When you think free-to-play games on PC, what comes to mind are MMORPGs with thousands of players, or perhaps a unique offering like Dungeon Fighter Online. Very rarely do you think of a balls-to-the-wall action game where you're in control of a heavily armed mech, tearing through the streets of a post-apocalyptic city and blasting other robots to smithereens. Yet that's exactly what Adhesive Games will be offering when Hawken launches on the PC front later this year, and it seems as if it may be everything you'd want in a full-blown mech action game, but without the pesky price tag.
We first caught wind of Hawken back at E3, when Machinima teamed up with Adhesive to introduce the game to an awaiting number of attendees. In the game, you join nine others in full-blown arcade style combat, using keyboard and mouse style controls as you move your mech about, cornering like a pro and keeping enemies in your sight as you fire off machine guns and rockets. I took part in several matches, shredding through a number of would-be robotic assassins and occasionally activating the jump boosters to get a higher view of the land, scoping out enemies from afar and checking for danger in a hanging freeway overpass, which is ideal for battling enemies, if you aren't already rummaging through the urban chaos that lies below.
What makes Hawken really stand out from other free-to-play games is its visual set-up. This isn't just another cheaply built role-playing game, but rather a beautiful, Killzone 3-like action title loaded with extreme detail. The buildings look fantastic, and with so many around, they really provide you a lot of room to run around and do some damage. In addition, the mechs move around with a great deal of fluidity, which is especially useful for helping your fragile mech avoid enemy fire. The camera view is just about right too, and the option to swivel around in a rapid 180-degree turn-around to get the jump on someone behind you is nothing short of ideal. Though the demo we played only featured the one map (out of the multiple layouts that will be offered), I couldn't get enough of it.
On top of the basic gameplay, Hawken features a fantastic customization menu, with a number of options to tweak when it comes to building the ultimate robotic killing machine. With dozens of weapons, mods and other things to mess around with, you can create more than one ideal warrior for battle, which extends the replay value significantly. Also, while Adhesive wouldn't confirm this during our appointment: there's a possibility even more tools will be introduced down the road.
Ultimately, it's the gameplay that really kept us coming back for more in Hawken. Targeting and movement is handled very well through the keyboard/mouse set-up, and you can probably use your controller for equally comparable movement. The game also supports the new Oculus Rift device, which means you can combine your typical control set-up with the 3D visual visor, looking around to keep your target in sight. I can't wait to try this game out with that set-up.
Hawken is a great deal of fun, and just the thing the free-to-play market needs to remind the gaming world just how important it truly is. We'll let you know if this game lives up to its combative nature when it hits the PC realm on December 12th of this year.