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Hawken - A Review (PC)
HAWKEN is available for free on Valve's popular video game publishing platform, Steam. This review was published March, 2014 and reflects the status of the game to that point.
"War is a Machine"
Fans of mech-themed toys, video games, anime, comics, manga, or just first-person-shooter fans in general will enjoy the speed and veracity at which HAWKEN delivers a powerful, engaging shooter experience. There isn't much comprehensible in the way of story, plot progression, or universe-building, and even as a seasoned veteran of a month I'm still clueless as to what the HAWKEN abbreviation really means. If you, however are the type of gamer that enjoys blood-pumping, adrenaline-rushing, intense, explosive, shrapnel producing action, then HAWKEN hits the nail right on the head.
Mechs of every shape and size, each with hundreds of customization options -- whether functional or cosmetic -- abound the game marketplace, titillating potential buyers with relatively affordable prices. Nothing is of the dreaded "pay-to-win" model however, as most items with the exception of pure cosmetic items can be bought with in-game currency earned via regular gameplay.
Best Aspects of the Game
The game is a good mix between fast-paced intensity, and strategic analysis. Weapons are not just high-damage but high-function, yielding tactical advantages in different situations. The beauty of mech battles -- the delicate interrelationship between the raw brutality of the battlefield, and yet the speed, efficiency, and robotic perfection of the weaponized machine, is brilliantly captured in the smoothness, handling, and unique skills/functions of each type of unit. Coupled with the numerous battlefield upgrades, modifications, and alternative weapons, players of HAWKEN are given the ability to create and design a custom killing machine built around their preferences and play styles.
The graphics, sound, and feel of gameplay are extremely fluid and digital. The soundtrack, for being a up-and-coming game, is much better than the forgettable orchestral accompaniment of most traditional alternative shooters, or indie games. It certainly does not feel, or play like a modestly-budgeted game. Rather, it feels as streamlined and efficient as any lethal Call of Duty series, game, without the unnecessary glam and over-simplification of gameplay. In fact, HAWKEN is a hard shooter to get adjusted to seeing as there are so many new functions introduced to each mech, but it is only a pleasure in discovering its peculiarities.
Things to be Improved
HAWKEN has minimal characters, minimal plot, story, or universe development. In fact, I have no idea who, or what "HAWKEN" actually means or stands for. However, this matters little as it is clearly, a multiplayer-oriented game, and the intense, fulfilling gameplay more than makes up for it.
One fundamental aspect of HAWKEN multiplayer that must be improved upon is the focus and use of small, contained, arena-like maps. I feel that this limits the potential of the strategic implications readily available in HAWKEN, and inhibits one of its many strengths as a game. The maps that are available are by no means repetitive, and for a game in its infancy it has a commendable number of playable maps, but sprawling, campaign-like assaults, prolonged invasions, and bitter, stalemating conflicts as in the likes of the Battlefield series just don't exist. The whole "epic" feel, of struggling across a battlefield, patrolling segments of wasteland, and mustering huge assaults on tactical positions is lacking. It's a shame, truly, because the mechs themselves feel so epic to pilot around, with their bulky, camera-bobbing movements and heavy footfalls. After being serenaded into the game with its captivating music, and awesome character controls, it fails to truly elevate the player's enthusiasm to monumental heights, as in the case of now-forgotten 12 hour raids on classic, or "vanilla" World of Warcraft. At worst, on high-player servers in small, boxy maps, HAWKEN degenerates into a Call-of-Duty-style trigger-happy shoot-fest with missiles, chain guns, and twenty foot steel behemoths colliding and exploding with each other. HAWKEN absolutely screams for larger, more spread out maps.
Pay to Win, or Free to Play?
HAWKEN is largely free to play, which means that all game mechanics can be unlocked via free playable content. Players accumulate credits over time which can be spent on customizing your mech and other aspects of the game. The downside is to access any cosmetic upgrades, players will have to spend real money and buy a separate currency (which can be used to access everything, but cosmetics exclusively).
Overall, its a slightly lean system but a fair one. Other larger, more mainstream games like League of Legends have charged more lucrative prices for their cosmetic upgrades. For free-to-play game, it's not a bad deal. All things considered, I give Hawken a 4/5.