A rich gameplay system that isn’t easy to newcomers, very intricate customisation options, and tons of mechs to both unlock, and upgrade. These are my favorite parts about Hawken. However, like most games that follow the Free-To-Play model, there is a feeling of lack of content. In fact, with only four game modes, and nine maps, there is a lot left to be desired.
A Free-To-Play, mech based FPS, Hawken is a nice breath of fresh air compared to the cookie cutter shooters that release nowadays. It brings back the feeling of strategy and team play to the genre, promoting communication as it goes. While there is some very small backstory, it is fairly lacklustre, as the game lacks any type of cinematic campaign or story.
To start off, let’s talk about the gameplay. When I first started to play Hawken, I struggled greatly. The controls can seem slightly overwhelming for beginners, but that makes it all the better when you finally manage to get comfortable with the control scheme. Each mech has the same boost mechanics, like hovering or dashing left or right, but some can do those things more often, across larger distances too. Each mech has their own unique ability mapped to the X and Y buttons and these skills can come in the form of healing stations, mini turrets, or even a proximity EMP grenade.
Melee attacks apparently don’t exist in this mechanized world. This sometimes leads to some very tricky situations, as whilst in most of the smaller maps, you’ll find yourself face to face with an enemy, with no way of damaging them, other than firing your weapon from point blank range. A melee feature would be a welcome addition in my book, even if it was used as just a knockback ability.
With over 30 mechs, it does diversify the gameplay, allowing each game to feel like a new experience. The interior of each mech looks a bit different, as well as coming with big styling differences on the exterior. There are nine classes included, each offering a different play style with anything from sharpshooters to Tank artillery mechs. Hawken also gives each mech a difficulty rating. First off, there’s the Assault, a lightweight all-rounder that uses both a medium range rifle and a TOW rocket launcher. Assault mechs are versatile, but they aren’t great at anything in particular. The Rocketeer is much more difficult to use, but a monster in competent hands. Hold your crosshair over an opponent as you fire your Seeker rockets and they’ll seep their way towards an enemy, shredding them in seconds. The Brawler’s flak cannon crushes at close range. The Sharpshooter is a sniper, although none of the maps really lend themselves toward true long-range combat. And the Scout quickly recharges its fuel for boosting.
So how is the balance? For the most part, very good, with each mech having its own strengths and weaknesses. There are two in particular though that I noticed had a lot more of the former than the latter, including one that most of the high level players I went up against were using. Still, despite a certain lack of polish that AAA titles have, Hawken still manages to be something most FPS games of this generation aren’t…it really is a great team game. It isn’t the typical run and gun shooter we usually see, it requires both teamwork and strategy to win.
The maps are pretty good too. There aren’t any that really stand out – to the point where I was excited to see it load up – but I don’t think any of the maps are unfun to play on either. There is a fairly decent variety too, with one, Uptown, set in a set of narrow alleyways that can end up in really crazy one on one engagements. Or there are maps that feature much more open areas, like Bunker, which takes place at a bunker in snowy planes, featuring some crazy team oriented fights.
Unfortunately, Hawken is extremely lacking in the game mode department. With only four modes in place, and three of them being those commonly found in most FPS games nowadays, it can truly spoil your experience quickly. These come in the form of Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Artillery strike (which is basically domination) where you hold flags for points, and Siege. In Siege you must kill enemies to charge your battleship, which will then go on to attack the enemy’s battleship. That’s pretty interesting, but then they add in the anti aircraft weapon in the center of the map, which does huge damage to the enemy ship if you control it.
Microtransactions are another problem the game suffers from. While they aren’t glaring to begin with, after countless hours of grinding, spending a few bucks to advance yourself to acquire better mechs begins to sound much more appealing. And if you’re okay with spending a few bucks, it can become much easier to circumvent the entire mech tree, allowing you to just pick the one you want rather than following the order the game has you unlocking them.
There is a leveling up system, but most of your “advancements” will be gained by amassing large amounts of credits, which is the non-premium currency, and spending it on upgrading your existing mech, or purchasing a new one. If you really want to skip that process though, there are mech credits, which will cost you some cash, but will allow you to gain access to some mech models you would have to really grind for otherwise.
Hawken does come with some small, but noticeable, issues at times during the combat. It can be difficult to see an enemy’s health against the landscape around them, and amongst larger fights, it can be incredibly hard to pay attention to your health and ammo while trying to fight at the same time. Regardless of some small, varying issues, nothing makes the experience so poor to the point where it becomes a true annoyance to play.
I urge everyone to try Hawken. It offers some great moments of intense combat, and becomes an even greater experience when you team up with some friends. There are some little issues, but being a game that is free to play, these come off as a small price to pay for being able to enjoy a really fun mech based shooter. This is a complex and competent shooter with a lot of depth and with more maps, modes and a more generous currency system, Hawken could’ve been even better.