Waiting for me atop the balcony of the Los Angeles LUXE Hotel was an experience I had been looking forward to for quite some time. The hypnotic strobe lights in the sky caused me to quicken my pace as I got closer and closer to the door. After being cleared by several security guards, I finally gained entry to the party. Craning my neck over the crowd of dancing party goers, I saw a large DJ tower with Mix Master Mike working tirelessly at the helm. Further inside the venue, I stopped in my tracks to ogle over the ridiculous but powerful looking MEK FU controller (pictured at the right).
Crowd surfing wasn’t easy and I had to keep my elbows tucked to my side at all times. A few people noticed that I was new to the scene and were kind enough to chat with me. I recall one man ribbed me and said I was like Charlie from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I embarrassed myself by singing a few lines of “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” out loud. Thankfully, no one picked up on my atrocious singing skills and allowed me to continue on my way.
Eventually I had made it to the computer area and I was – I believe the word is “glomped” – by HAWKEN Social Media Manager Melissa Dingmon. She placed her hands on my shoulders and led me to an intimidating looking rig. She scanned the room for a moment and said: “Hey you can talk to Miles while you play. He’s our concept artist!” Miles overhead, smiled, and began striding towards me. After some brief chit-chat about the game, he urged me to play and see for myself. I began my first round.
My first team death match was abysmal. Everywhere I turned I was ninja’d by pilots who mercilessly killed anything that moved. Despite my horrid performance, Miles would cheer me on and assure me that I wasn’t doing that bad. Eventually I did achieve a moment of glory when I got on a winning streak and topped the leaderboards for one round.
There were quite a few more memorable mech battles. I gamed alongside Justine from the iJustine channel and Ahmed AL-Nasheet the Community Manager for Machinima Respawn Middle East. Poor Justine had a temperamental D key and I felt quite guilty taking advantage of that fact. She was a good sport and kept soldiering on regardless of the sticky key. The night ended on a high note when Ahmed and I teamed up for a few final rounds. As a duo of “TV mechs” we took on four ruthless enemy combatants and ended up on top. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to bring the party to a close.
Thanks to the extensive gameplay experience I got, and an interview I conducted with concept artist Miles Williams, I have some insights on what you can expect to see in the upcoming HAWKEN beta. Before I report what I was able to glean from Miles, here is what I personally feel about how HAWKEN handles.
Controls and Gameplay
Adhesive wasn’t kidding when they said that this isn’t your typical lumbering mech type of gameplay. The response time on everything was fast and immediate. Turning felt a little clunky, as if you were trying to get a big rig to cooperate with you, but a straight sprint seemed quite zippy even with the medium mechs.
The reticle was too twitchy for my liking but this is most likely because the mouse sensitivity was placed very high. Such a thing is a matter of personal taste and can be finetuned after lurking around the game’s options menu. I like the fact that even though your ammo is unlimited a realistic heat gauge next to the reticle keeps you in check.
What I appreciated the most out of the experience though was the fact that teamwork isn’t just some additive. It is crucial that you pack together with teammates to survive. I learned the hard way that even when you get the jump on an opponent, going mano a mano isn’t the wisest of choices.
The environment, while gritty and urban, is pleasantly well-lit. I cannot stand games that go for this aesthetic and then make the mistake of having you navigate in pitch black lighting. There is a bit of texture popping in the deployment screen but on the battlefield you hardly notice such a thing. The motion blur was not disorienting either. The interface of the cockpit feels a tad overwhelming but still helpful.
The death animations were disappointingly simplistic. However, this is not the finished product, and who wants to spend an hour watching your mech blast apart anyway? All in all, the environments and interfaces were certainly impressive for something that is not in its final stages just yet.
From what my ear strained to hear over the buzz of the crowd, the sounds in HAWKEN felt realistic. Gunfire rattles in a satisfying way and explosions possessed a bassy boom. I appreciate the helpful alerts that chime in to inform you of low fuel, incoming fire, or overheating (and not the infamously annoying “beep, beep” style of warning). I cannot tell you how many times such sounds saved me over any of the flashing indicators in the cockpit. Ambient wind wisps were also a nice touch and put me in the mood of navigating a wasteland.
As much as the environmental sound effects were a delight, battles felt a little stagnant without an injection of tension building music. Understandably, this is still a pre-beta build so music isn’t a crucial detail. After watching HAWKEN’s live action trailer, I’m pretty sure there are some sweet scores are on the way.
Miles Williams Interview
Miles agreed to an off-camera interview about HAWKEN and his experience at Adhesive. Written below is a summary of the answers he provided me.
1. What is your role on the Hawken team?
I am the concept artist behind the light and medium mechs. I also contribute to the growing storyline that will be featured in the game.
2. What’s it like to work at Adhesive?
The environment is very fun and laidback. Everyone is super focused but still make time to enjoy themselves. There are hardly any dull moments.
3. How do you characterize Hawken? Would you say it is visceral and fast-paced?
Yes, it definitely is. The goal is to get people into the action from the get-go. Ideally, it is a very team-based game and the path to victory can be best achieved by working together.
4. Will Hawken have factions or clan support?
HAWKEN will have joinable in-game factions during the squad-to-squad combat. Support will be in place for player clans but I can’t say much about how this will be implemented.
5. Will HAWKEN remain in beta for long?
The plan is to allow all players to get their hands on the game as soon as possible. There is a good chance that HAWKEN will be up for a quick release.
6. What kind of mech do you like to pilot?
I have a sweet spot for light and medium mechs because I designed them. I enjoy their balance of agility and weaponry.