Party at the Luxe – The Hawken Preview

A rather well-known fact that the video game industry actually operates primarily behind closed doors. A less-known fact is that behind those closed doors is usually an open bar. At E3, every night, you could count on two to three parties going off post-show in various parts of downtown Los Angeles.

On one particular evening at the Luxe hotel right across from the Staples Center where the streets were flooded with hockey fans coming down from the previous day and anticipating the next and video game industry folk wandering in a daze of appointments and meetings, there was an extraordinarily bumping party decimating second floor of the otherwise quiet and classy establishment. Half inside, tucked away in a darkened corner full of computers and chairs, and half outside on a balcony overflowing with speakers, lights, and alcohol, there was a full-on celebration going hard into the cool West Coast night. The occasion? Hawken.

Also, I met Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day of Internet/television fame, Jess Conditt from Joystiq, and a girl wearing a totally badass fez, but that’s beside the point.

Hawken is, by most counts, an indie game about giant mechs blowing each other to bits. It is, as I can confirm, most definitely a first-person shooter in which you pilot a mech against other player-controlled mechanized behemoths, but my overloaded senses from the interminable Machinima and Nvidia-sponsored stimuli steeled me against the indie part.

Hawken is developed by Adhesive Games of Pasadena and published by Meteor Entertainment of Seattle. Adhesive is certainly diminutive at a mere 20 employees (only nine of which are dedicated to Hawken), but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the opulence I and 100 of my not-so-closest friends had steeped ourselves in, nor from the quality of the game. You see, Hawken is quite fun.

In addition to looking pretty fantastic (it’s running on Unreal, but the post-processing applied to the visuals makes the game look totally unique and is cozying up on the realm of stellar), Hawken just feels fun. The way the HUD shakes and rattles loose as your viewport slams around with each halted step, there’s no denying you’re in a mech, but you can still move around with the speed and fluidity of a conventional FPS.

Well, depending on your class, as those heavy mechs are just sloooow. The boost helps, but the fuel that powers it is a precious resource considering it also powers your jump jets and dodge moves. You can just as easily power down for a second and refill your fuel automatically, but standing still for too long in this game will most likely get you blowed up real good. The same risk/reward can be found in the self-repair functionality where your mech squats down and is completely immobile and vulnerable for what feels like an eternity as a little robot shoots out and fixes you up.

Your mech class also dictates what you can put on your armored ride in terms of artillery, something you can switch between deaths on the fly and something that definitely gives the game a more modern shooter flavor in the vein of Battlefield 3. A unique addition, though, is that you can select and deploy a special weapon that ranges from decoys to huge, level-shaking ordnance.

And if you’re worried about these giant, ambulatory tanks are going to ruin the world’s infrastructure, don’t worry; everything is already pretty fucked, and by that I mean you’re playing in what appears to be a largely broken and run-down city anyways. Like, these mechs are the least of these people’s problems. Yeah, it’s bleak, but it’s also very pretty.

So a free-to-play multiplayer mech FPS game from a nine-person team at a 20-person studio that has the gall to throw a lavish party in the heart of downtown Los Angeles in the middle of E3 and the Stanley Cup championships, warranting the likes of Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton? Yeah, it’s good, and you should probably check it out when it releases December 12 for PC.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,