|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Adhesive Games|
|Pub: Meteor Entertainment|
|Release: December 12, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence|
Customization in Hawken takes the following forms: You have your choice of a base mech. You can then outfit it with a primary weapon, from a selection limited by the frame, a secondary with the same restrictions, and a few internal modifications that alter your stats in small but significant ways. It’s more comparable to Call of Duty and its old weapons/perks system than anything from Mechwarrior, Earthsiege, or any of the other mech greats. You won’t be balancing weaponry with heat mitigation while staying within a tonnage limit, that’s for sure.
There’s also the optimization tree, which has paths for offense, defense, and movement (though they overlap in some ways, which helps them complement each other). Optimization points (along with permanent boosts to one’s abilities) are gained for leveling. They can be spent in the optimization trees for permanent stat increases that affect things such as heat buildup, healing startup time, and weapon damage. Aesthetic variations are also available for each mech, including new torsos, limbs, thrusters, and paint patterns, but they do not seem to have any sort of explicit, functional effect on gameplay.
That said, customization is kneecapped by the game’s financial structure. Most parts for a mech run 3,000 or so Hawken Points, while mechs cost over 6,000. As a frame of reference, even after dominating a match and gaining enough XP to level my mech up five times in one go, I still gained only about 200. You can circumvent the grind by paying real money for Meteor Points (and aesthetic parts are only available for real money), and the costs in those terms are fairly low, but all this really cuts into the playability of the game.
The game provides you with only the starter mech, which is an all-around functional piece of equipment, but to find out how any of the others play, beyond simply reading about them, you must actually buy them. For their winter event, Meteor gave me 5,000 Hawken Points, which I combined with what I’d already earned to buy a mech that sounded appealing. I soon discovered that it did not fit my playstyle and, as such, was entirely useless to me. In a game where I’d simply been able to try it out and then move on, I’d have shrugged it off as a discrepancy in taste and tried something else. In Hawken, though, I’d spent the fruits of my investment on this hulking scrap heap and, dammit, I was going to play through a whole match with it no matter how much I cursed the game’s balance, its oddly clunky lock-on mechanics (specific to Hellfire missiles), and the papier-mâché that passed for its armor. By the end, I was livid, shouting obscenities of which I am definitely not proud.
This was all completely avoidable, too, even with the game’s existing financial model. The developers do let players test out mechs for a period without actually purchasing them, but it’s limited to the specific mechs the developers have selected at any given time. Considering you can’t modify them or really level them up without purchasing them anyway, it seems strange that they limit which ones you can try. It would certainly save a lot of undue frustration.
There are other issues, of course. There are only a handful of maps to play and the friend system offers no readily apparent means by which to party up and play with said friends (you have to hope there’s an empty slot in the game you join, then invite them in), but the biggest ones are all related to the ways in which Hawken tries to squeeze you for your pennies. It’s a fun diversion, to be sure, but with its less-than-extensive customization options, absurd reliance on grinding to incentivize microtransactions, and limited variation in actual gameplay, it probably isn’t worth a monetary investment.
Date: December 26, 2012