Hawken is a free-to-play multiplayer mech action game. With multiple gameplay modes, you customize your mech and battle on different stages for dominance.
As a free-to-play game, Hawken offers a large amount of gameplay from the first round. In the public beta, you are given a first level mech and shown the different customizations possible with the right amount of funds.
Hawken intelligently gradually unlocks the different gameplay modes, but you start with the customary team deathmatch. Since Hawken is in beta, the matchmaking is not the best, you may be thrown into a match with other high level players who have had time to purchase new parts and can destroy you very quickly. But the learning curve of Hawken is good as you get used to the controls.
The store features a lot of additional weapons, mech parts, and secondary items to help you in combat and the price ranges for things are not that staggering. It will take some time before you can purchase a new mech, but playing with the first level mech is a great learning tool.
You will also level your profile when you earn experience in matches to unlock more parts and items to purchase.
Keyboard or Gamepad?
While Hawken does not require the best hardware, it does take advantage of it. Even though the Hawken beta runs in 32-bit with DirectX9, it still needs some extra power. Only allowing the game to run in 32-bit does affect the performance because the game cannot take advantage of now-standard processors that are 64-bit capable.
The keyboard controls are in-depth and those take the most time to learn. Even with standard WASD controls, there are secondary items and mech abilities that are used with different keys. The most difficult control is the boost dodge by default used with Shift+A or Shift+D. It's not easy to perform this maneuver with smaller keyboards.
Thankfully, Hawken also supports gamepad support and maps out most of the controls. There are some missing controls that you need to map like the hover-jump which wasn't mapped at all.
Hawken is easy to understand in-game even with all the little menus that are presented. A lot of them are superficial and when you play through the tutorial, it explains the important ones to watch. Regardless, when you are about to get destroyed, there is a warning beep that plays in the background.
The Hawken experience
When it was revealed, Hawken presented itself with next-gen graphics. Considering the game is running in 32-bit with DirectX9, the visuals of the game are impressive. Hawken scales well on different hardware, but will lack some of the more impressive effects like particles physics.
Gameplay is solid in the beta, after a few matches it becomes easier to survive and learn different strategies to stay alive longer. The microtransactions in the store never feel forced and while you can purchase in-game currency to buy new parts or mechs faster, the leveling system still feels satisfactory. You actually feel like you earned a new level rather than paying out for something new.
What the Hawken beta needs is a better matchmaking system so new players can have a better chance to learn the game before seasoned Hawken players destroy them mercilessly.
An impressive beta
The beta shows that Hawken is on the right track to produce a free-to-play game that has the right balance between paying for content and playing for free. Hawken needs to develop the game to support 64-bit processors and DirectX11 to allow the game to really produce high-end graphical results and not produce bottlenecks during gameplay.