Everybody has lost hours to a multiplayer First Person Shooter title. It might be the latest Call of Duty game or it might be a little-known Steam game that nobody has really ever heard of. There’s just something satisfying about seeing those scores rack up, your level increase, and you sampling the fruits of your labours through the many perks that you’re able to get in most modern FPS titles. One thing that usually links all multiplayer shooters together though, is the fact that you have to pay some of that hard earned cash in order to enjoy yourself in their game world.
Cue HAWKEN, developed by Adhesive Games and published by Meteor Entertainment, a totally free-to-play shooter where you pick one of a selection of mech’s (think Armored Core), choose a server to battle it out on, then destroy the opposition to your heart’s content. Sound too good to be true? I thought so too, but it turns out that I was wrong.
The first thing that most people will notice when they load up Hawken is just how drop dead gorgeous it looks. If you’ve got a decent enough PC and you’re able to play the game on its top ‘Ultra’ setting then you’re going to be getting an absolute visual treat. The game looks as if it has been developed with the budget of your typical AAA game, or at least one that you’re going to have to pay for, the fact that a free-to-play game can look this good is going to make people instantly sit up and take notice. If this is the start of what’s to come when it comes to the free-to-play boom, then count me well and truly on board.
Once you get into the game, HAWKEN is your typical FPS game. Only you’re driving a massive mechanical behemoth instead of gripping your trusty assault rifle that you may be more used to. Controls can take a little bit of getting used to, and you’re undoubtedly going to feel like you’re not moving anywhere quickly, but as soon as you find that trusty boost button, all of that is going to change. Once you get used to the shift key as a boost button and not just a ‘hold-down-to-run’ button, you’ll be well on your way to besting your enemies. If you attempt to hold down the boost button, as most people are used to doing when it comes to PC shooter, you’ll quickly find yourself running out of fuel. The fuel does regenerate but until it does you’ll be a sitting duck. Boosting around corners is essential to surviving as long as you possibly can and racking up those experience points.
Everything you do in HAWKEN will generate experience points (taking part in a battle, killing enemies, etc), all of it will earn you those little points that you’ll use to level up each of your mechs. You’re given a level for each one of the mechs that you’ve got in your garage so don’t expect to get to level 10 on one mech and automatically be able to roll out another level 10 character just because you feel like it. Just like playing an MMO, if you start a new character – or in this case a new mech – you’ll be right back at square one, level 0, until you use that new mech in battle and level that up too. This is something that a lot of people may want to do, as different mechs can be customised in a whole host of different ways. You might be in the mood for a mech that packs a punch but pays for it in the speed department, conversely you may be in the mood for a mech that can dash between all your enemies, making them shoot at each other as you drop bombs at their feet and run away. The choice is up to the individual player, and the experience points, coupled with the HAWKEN points that you’ll also get for finishing matches and taking down enemies are your currency in order to make those dreams a reality.
When the game comes out on December 12th, you’ll be able to download the game for free, create an account for free and level your mech all the way up to the top without paying a single penny, but as with almost all free-to-play games there’s a way to hand over your hard earned cash built right into the game. The in-game currency is called Meteor Points, and it’s these that you’ll spend your money on. Buy some Meteor Points from the in-game store and you’ll be able to use that currency instead of your Hawken points to buy any of the upgrades you may have had your eye on. At the time of writing the Meteor Store wasn’t available to look at so while it’s obvious that this is going to be the currency that people are going to be able to buy with their real world cash, it wasn’t possible to see how much people are going to be able to spend, and how many Meteor Points they’ll get for their money. This is something that we’ll have to wait for the game to be released in order to see.
HAWKEN is one of those games that has taken me totally by surprise, and I’m sure it’s going to do the same with many other people the world over too. There’s a reason that the game has won so many awards as it has made its travels to game conventions across the globe, it’s because it’s something truly innovative: a free-to-play title that people are actually excited to play. It’s not a game that the developers have had to make free-to-play to bolster sales, HAWKEN was built from the ground up to be free for everyone to get a hold of and I urge everyone to do just that. The world of free-to-play is well and truly here, and HAWKEN is the beacon of light that people need to follow. See you in game! I’ll be the one dying a lot!