpit”
I think Hawken’s strongest attraction to me is that I, simply put, fell in love with my mech. These aren’t the guns you pick up and throw away in Call of Duty or the cars of Grand Theft Auto that you flip and then run away from, (Hastily, before the upside-down equals fire mechanics kick in.) This is my new best friend, a machine which grows with me and feels as comfortable to me as my own skin.
Honestly, when the options to test drive new machines came available or to shop in Otis for another, sleeker, more deadly mech, I found myself reluctant to do so. By now, me and Otis have seen things, done things. By now I’m not honestly sure if I’m rewarding myself with these new parts and paint jobs, or him.
Aside from my now obvious mechrophilia, I should say that Hawken is a fantastically fun game to play. It’s combat is visceral and feeds back aggressively. Every punch, crunch, shot and charge reverberates through your cockpit, rattling your brain, making you think twice about stepping into the line of fire.
Gameplay scenarios are very similar to other FPS titles with the staple Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch variants. Missile Assault works very similarly to the conquest game modes of the battlefield series in which your victory is dependent on holding key strategic map points. Finally the Siege game mode is something new. In it players must scramble to collect energy from stations around the map or from the corpses of destroyed mechs.
Once enough energy is collected you can deploy the team’s airborne battleship which slowly manoeuvres to the enemy base before swiftly bombing it, and any enemy mechs unfortunate enough to be in it’s way, back to the stone age. If the battleship is destroyed the entire cycle starts again. If each team spawn a battleship then they will meet in mid air and exchange fire until there is a clear victor. During this explosive mid-air ballet you can assist your ship by firing on the enemy ship or by securing one of the maps AA positions. Talk about exciting action!
As with any good mech game, there are jump jets, and Hawken uses them to great advantage. Your jump jets are measured by a boost gauge which you can not only use for flying upwards and through the air but also to charge forwards along the ground or strafe to the sides. It’s my experience that the pilots that have mastered this side shift technique are the ones that excel in the world of Hawken.
The inclusion of jump jets in the game really change the paradigm of warfare between two factions of gigantic lumbering robots. With canny use of side shifting and jump jetting, players can make their mechs move with surprising grace and agility. Often to their opponent’s dismay. One of my favourite tactics was to drop on enemies from above and then side-shift away from harm once they noticed my presence.
“Adhesive games have played an absolute blinder in bringing Mechs back into the spotlight”
That strategy brings me onto my second favourite feature of Hawken’s combat: In-combat repairs. In previous mech games your damaged robots had to lurch around the battlefield frantically hunting for repair kits while your cockpit sirens incessantly blared into your skull. However, in Hawken you can simply hide away from combat for a brief reprieve and channel your repair drone to begin repairs on your mech. During this time your mech will shut down and you are treated to a third person view of your drone lasering your mech back to health.
However, it does leave you defenceless as repairs take place, which can lead to sticky situations if you’re not as well hidden as you first thought. If you’re working well as a team, covering each other as repairs occur, it can be a very powerful tool that keeps you fighting at the front lines time and time again.
Overall Hawken is an amazing game to play and an absolute gem at the bargain price of free. I advise everyone to try it, even if mechs aren’t their cup of tea. Who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was. For the more hardcore mech fans amongst us, let me simply say this: Rejoice, mechs are back, and they’re bigger, better and creakier than ever.
- Visceral combat mechanics
- Great in-game universe
- Skull-rattling audio effects
- No single player campaign
- No Mac client as of yet
- Similar gameplay scenarios