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Hawken Early Access Review

Pretty killers.

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

Between Titanfall, MechWarrior Online, and other recent offerings on the giant-battling-robot front, mech combat enthusiasts have an ever-growing range of options. Hawken's stunning sci-fi battlescapes and impressively detailed robot designs are an attractive wrapper for the more fast-and-furious flavor of online free-to-play mech shooter action found underneath its hood. Piloting these slick metal death machines into the fray hits a sweet spot that you won't find in similar games. The raw speed and energetic momentum infused into Hawken's online matches almost contradict the nature of the game's hulking combatants, yet this different breed of multiplayer mech battler brings a new level of excitement to the genre in a way that feels oh-so-right.

Are we on Tatooine, or what?

Lots of mech games do a decent enough job of making you feel like you're strapped into a huge hunk of walking metal, but Hawken really nails it with flair. Hopping into the cockpit and taking your first heavy steps into this atmospheric sci-fi realm is a wild ride. Everything, from the way the control panel rocks as you thunder along to the visual damage and bleating alarms that grow progressively intense as you get thrashed by incoming fire, adds tremendous weight to the piloting experience. The powerful sights and sounds that accompany your every move help to draw you deeper into your role with effortless ease, inciting battle lust in the process.

It's easy to be wooed by this pleasant sensory overload, but pausing for too long to admire your well-armed ride and the meticulously detailed surroundings is a fatal mistake. Hawken's firefights move at a fast clip. Despite their girth and heft on the battlefield, mechs are surprisingly agile, thanks to fuel-powered jump jets that let you sidestep incoming fire, leap over obstacles, glide short distances, and hover in place. This mobility is great, because it doesn't detract from the impact of being a mech pilot, and it keeps matches flowing. Even in larger battles, you can quickly find yourself flanked and torn asunder, leading you to make a hasty retreat so you can find a safe spot from which to deploy a repair drone. That's not a surefire stopgap to avoid getting sent to the scrap heap, however.

The bigger they are, the bigger they 'splode.

Hawken encourages a "stick together, stay alive" mentality--both through many natural elements of its design and in overt voice-overs suggesting as much--that spurs strategic teamwork. Taking time to repair on the battlefield is a dicey affair, because it's a slow process that leaves you vulnerable. Without a pal to watch your back, you're easy prey. Careful spotting and thoughtful sensor array placement are equally important. With a quick tap of a key, you can call out enemies on sight or even send out a distress signal to encourage teammates to flock to your location to lend a hand. All of this helps build a strong team dynamic that boosts the excitement when your squad clicks.

The high energy flow of standard free-for-all and team deathmatches is fun in its own right and excellent for scoring experience and currency to beef up your mech fleet. That said, the epic scope of Hawken's other core modes holds a very different kind of thrill. Missile Assault puts a cool spin on point capture, since every missile station your team controls continually hurls rockets skyward. You can actually stand and watch each missile race off into the distance and collide with your foe's towering base structure, which collapses in spectacular explosions if you manage to wrest victory from your enemy's grasp.

I've got your back, comrade!

Siege mode ramps up the spectacle to an even grander scale with longer matches that involve hauling energy around the map and capturing antiaircraft cannons as you fight away. Powering up your base launches your team's Star Destroyer-style battleship, which pushes across the sky and hammers away at the enemy base until it destroys it or is shot down. These modes are a blast, and they do a phenomenal job of making your skirmishes feel like they're a critical part of a bigger conflict.

Hawken sports some impressive battlefield designs. Maps are massive. They sprawl out in all directions and mix in high vantage points, loads of obstacles to use for cover, and subterranean regions to fight through. They're gorgeous too, and visually diverse enough to keep match cycles feeling fresh. You duke it out across murky swamps, dark forests, bright sci-fi cityscapes, dusty dune settlements, icy tundras, and more. This diversity extends to the wide assortment of mechs you pilot.

Taking time to repair on the battlefield is a dicey affair, because it's a slow process that leaves you vulnerable. Without a pal to watch your back, you're easy prey.

From light and zippy scout mechs to more-sluggish heavily armored brutes and everything in between, there's a ride for all tastes and fighting styles. Different handling, armor, weapon loadouts, and combat roles also leave lots of room for tactical variety. Picking off foes through the scope of a long-range sniper mech offers a different kind of satisfaction from hopping into an ordnance-heavy mech and deluging the enemy with clusters of rockets. Other specialties and special abilities are geared toward support, assault, assassination, and defense to round out your options. Despite their strengths and weaknesses, the mechs are balanced enough that none of them feel overpowered.

Unlocking them, unfortunately, can be a slow and tedious process if you don't want to shell out a bit of real cash for bonus experience boosts or instant-unlock access to speed things along. Experience you gain in battle goes toward your overall pilot level as well as the individual mechs you use in a given encounter, and leveling up grants you access to new mechs, weapons, and accessories to purchase. That's all fine, except that the more you switch up your mechs in battle, the slower you progress is with each individual mech.

Mayday! Maydayyyy!

Almost everything you can buy in the game, ranging from optional custom color schemes and decorations to mechs and weapon components, can be bought with accumulated in-game cash you accrue through playing matches. It's just faster to unlock these items with paid meteor credits. But even if you want a little nudge to ease the grind, temporary XP and money boosters are quite cheap. On the whole, nothing is outrageously expensive, so it all comes down to a matter of patience and playtime.

The sheer time it takes to make substantive progress across your mech fleet is a muddy point in an otherwise excellent game. Does it have a huge impact on the overall quality of the experience? Not really. Hawken is plenty of fun as a free ride, and it's worth sinking a bit of real money into it to ease the slower stretches and fully customize your favorite killer robo-suits. This mech shooter goes far above and beyond what you'd expect in a free-to-play offering, with an impressive visual design and intense, rewarding gameplay to match.

What's There?

17 mechs to pilot and upgrade, lots of big battlegrounds, excellent and unique large-scale battle modes, and seemingly customization options.

What's to Come?

Hawken is in the late stages of development, and much of the development focus currently seems to be on fine-tuning match making, making sure any bugs are stomped, and adding additional detail. You can, however, expect to see some new mechs in future updates.

What Does it Cost?

Nothing, unless you feel inclined to spend money to speed up you mech fleet's progression and customization. Shelling out actual real-world cash lets you unlock mechs early, grab XP and coin earning boosts, and outfit your mechs faster.

When Will it Be Finished?

No specific word yet on a final release, but Hawken already looks and feels like a finished product.

What's the Verdict?

Hawken is more than just an excellent free-to-play multiplayer shooter: it's mech combat done right. The game gorgeous and a blast to play, but leveling-up requires patience and a bit of grinding.

Written By

Freelance game journalist for lots of publications, professional nerd, and author of Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Fre

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Discussion

67 comments
hitomo
hitomo

/watch?v=ks3YzcgcfQw



but the game is much to fast for a mech game, its more like playing quake in mechs ^^

Geminon
Geminon

i cant get over how dumb the mechs look. they look like trashcans with legs.


i dont mind realism.... but atleast put SOME sort of design into them.


as it stands, mechwarrior online is a much better game.

Fire_Wa11
Fire_Wa11

I picked i t up the other day and have been playing it here and there.  It's fun.


The maps and combat are fun.  Hawken's equipment hasn't totally clicked with me yet.  I would prefer fewer equippable items with larger stats.  When you have unlocked 8 "internals" and can equip six of them it just seems that it will give everyone many of the same stats rather than equipping items that tailor to an individual's playstyle.  

Just as western philosopher Phillip Behemoth Parsleysprig once asked, "Whence we all have everything doth anyone truely have nothing?"  (He wasn't very good at grammar.)


I am new though so perhaps I am not using the equipment as well as I will as I play more. Hawken is fun and free.  Get it!  (And get Gotham City Impostors while you're at it.  Another great pvp game and very underrated all around.)

gogin1
gogin1

Been playing this since the first beta well over a year and a half ago and I love this game. They have made so many improvements and the mechs feel good and different. The main problem with most mech games is how slow they move but not here. There's a good amount of strategy involved too. If you think you can just run around and take out a group of mechs you're going to get shut down fast. Overall I really enjoy it. Only complaint leveling is a little slow but they do double XP weekends all the time and thats the place to log in hours.

XNEXUS666X
XNEXUS666X

Played this last night, it's actually pretty fun, it's a bit slower paced than your average fps, which is good imo. Slick graphics and well designed big maps so there's time to repair and get your bearings without being swamped by enemies. You're best sticking with your team mates (which the in game tutorial character suggests). I can see myself playing more of this, I'd be happy to pay for a better mech too, definitely less stressful than BF or Titanfall etc. Totally worth a look even if you're not a big mech fan.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

The cockpit views look great, I'll say that much.  Something about a great-looking first person view just gets me all excited.

Pewbert
Pewbert

Careful Gamespot, you don't want to upset that EA contract where there can only be one good mech game ...

Caldrin
Caldrin

Mechs dont feel like giant big robot things at all.. it plays more like a COD game just on a bigger scale.. Now this is not a bad thing its actually a fun game but if you want more of what I guess a true mech would feel like then check out Mechwarrior Online..


I would say this plays a ton better than the mech combat in Titanfall and thats one of the reasons I would never consider paying out for Titanfall when a game that is a lot better is free.

I am not sure why they are still calling this open beta the game is more than ready to be a fully released game..

Hurvl
Hurvl

That screenshot doesn't remind me at all of Tatooine!

Iemander
Iemander

Game is OK, but it just way too arcadey. Mechs don't feel like mechs, they feel like toys. Mechwarrior is really the best, but the meta game is really poor. Titanfall does a much better job at it than Hawken.

mr_nee
mr_nee

wasn't this game available 2 or more years ago?

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

i played this last year when it was in closed beta. I didnt really enjoy it because it didnt have that boom feel when using weapons. Also i was playing MechWarrior Online which was better. Also Hawken got very boring very fast. Year later things have changed for the better, more options more mechs more weapons more of everything that makes the game feel better.


Mechwarrior WAS better when it came out, but Mechwarrior has now gone down the route of releasing £500 mechs, YES REALLY. and all the devs care about now is releasing more paid mechs which add nothing. Mechwarrior still has no VOIP, and is taking far too long to release anything new. I have lost complete interest in MechWarrior and come back to Hawken and it plays better and has lots of new features.


And for people saying this is a TitanFall clone, MY GOD you need to wake up, TitanFall is nothing new Hawken came out years before TitanFall. Think it was late 2012 when i first got my hands on it. Tribes 1 and 2 and Unreal Tournament where doing what TitanFall was doing YEARS ago.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

Making a review without the date this game was released makes it a disservice - people will say it's Titanfall copy-paste, while in fact it saw the light long before first Titanfall announcements.

hardeddie
hardeddie

I spent enough hours on this to base my early opinion as the only few F2P game done right. Even Titanfall dont come closer to this, and this is still in Beta stage.

wyshouldi02
wyshouldi02

Praise the Lord himself that owning the Xbox One finally convinced me to come to PC. The selection of games is just immense, and mouse/keyboard input truly SUPREME 

anfunny
anfunny

I've put a good 100hrs into it already and it's one of the most fun experiences I've had in a long time. It's not as twitch as UT or QL, and not as dumbed down as CoD or Battlefield.

Dante-xero
Dante-xero

You can download the early access for free from Steam.

Moonco
Moonco

Looks really good, like Steel Battalion on steriods

croxus
croxus

This looks way much better from titanfall, but we have been waiting for it like forever...

Always on games with microtransactions, multiplayer only are not my favourite time of games,as i do have a life and cannot commit to my virtual clan, however i ll give it a try, being a warhammer 40k fan, i dont feel this is a rip off, as much as titanfail is, where they didnt even bothered to name the titans otherwise...

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

No destructible buildings? I'll pass. It's also a bit too hectic for me.

DrKill09
DrKill09

I thought this came out years ago?


Oh wait, that was Tom Clancy's HAWX...  nevermind.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@Pewbert  Also, 9/11 was an inside job, we never were on the moon, there was a UFO crash in Roswell, and Obama was born in Kenya. 

DariusMKN
DariusMKN

@Pewbert  It's hard to some people admit that Titanfall it's a good game and it's not in their console. Oh, nevermind. You will probably say that you're a PC gamer and Titanfall it's pure crap. You will call me an Xbot and tell me how Xbox One sucks. Keep goin buddy.

NiceGuyDan08
NiceGuyDan08

@Caldrin  They call it an open beta because it's on Steams Early Access program.


I don't like the CoD comparison though. TTK in CoD is WAY lower than Hawken. I'm not really sure what I would compare Hawken to, but it's certainly not much like CoD.

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

@Caldrin  You are clearly a MWO fanboy. Mechwarrior Online is slow, boring and over priced. Yes it's F2P but the micro-transaction system of MWO is an absolute joke. 500 dollars for a gold colored mech, talk about a money grab for a game that, isn't that good. MWO lacks refinement and tuning, as the game creators are too focused on releasing new mechs and options to charge players money via micro transactions. Leaving you with maps that are too large for the match types offered and there being games that will be won and lost, without firing a single shot. On top of maps too large, you would think for those larger maps they would offer more than just 12v12 matches as well for a game that relys on having lots of players working together as teams to be fun. On top of it all MWO more often than note is riddled with bugs that at times makes it so you have remove weapons types because they are not working properly until they patch again, but with each patch is seems when they fix one mechanic, they break 2 more. I played MWO extensively and it was a giant disappointment. It says a lot when games like Mech Assault 2 had multi-player features in that game, that you would think should be in this new gen PC MW game, but they are not.

To even saying anything about Titanfall negative when clearly you haven't played it is just well, making you look ignorant. Hawken is better than MWO by far, but Hawken is no Titanfall either.

PredatorRules
PredatorRules

@mr_nee  that's right, but how do you keep attention to your game? well you say it's been in open beta for years, then it comes to Steam and it's in open beta over there, and now comes a review for early access from GS - I say it's clear BS.

hystavito
hystavito

@TERMINATOR-SSD  Are people really saying it's a Titanfall clone? :)


I am not even into mech games, haven't played MWO or Hawken, I did play Titanfall beta, and I played MW games way back.  However, even if Hawken wasn't older than Titanfall, they really appear to be totally different games.  Titanfall has mechs in it, but it's like "casual" mechs, for lack of a better term.

ERRMAHGERD
ERRMAHGERD

@Morphine_OD  actually, considering Hawken got beta tested years before TItanfail, and the copy paste is obvious, Respawn didn't do that much revolutionary work.

ERRMAHGERD
ERRMAHGERD

@shinjuki  titanfall was announced years after hawken was already being beta tested

zerofrust
zerofrust

@shinjuki  

lol if there was some copying involved, i don't think it came from them...

Unless Hawken devs have time traveling abilities...

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

You do know how long this game has been in development right...?

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

If what you say is true... It wouldn't surprise me one bit :P

josh_b
josh_b

@Moonco


i still have my copy of Steel Battalion....i would give anything for them to produce just the controller again and leave it open for other developers to use.



Barighm
Barighm

@Joey2cool The dev has made it very clear he will never bring it to consoles and is very proud of it. He's probably one of those PC elitist types.

NiceGuyDan08
NiceGuyDan08

@DariusMKN @Pewbert  Titanfall is actually pretty good on PC....It looks pretty great with maxed settings.

Caldrin
Caldrin

@klugenbeel whoh whoh whoh hold ya nelly...

I will have you know I have extensively played all games to start with..

At no point did I say MWO was a better game did I ? All I said is that if you want a game with more of a real mech feel (if that's  possible haha) then check out MWO as if a mech ever existed it would handle like in that game not the super whizzy rocket packed mechs you see in Hawken.

I enjoyed MWO all the way through the beta testing process and a few months after that and yes it still has a shit ton of bugs and is one of the reasons I don't currently play it. As for there being $500 gold mechs... are they forcing you to buy it ? are you at a disadvantage because you don't have it ? not that I know of so what the hell is your beef with that ?


I have enjoyed playing both MWO and Hawken they are both very different games and one can not replace the other because of that.


As for Titanfall well I was also in the PC beta for that early on and it really is nothing special and the mech combat in that is outclassed by Hawken and MWO.. but I would compare it more to Hawken really.. Now I am sorry if that upsets you but there we go.

NiceGuyDan08
NiceGuyDan08

@ERRMAHGERD @Morphine_OD  They don't play like each other at all. Not sure where your ignorance is coming from.

You don't like Titanfall...fine. It's a well made game, so is Hawken. They don't play anything a lot. 

Also Titanfail? really? Have we really devolved to that point?

lindallison
lindallison

@Caldrin @klugenbeel 

Yeah the gold mechs might represent a sort of spiritual sickness, but nothing to get worked up about...I'm really unsure who would pilot a gold mech on the field, - seems to me it would be extremely embarassing.

zerofrust
zerofrust

@shinjuki @zerofrust  

Same way Big O copied Great Mazinger and any other super robot genre since the 70s. We can keep going on with this...But hawken takes more from mechwarrior than that dumb anime.

Problem here is you said that Hawken copied Titanfall, even though the damn thing was released as an open beta a godamn year before Titanfall popping up at E3 2013. But you won't admit your mistake thought because that will make you look ignorant. It's ok mate, we all make mistakes lol