Hawken: hands-on with the mech-battler extraordinaire
Sep 22, 2012
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This article originally appeared in issue 245 of PC Gamer UK. Preview by Owen Hill
I want to turn to Khang Le, creative director on Hawken, and reassure him that I'm enjoying myself. As I explode for the fourth time, he leans in and politely recommends that I switch classes to something with more armour. He's worried; Hawken has a learning curve, and, despite the instant allure of being free-to-play and visually breathtaking, its mechanics are not going to appeal to everyone. He's probably worried that I'm not killing enough people due to control issues or misleading mechanics. The truth is I'm having too much fun clomping about to worry about the finer points of shooting.
After piloting my mech for a few seconds, I knew I was going to enjoy this deathmatch, regardless of where I ended up on the scoreboard. And piloting is the right word. Make a quick turn and your view changes before the cockpit catches up, giving a true sense of place. And that place is the cockpit of a heavily armed robot that feels like it weighs more than de_dust, along with all the counter-terrorists you could cram in its comparatively cramped hallways. Even better, it's now confirmed that Hawkenwill support the Oculus Rift – the upcoming virtual reality headset of my dreams. It's the perfect match.
I double-tap D to slide around a corner, unleash a volley of rockets and double-tap A to slide back into safety. But that's it. Too much dashing, hovering, or jumping and your mech runs out of juice, leaving you vulnerable, like a TF2Heavy in full spin. It gives battles a distinctive, measured pace. The moment of ambush, along with how you choose to initiate your attack, is key. There are no heads to shoot here, just an armoured cockpit that'll take plenty of well-placed rounds to penetrate, giving the other guy a chance to retaliate or flee.
I sense Khang thinks I'm doing a bit too much running. I have an urge to heal up after each confrontation, but this isn't COD. Holding C summons a gang of mini robot medics who float around your temporarily defenceless mech to repair it. This isn't the kind of thing you should try on the front line, but I do anyway, and I get exploded. “Maybe you should try the Sniper class,” he says casually.
I respawn and get to a good vantage point. Hawken's cities are huge and from this height, the smog, green hues, and mechanical ultraviolence below looks eerily beautiful. As is tradition, my sniper comes with a hefty zoom, but mechs are bigger than marines, and blowing up sexy robots is much more fun than shooting soldiers. As a result, sniping feels less detached from the fray as it does in, say, Battlefield 3.
I quite fancy some of the robots, too. Mech customisation is not as simple as big gun vs little gun vs grenade launcher. There's camo, parts, cockpits and more. This is the ultimate robo fashion show. With guns. It's going to be glorious.
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