Mechs gone wild. This was the first true “mech” style of game I have played so I didn’t know what to expect going into it. Should I expect a Call of Duty feel? Should I expect a Titanfall feel? I just didn’t know. Fine – I admit it. I cheated. I looked at reviews before playing the game. But! I didn’t READ any; I just simply wanted to get an idea of what to expect. I saw a variety of scores (from 9/10 to 5/10), but once again, I am still left confused. F*#@ it. I will find out myself. Let’s see how it held up against the best critics out there – BlueBall Reviews.
Blue Ball Score: 15 out of 25 balls
As mentioned above, Hawken popped my “mech” cherry. With any new game, there are a few things us gamers notice right off the bat. These include: controls, style of play (fast vs. slow), tutorials, customizations, and much more. We will touch on a few of these gameplay aspects.
Let’s start off with controls. The controls were quite difficult to learn and master. I played Hawken on the Xbox One and you had to use both triggers, both buttons (RB and LB), and most of the buttons themselves. These controls were hard to remember at times, especially when you are getting shot by 4 different mechs at the same time while you are low on health. If you were to dedicate some intense time to this game, you may be able to master these complex control and dominate the battlefield.
Style of play? Frantic and chaotic. It reminded me of the Americans storming the beaches of Normandy in 1944. There were robots flying around all over the place, strafing left to right, strafing in mid-air, and running around you like a madman with an SMG all the while you are getting blasted with rockets from long range. It was just pure chaos. Once you got in the thick of battle it was hard to find a place to hide and repair.
Finally, I will touch on the level of customizations offered. There were several different ways to customize your mech as well as upgrade them. You could even customize aspects of the game that could affect your experience as well, such as the colors of enemies vs. friendlies on your HUD. You could also add little bobble-heads in your mech as well. Each mech had its own style, such as: fast and quick SMG with low health, Heavy duty mechs with slow, big guns that were slow moving, balanced assault rifle-style mechs, and everything in between those. Each mech had its own unique abilities and equipment which could be upgraded. All of these things combined to allow gamers a fairly high level of customization.
Conclusion? Although there was a ton of potential here, the complicated controls and clunky cockpit experience were hard to overlook. The constant chaotic and frantic gameplay didn’t help things either. Some may argue that this frantic style of play is the new style of gaming and I am just an old wrinkly bastard, but a good game is much more balanced. For these reasons, gameplay gets a 3 / 5 balls.
In a nutshell, the total game modes offered were: training (to learn the controls), Deathmatch (AKA Free-for-all), Team Deathmatch, Missile Assault, Siege, and Co-op Bot Destruction. There were a few different variants of Team Deathmatch; one of which was the same as Free for All. These variety of game modes helped compensate for the lack of campaign, but as a whole there just wasn’t enough.
What the hell does that mean Tasty Nades? Way to be real specific there. What I mean is if you aren’t going to have a campaign mode then your multiplayer modes better be extremely diverse. You better offer everything under the Sun so to speak. Sure, Free-for-All and Team Deathmatch are enough to occupy me for a while, but by George I need more. I want some co-op missions like Homefront: The Revolution or some Capture the Flag, or even some Grifball for f*@#$ sake. But seriously though, could you imagine Mech Griball?
In conclusion, there were a few different styles of gameplay offered, but there just wasn’t enough. For a free game, it isn’t a bad start, but to be successful they will need to develop a campaign or drastically increase the number of multiplayer modes or options. As a special little note, the game’s first cut scene opens up with a cinematic that sets the scene for Hawken; A war torn world where wars are fought with mechs instead of foot soldiers. This really got my gears going expecting a sweet campaign that explains how it all lead up to this massive war. But, disappointed I was. And disappointed I’ll stay. 2/5 balls.
Let’s start with the most noticeable part of online experiences – the servers. As an IT guy myself, I expect server stability, reliability, and quick speeds (sounds like a sales pitch, eh?). That being said, the servers seemed really solid. There wasn’t an extreme amount of lag and matchmaking was fairly quick to get into. Hawken even provides you with different ways to find a game. Perhaps you don’t care about a little lag and want to get in a game with average connection speeds? Go for it. Or, like myself, you want a game with no lag and fiber-like speeds? Most definitely. Either way, Hawken nailed it. Once again, for a free game, this was surprising to me. Hell, maybe the various developers of Call of Duty could take a few notes here…
The next layer of multiplayer I will dive into is the overall feel. In other words, the PvP mechanics and battle system as a whole. I’m not going to lie here folks, at first I hated it. I was like “MAN!!! This game sucks!” But, it just took some getting used to. Although the controls are overly complicated, once you get the feel for the game, you start to find a groove. Hawken even allows you to repair your mechs which allows for some interesting strategies. Some players rush in fast and hard (BigWhiteAngus knows about this) to get a few quick shots and then dive out of battle to repair and heal – only to repeat this process throughout the game. Mother F*$%3%$… But this repairing ability allowed players to get on huge killing sprees. And, man, did you feel a bada$$ when you got on a 15 kill streak. Damn it felt good!
As mentioned above, the pace of the game was frantic. Some of the maps were quite large, but once you found the battle you better get ready. Fast-paced, frantic, jet-pack flying, strafing, crazy woman named Brittany pace. You did have the ability to sit back with heavy guns, but if you didn’t have teammates that had your back, you would get quickly crushed. So, this wasn’t the ideal strategy. I do wish Hawken’s multiplayer allowed for more of a variety of combat styles.
Speaking of combat styles, how were the mechs themselves in regards to combat? Meh – average at best. I wish you could customize your mechs a little bit more in areas where it mattered. You can upgrade your abilities, but that’s about it. If you want a mech with more health you will need to purchase a different mech, but that mech may not have guns you like. So, it was a balancing act. I just wish you could change guns for different mechs, upgrade their armor, etc.
Verdict? Not too shabby. I do wish there were more game modes, but I’ve already ranted about that, so I will choose to remain silent. Although the combat was chaotic and your mechs weren’t as customizable as I wanted, the superb servers, reliable speeds, and repairing abilities lead Hawken’s online experience to get a 3/5 balls.
The graphics weren’t very impressive. As cliché as it may sound, it was just like any other game. The attention to detail wasn’t there and the maps looked like they were outlined and quickly finished. The graphical animations (such as the animations for air lifts) just weren’t impressive. Perhaps the developers will go back and “fine tune” the graphics later, but as of now they are sub-par.
So the graphics weren’t that good, how was the audio? The sound effects? A little better, but not by a lot. One thing I loved was the shooting sounds. The guns firing off sounded like pure sex. Damn near orgasmic. Besides that, the sound effects weren’t very good. The thrusters firing off were disappointing and the sound of your mech being repaired weren’t very exciting. I was hoping you would hear some Transformers-like sound as you were being repaired to pump you up for the next firefight just around the corner. But nope. Just a few clicks, clacks, and paddy whacks. As a brief side note, the soundtrack was horrendous…
Overall, the graphics and sounds were disappointing. I was hoping for a graphically rich game with exciting mechanical sounds and robot warfare galore. But, what I got were sub-par graphics with an audio that was only saved by a few combat noises. This leads to a 2/5 balls.
There are certainly some things left for the developers to tweak and improve, but this is definitely a worthy free game. I couldn’t see anyone playing this game for hours upon hours and days on end, but this game is a really good “change of pace” game. If you are bored with nothing else to play, throw some Hawken on and get your Mech on!
If the developers improve the graphics, add some campaign or co-op modes, and build out the customizations for multiplayer, they may very well have an award winning game in my book. The fundamental groundwork for Hawken has been laid and it has been laid well (something BigWhiteAngus knows nothing about). For these reasons, I give Hawken a perfect 5/5 balls here.
In conclusion, this is a solid game. The fundamentals are there, the groundwork has been laid, and it is definitely a fun “change of pace” game. The multiplayer is fun and you really do feel like you are in a beast Mech. As long as the developers keep improving this game and building out its features, Hawken will become a success story. For these reasons, I give Hawken a 15/25 balls.