LOS ANGELES--Amid the hubbub of Sony's booth at E3, you can find a playable demo of Warhawk, the new remake of the superb 1995 3D shooter of the same name--but it's the same demo we played at the PlayStation press conference a couple of days ago. Luckily, Dylan Jobe and Brian Upton, leaders of the game's development, were kind enough to meet with us behind closed doors to give us the inside scoop on what will go into this follow-up we've been waiting almost a decade for.
First thing's first--this new Warhawk isn't all about aerial combat (though it is largely about aerial combat). There will in fact be plenty of ground combat included in the game as well, from tank and jeep gameplay to even on-foot stuff. Moreover, the designers want to present a truly open world containing an ongoing conflict that you can take part in at will, even when you're not pursuing the objectives of a specific mission. The game is set in a fictional world with a conflict between the noble Eucadians and the nefarious Chernovans, and the two sides will employ what was described as roughly 1950s-level technology, though there will be plenty of nifty sci-fi elements included as well.
You'll play the role of pilot Zach Archer, a new character, though there will be some references to the original Warhawk in this game, which is being described as a remake. For instance, the main villain is the same, though he has undergone a visual redesign, and Elliott Hatch, the player character in the first game, will now be your commanding officer. To reiterate, this is not a sequel to the first Warhawk but rather a reimagining with vastly superior technology, and the simple title "Warhawk" is in fact the final name of the game.
Multiplayer will understandably also be a big part of Warhawk, and the designers told us there will be at least 32-player support in the Battlefield-style mode, which will let you go from on-foot to ground vehicles to flying craft all within one match. We say "at least" 32 players because the team already has that many running smoothly; the limit will be increased if possible. Warhawk will feature an interesting "LAN party" mode that will let a second, third, or even fourth player jump onto your console while you're engaged in a multiplayer match, split the screen dynamically, sign into their profile, and join an in-progress match. We also heard some preliminary plans around the upcoming downloadable content for Warhawk. Jobe described a scenario where you could download a robust multiplayer package that might include a new desert level, an exclusive jeep vehicle, and a new multiplayer mode scripted into that particular mission, all for one price.
In terms of technology, it sounds like the Incog developers are thrilled with the new hardware they've got to work with--a sentiment shared by other PlayStation 3 developers we've spoken to so far (though such statements from developers closely tied to Sony understandably must be taken with a little salt). The final game will run in 720p resolution, but Jobe said first that a 60-frame-per-second draw rate is the team's top priority, which it will not compromise on (always a nice thing to hear). Moreover, he said the relatively lower resolution is due to the team's desire for "not just more pixels, but better pixels," referring to the extensive use of particle effects, shaders, and other such niceties that will impact the frame rate. Anyway, they've already got "hundreds" of soldiers or ships going in a single scene, and the mission designers are simply pushing things at this point to see how much they can cram into a level without breaking the game. Overall, rest assured: This is going to be (and already is) a good-looking game.
We've coveted a new Warhawk for years and years, and it's great to finally see the first new entry in the franchise since the release of the original PlayStation--especially when it's running on such cutting-edge new hardware. For those interested, the team is currently at around 50 people, and they've been cranking on the game for more than two years now. This new Warhawk was actually prototyped for the PlayStation 2 at one point, but the designers realized they couldn't do everything they wanted on that hardware and opted to wait until a powerful enough platform was available. We're certainly glad that hardware has arrived--we've been anticipating a new Warhawk for ages.