It’s been three and a half years since the mech shooter Hawken first arrived on PC. Back then I didn’t have a machine with the capabilities to run it so I was forced to sit back and admire (at the time) some very pretty videos. Now with it’s arrival on Xbox One and soon PlayStation 4 thanks to Reloaded Games (of APB Reloaded) I thought it was time to check it out.
Viewing it from an Xbox gamer’s perspective, the best way to describe my first impressions of the game is that it is what you would get it you combined the free to play mechanics of World of Tanks with the arcade style mech battles of the old MechAssault series.
In the beginning you start of with the lowest tier mech and as you complete games, you accrue credits which can be used to upgrade it or purchase a more powerful machine. Like World of Tanks, you don’t have immediate access to everything but have to work your way up a tree of tiered mechs – if the grind is too much you can purchase “Hawken Credits” and get some of these items sooner.
Note: Hawken Credits weren’t available to purchase when I was playing the game on the Xbox One but I’m guessing they won’t be too far away.
The game offers a handful of online deathmatch and assault/capture modes but there’s also co-op modes in there too including one where you fight against AI bots which is a great way for new players to jump into the game to see what it is about with being too overwhelmed. The waiting time between games didn’t seem too long and it looks like bots will also be used to fill in any free slots for games too.
The controls are geared towards being easy to pick up and play – the sticks control first person movement, triggers control the primary and secondary weapons, bumpers the rocket boosters with limited but recharging fuel and face buttons repairs and special abilities. The in game tutorial gives you a ten minute run through of everything you need to know and should give you a fair amount of confidence in wanting to jump into the meat of the game. Though it may look like a simulation with those fancy mech cockpits, this is a straight up shooter all the way.
The action in the game feels fast and intense – learning to dodge with your boosters is key to survival as you won’t last long being a bullet sponge. Like many first person shooters, being aware of your surroundings will also help as these machines are more nimble than you may think and with their ability to leap high with their boosters, elevation can put you in either a good or bad position. Visually, the game is not too bad – the years have aged it somewhat but the game runs well and has a style that does make me wish we’d see another MechAssault in the future.
It’s a shame that this hadn’t arrived sooner in the console’s lifecycle because I’m worried it might be ignored now with the big budget games that are available now. To me it feels like the game fits neatly between the quick pace of shooters like Call of Duty and Halo and the more deliberate movement and planning of World of Tanks. And being free to play you can check it all out without spending a cent.