There were a lot of weird things about E3 this year but most prominent among them was that one of the best games of the show wasn't even on the show floor. Rather it was being shown at a hotel a few blocks away from the Los Angeles Convention Center. That game? Hawken
Like every one else I had really seen only bits and pieces of Hawken over the last few months so it was exciting to finally sit behind the keyboard and actually play the game. In a world of overhyped games that under deliver, Hawken delivers everything promised in those videos and more. Those amazing graphics that you saw in the YouTube vidoes? They are there and those beautiful graphics are even more gorgeous when they are interactive.
Not only are drop dead graphics but the game feels just as perfect. These aren't the slow heavy mechs from the MechWarrior games or the super ultra light mechs from the Robotech games but rather something in between. Even though the mechs can boost their speed for quick sprints you can still feel the heft of controlling these huge machines in the controls.
It's worth noting that while there are a lot of customization options don't expect to be placing heatsinks and working out what goes on what hardpoint. The goal is to you in and out of the Mech Garage as quickly as possible. One really nice feature is that you can store pre-defined mech configurations which allows for the creation of situation specific configurations that can be quickly loaded when you die. It's a small thing but it helps get you back in the fight as quickly as possible.
I had the chance to play two different game modes in the game. The first was straight deathmatch and the second was the game's Siege mode. In Siege mode two teams compete against each other to gather energy which must be returned to your base. Once you have enough energy you can launch a battleship to take out the other teams base. It's a nice mode but does take some getting used to.
There are other nice touches in the game like the fact that you really don't have to worry about ammo. All of your weapons generate heat and when you overheat your weapons shut down, forcing you to carefully watch your heat meters. You can also repair your mech which leaves you completely vulnerable. I did find a cool trick while playing the game. Using the hologram ability that some of mechs come with I was able to hide and repair while an enemy mech tried to take out the hologram of my mech. After he overheated his weapons on the hologram I fired my mech up and quickly dispatched him. Good times all around!
Hawken will be a free to play game but Adhesive isn't releasing any details on what people will actually be paying for other than to say that the game won't be some kind of "Pay to Win" scheme. Given the success of other Free To Play games like World of Tanks
I'm cautiously optimistic that they will find a nice win-win monetization scheme.
The only real problem I had with Hawken is that I won't get a chance to play it again until the open beta starts on December 12, 2012 (12/12/12). I'm hopeful that by that time the folks at Adhesive games will have a few more maps to check out as well as the details on the final gameplay mode.