I had the good fortune to sit down and talk all things Hawken with the game’s Producer, Paul Loynd during this year’s PAX Prime in Seattle. For those not familiar, Hawken is aiming to do for the mech-based shooter what the original Call of Duty did for the historical shooter. Meteor and Adhesive Games want to make the idea of running around in a giant robotic death-machine exactly the kind of thing gamers everywhere want to do when they sit down in front of their PCs. From what we’ve seen so far, and in talking to Paul at PAX, they’re definitely on the right track.
Hawken is Mechwarrior on crack, with a healthy dose of RPG-lite character and mech progression thrown in for good measure. Where the Mechwarrior series is slower, plodding, and more strategic in its scope, Hawken brings forth the afterburners and sets them ablaze in a tower of fire and sizzling hot lead. I asked Paul what the team was showing off at the show this year. A brand new build was being bandied about, with oodles of new features, a new UI, new content and mechs, and all of this is leading up to the big closed beta event in the next couple of months. Paul even teased that there are some very big (and good) additions/changes coming to the game in the next few months and said that players should keep an eye out for some big announcements.
New to PAX were the Heavy Mechs, which is the first time these bad-boys had been shown in public. The team was doing on-site data mining from the show floor, and watched as the Heavy Mechs did quite well, but not so well that Adhesive was worried about cries of “Overpowered!” Their main focus with releasing the Heavy into the show floor was to see how players played them. Since they’re slower and less agile than the other mechs, they loved to see how gamers were approaching the battlefield with them: sniping from roof-tops, waiting around corners, and all the sorts of things one would do if they knew they weren’t the fastest and most mobile guy in a game of paintball. I asked what sorts of things the team was learning from the testing going on at the show, and Paul told me they’re noticing that a lot of folks aren’t switching their weapons, and since it’s PAX and not a proper “beta”, they can’t tell if it’s because they don’t know how, or if the players just aren’t focused on that part of the game’s meta. They did notice however that the newly redesigned UI gives a much more clear notion of when your guns are overheating.
Hawken doesn’t use ammo, it uses heat, and prior to PAX Prime’s build, players were having a hard time knowing when they were about to overheat. When you overheat, your mech gets locked down until it’s cooled off, so you really don’t want to be stuck out in the open when it happens. The new UI helps enforce this and notifies players more clearly. I then asked Paul what else we could expect to see and hear about before the game launches towards the end of 2012 and he was forthcoming… but also a tease. There are going to be more and more chassis, more skins to get from the shop, more effects to add to your mech’s personalization. They know that most players want to be able to make their mech stand out, and what’s better than having a pink cupcake on your instrument of death to make people feel silly about being beaten by you? He also made sure to mention that some huge, epic, additions and changes will be announced before launch. I asked what precisely he could tell us about these, and while he couldn’t say much he did swear we’ll be very pleased with the plans. They’re about adding to the game and not taking away from it.
Hawken launches into beta very soon, and players who want to get in should go sign up at PlayHawken.com now, which will allow them to reserve their in-game handle and get priority access during the long beta period before launch. And though all progression will likely be wiped to zero before launch, Paul also said it was likely that beta candidates might get some special stuff in the customization department to let people know they were there from the beginning. Hawken keeps looking better and better these days, and it’s definitely a shooter to watch. You really won’t believe how good it plays once you get your hands on it.