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PAX Prime 2012: Hawken hands-on

PAX Prime 2012

Heavy duty mechs stomp through the streets of the industrial cityscape. The pilots are locked into disputes over the planet’s precious remaining resources. They try to use their words but find high-powered cannons are more effective getting the point across. These pilots are a new breed of vicious, all hell-bent on destruction.

Hawken pines for the days when mech games were king. Adhesive Games have channeled the concepts that make for the best ones, joining simulation with fast-paced shooting action in a satisfying way. There are few dull moments. It details a convincing sense of scale and weight informing the world; everything feels grounded.

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Adhesive Games are indie developers working in a full-budget capacity. They have tapped into Unreal Engine 3 and created a detailed city that feels like it’s crumbling in on itself as the battle unfolds around it. The effective end result comes from the combination of all its separate parts, creating an environment that feels cohesive and inhabited.

The mechs move well and keep up the pace. Inside their cockpits, we’re given a sense of weight and useful visual feedback while under-fire, as the cockpits emit showers of sparks and the windshield is obscured with cracks. The HUD’s real straightforward and effective. There’s a simplicity about Hawken’s presentation that keeps the emphasis on the action.

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We played a couple rounds of deathmatch in the city area and found the mech combat engaging. Rounds spun into chaos and using the lighter builds, our mechs were more mobile and able to take advantage of the verticality in the stage design. A heavy build was also announced during the show and provides an armored option for the more defensive player.

It’s also worth saying that Hawken defies the stigma for how a F2P game typically looks and plays, and is impressive coming from an indie dev. It feels sound and complete in the current build and there’s no indication that it’ll fall into the camp of exploitative pay-to-win. There’s a sense that they’re just focusing on building a quality mechanical experience first, rather than designing around the payments primarily. It’s a respectful approach and is one of the best arguments in favor of the model.

Hawken looks to revitalize the lost era of mech games this December, when it enters closed Beta. Sign-ups are available on the official site.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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