Hospitality comes in a variety of forms, but the kind on display when we showed up to the Luxe Hotel in LA to take mech action-shooter Hawken for a spin is the kind that any gamer can get behind. When someone urges you to “grab a station and blow shit up,” responding with, “no thanks, I’m good,” just doesn’t cut it. I’m not typically a PC gamer, but anything with giant, armored and armed to the teeth mechs is going to get to my butt in a chair and mouse and keyboard in my hands.
One of the things that I immediately discovered was that Hawken is far more accessible than many of the other titles featuring bipedal death machines. In fact, when we spoke with Chris Lalli, co-founder of Adhesive Games, he indicated that was one of the driving concepts behind the game’s design. Anyone who has played a PC first-person shooter will feel at home behind the controls of one of the title’s diverse machinations.
Movement is handled by the WASD keys, with a modifier for quick dashes to the left and right and 180 degree turns. The latter is quite important because even with your mouse sensitivity cranked high, your mech is still going to turn slowly. In this regard, Hawken does a fantastic job of making the gameplay feel familiar to FPS players without sacrificing the weightiness one expects from a lumbering death machine. In addition to primary and secondary weapons on the left and right mouse buttons, there is a key assigned to consumable items like grenades, decoys and shields, along with another for the hover function. Using your jump jets allows you to make use of the verticality of the maps, but leaves you vulnerable while in the air. I had no problem hopping to the rooftops to snipe foes unwise enough to forget to look up.
Hawken will likely launch with a small number of maps, but for good reason.
“The idea is that we don’t want to launch with too many maps and fracture the player base,” Lalli said. “We want to wait until more people get going with the game.”
We know that one will be a city (the map on which we played) and another will be in a desert. The other two are still secret, but we were assured that they will be “completely different; not cities.”
The game controlled very smoothly during our 4 vs 4 match. As someone who isn’t as well versed in keyboard and mouse controls, I believe it bears mentioning how easy it was to pilot my mech of choice (Light Assault, I believe), and I even managed to rack up a positive K/D ratio. Don’t laugh. I need to celebrate this little victory. The side dashes came in quite handy for dodging fire, and the advice I received about using the 180 turn was put to good effect. The game is fast, fun and I can’t wait for it to arrive this December.
Of course, one question that always pops up when you talk about a game’s fantastic mutilplayer is whether or not it will offer something for those that would rather go it alone. There won’t be a single-player experience when Hawken launches on December 12, 2012. Instead, the project is a transmedia experiment. Partnered with their publisher, Meteor Entertainment, the team will release a short film and comics to flesh out the back story of the universe the game takes place in. Lalli was able to give us some of the basics, though.
“The game takes place on a different planet in humanity’s future. It’s basically a story about corporations and colonizing planets and a battle for resources on these planets,” Lalli told us. “You’re a pilot working for a corporation or another faction trying to overthrow a corporation.”
This basic groundwork plays into the game’s marquee mode, called Siege. Rather than a typical Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch (both of which will be included at launch), Siege requires a greater deal of coordination. Players must capture resources across the map and bring them back to base in order to construct and launch an enormous battleship. Once the massive craft takes off, it can be disabled by the opposing team. Therefore, smart loadout choice (which can be switched between respawns) is critical to safely escort your vessel to the enemy base where it can wreak some serious havoc.
“It becomes a mix of capture the flag and bringing resources back to the base and king of the hill,” said Lalli. “Even if you’re not a twitch shooter, you can escort team and collect resources. You’ll be able to gain experience that way, too.”
Of course, we couldn’t just leave that on the table, so we inquired about how progression and the free-to-play model will work.
“It’s definitely not a play-to-win system,” we were assured. “There are a good variety of weapons right off the bat that will suit a variety of play styles. As you progress, you can upgrade your mech, change camo, add decals and upgrade skills on the tree. If you’re impatient, you can pay money to unlock stuff early. It’s a question of whether you want to invest time or money. We’re following the League of Legends model.”
With such a smooth game and a reasonable business model, it was only natural to want to know more about how Adhesive Games came about.
“We were a startup of four gamers. We came from another independent game called Project Offset that got acquired by Intel. They wanted us to basically showcase their latest graphics card. When the card didn’t work out too well and got shut down, they didn’t need us anymore.”
The team stayed together, brought in some interns from a local art school and got to work on Hawken. Of course, making a game and getting it out to the public are two different things, and while some teams can do both, Lalli and his compatriots knew they needed help.
“For a while it was very scary because we had zero funding for almost a year. It was getting to the point where we couldn’t go much longer, so we had to release the [YouTube] video. From that point on it was surprising. We didn’t think it would get such a good response. People were hungering for a mech game, and they were very vocal about it. As soon as we released the video, there were publishers contacting us.”
Rather than go with one of the big pillars of the industry, Adhesive decided to take a chance and partner with a publishing house that was created (at first) for the express purpose of getting Hawken into the hands of those mech-hungry gamers. Meteor Entertainment, founded by best-selling author, entertainment producer and former Co-CEO of Zombie Studios (Blacklight, Blacklight: Retribution) Mark Long, exists in symbiosis with the development team. Meteor’s team of 30 includes individuals with experience at Microsoft, Amazon, Activision and more. There is a lot of experience and drive, with many team members formerly responsible for their own successful startups and personal ventures. Together, they are working diligently on putting the polish on this first joint initiative, but there is a grander plan in the works.
According to Lalli, “Meteor received venture capital to get off the ground. Once Hawken comes out, the idea is to bring on new startups.”
While post-Hawken plans are still at least six months off, mech fans will be able to start getting their feet wet this fall in the closed beta. Anyone who registers on the site is eligible for selection. December’s launch is technically an open beta, so expect that the game will grow and adapt to player feedback for months to come. Before we parted, Lalli had only one request of us,
“Just play it. Let us know what you like about it. We want to hear as much feedback as possible so we can make it as fun as possible. We’re definitely changing things based on what the community says.”
We concur. You should definitely play Hawken as soon as you can.