For whatever reason, the powers that be have bestowed upon us a wealth of giant robots this coming holiday season. If you’ve been waiting for some quality mech on mech action in the gaming space, you stand on the verge of several great titles coming to a variety of platforms.
If you’re of the PC gaming inclination, a couple of these titles have offered some really exciting beta programs. While it is hardly fair to judge a game by its beta, I feel like two of these titles have come far enough along to get a pretty good idea of which style of gameplay you might favor. So, I took a look at the upcoming MechWarrior Online and Hawken PC games to see which game had what I needed.
Being the new kid in town is awesome if you’re a mech game. You can make your own world, your own rules, and your own robots. Gameplay can be as sci-fi or as fantasy as you want, and in the end no one can fault you because you’ve managed to create a game that involves blowing up robots.
Hawken puts you in a crazy dystopian future world that isn’t exactly earth. The beta allows you access to a few kinds of gameplay that make the whole title feel like a first person shooter. The game is developed using Unreal, which has proved itself may times over as an engine well-suited to the FPS-style of gameplay.
Hawken is fast paced, designed for constant movement, and seemingly constant shooting. Very much like a traditional FPS, you rush to an objective and shoot your way to the goal. Especially in “siege” mode, where the objective seems to be to siphon enough energy from the battlefield to power a massive ship that will cruise across the sky and attack the enemy base for you. If missions aren’t really your thing, you can always enjoy some good old fashioned deathmatch and fight until your mech overheats or is blown to pieces by the enemy.
Hawken’s mechs are unusual to say the least. In the mech upgrade and design stage before the beginning of each match you are offered some basic bolt on tools, which are mostly just swapping one gun out for another or changing the paint scheme on your mech. The process feels very similar to how you would choose a character in an FPS, where you pick the armor color and weapon loadout. There’s very little time spent making your mech particularly different from any of the others on the field.
If you are ready for robot smashing action that does a great job of combining the twitch-shooter skills you built up in Call of Duty with the fantasy elements of a ruined robot siege world, Hawken is exactly what you are looking for.
I doubt that the creators of BattleTech envisioned a future in which their franchise would grow and change so many times that, nearly 30 years later, the concepts they created would be considered guidelines for massive robot combat. MechWarrior Online is the latest in the evolution of that franchise, rebooting the ancient feud between the Inner Sphere and the Clans for an MMO-style action game. The CryEngine 3-based game puts you in a team based assault match with players of every skill level during the beta. You have two choices, kill everyone on the other team or capture their base.
The whole game is based on teamwork, typically achieved through a voice chat system that is built into the game . Matchmaking will put you with total strangers, or throw you into a group of friends if you have paired up before you start a match. Once you are in the game, extra points are given for cooperative attacks like spotting an enemy mech so a teammate can light them up with missiles from a distance. As long as your mech makes it to the end of the match, you walk away with a healthy supply of experience and C-Bills.
MechWarrior Online is incredibly granular. You pay for ammunition used, armor that needs to be repaired, and every single part on your mech. You choose how many heatsinks you have, and where they go on your mech. You choose where on your mech you store your ammo, and whether or not you protect that ammo from exploding if that body part takes a hit. The end result is incredible diversity in the mechs being created, but also a steep learning curve for those who want to just jump in and play.
This is a game for serious mech pilots, ready to build the best machine possible from the ground up. If you’re looking for a game to really sink your teeth and time into, MechWarrior Online is for you.
I was surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed both of these games. Hawken is absolutely a faster-paced and far more energetic experience than MechWarrior Online, but lacks the kind of detail and team oriented gameplay that I have enjoyed in the mech games of the past. MWO’s free-to-play MMO style of gameplay will lure a lot of gamers in, but the learning curve for actually enjoying the game is so much larger than Hawken’s that it’s easy to see some gamers passing over the reboot for something more exciting.
In the end, I felt that MechWarrior Online was the better beta experience. Hawken has a lot of potential to be a great game, but I feel like the experience will become repetitive very quickly, while MWO will provide a lot of variety and a ton of customization to kep players coming back for more.