The PC Gaming Show: Most Wanted is here to spotlight our most anticipated games of 2024 and beyond, but not everything in the show today is far off. A new multiplayer shooter promising to be "the most accessible extraction shooter" to date, Hawked, launches today in early access. It's free-to-play, sports a massive map out of the gate, and seems more focused on quick, simple fun than laborious looting.
Developed by My.Games, a Dutch studio with a portfolio of PC and mobile games, Hawked is among the most unique takes on the extraction shooter in recent years. Its art, goofy costumes, and uncomplicated third-person shooting will be instantly familiar to Fortnite players, but its match format is much closer to one of our favorite shooters at PC Gamer: Hunt: Showdown. AI hazards can be just as dangerous as other players and matches have a clear end point once the big prize has been collected.
Squads deploy at different corners of the map and race to solve mini-puzzles and collect "glyphs" that lead to the ultimate treasure; an artifact that grants a powerful perk. Extract from the match with it, and it can be used in subsequent matches and upgraded. That's the ideal outcome, but the beauty of extraction shooters, and a point that My.Games tried to drive home in a remote press presentation, is that you can freely extract from the map at any point and decide what a "successful" run means to you.
Case in point: I got nowhere near the main artifact in the preview matches I played last week, but I still felt like I made progress as I got used to the controls. I was way more relaxed playing Hawked than I usually am in an extraction or battle royale game, possibly because my matches played like a primarily PvE experience with a small side of PvP. My squads were able to rack up lots of XP (used to unlock gadgets and such at a home base) just by casually running toward glyph puzzles and fighting AI critters, tribes of lizard jerks, and minibosses we ran into on the way.
One complaint I've always had about Warzone DMZ and Escape From Tarkov is the lack of a concrete objective. When my only real goal in an extraction shooter is to loot guns and check off arbitrary account challenges, I tend to aimlessly wander around the map and get bored before deciding to extract. I really enjoy that Hawked doesn't have that problem. While it's possible to ignore the artifact and do side activities that fulfill a challenge instead, the artifact is centered as the clear primary objective, so players who want the most XP are pushed into encounters with each other.
The artifact does seem worth the trouble, too: there are 18 different ones that can be randomly chosen as the prize for your match, and they all grant powerful perks like the power to see enemy footsteps or be warned when someone's aiming at you.
The stepping stones toward finding an artifact are glyphs, mini treasures with smaller in-match bonuses (like extra HP) locked behind puzzles or combat challenges. These were different in every match, too, and the variety was refreshing. Sometimes we had to unlock a shrine by playing Simon Says with the island, or deduce the correct combination of symbols in a rotating statue, or simply fight a huge boss that can kill us in seconds.
No single glyph challenge was all that difficult on its own, but my heart rate jumped a few times when our peaceful puzzle solving was interrupted by an enemy squad after the same glyph. Hawked seemingly wants to avoid the common shooter experience of getting ambushed and killed before you know what's happening, because every time a squad got within spitting distance, my character would announce that "somebody's close."
I have no doubt that Hawked will prove to be the "most accessible" extraction shooter, but I do have doubts about its other qualities. It's really hard to get into a shooter when you're not having much fun shooting things, and Hawked's guns just aren't doing it for me. I didn't see everything in only a few matches, but the guns I looted from boxes were a bland spread of assault rifles, shotguns, and SMGs with standard tiered rarities. I've had the same complaint about Fortnite's guns for years, except Epic includes a rotating pool of absurd or utilitarian weapons to mix things up.
Another big aspect of Hawked I'm not connecting with is movement. You can quickly scale cliffs or cross gaps with a grapple hook every player has by default, but I was disappointed there was no room to creatively use it. You don't carry momentum when you grapple toward something and you can only target specific points, so it's really just there to skip some running or jumping. The grapple animation is also weirdly abrupt and a little ugly. More fun is riding a hoverboard to fast travel across the map on rivers, but I wish the boards didn't sound like a vacuum.
But I wasn't playing under ideal conditions with high ping on European servers, and I had a good enough time in Hawked to give it a proper shot now that it's out in the wild. It's free, early access starts today, and you can find it on Steam.
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Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.