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Blasting Through Hawken's Siege Mode

After playing Hawken multiplayer at GDC 2012, it's easy to see why investors have already placed a $10 million bet on this free-to-play online mech game. Adhesive Games CEO, co-founder and Creative Director Khang Le was on hand to team up with me in the game's Siege mode, which offers a fast-paced mixture of action and strategy that's been designed to keep teams of players (eventually as many as 8 players per team will be able to take part in the action) busy running around with specific objectives on the battlefield. We took on Jason Hughes, the game's producer at Adhesive. <br/><br/>The first thing players do when logging into the game is choose and customize their mech.<br/><br/>"There are three different classes: light, medium and heavy," said Le. "They can carry different items. The light mech is very quick but can't carry as much resources, while the heavy mech is slow and lumbering, but has heavy armor and the ability to carry a lot of resources."<br/><br/> <object id="vid_d05b5403f510e2f8eb421c5491a2a5df" class="ign-videoplayer" width="467" height="263" data="http://oystatic.ignimgs.com/src/core/swf/IGNPlayer.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="movie" value="http://oystatic.ignimgs.com/src/core/swf/IGNPlayer.swf"/><param name="" value="true"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><param name="bgcolor" value="#000000"/><param name="flashvars" value="url=http://www.ign.com/videos/2012/03/13/hawken-gameplay-teaser"/><param name="wmode" value="opaque"/></object> <b><center>Hawken Gameplay Trailer</b></center><br/><br/>The resources in the Siege demo focused on energy, which is required for players to power up stationary gun turrets, which then turn on and help take out opposing forces. Energy is also used to launch the team's giant battleship, which takes off and heads straight for the enemy's base to destroy it.<br/><br/>"It's good to play as a team with different sized mechs so that you can have the slower one carrying all these energy units, while the faster one is protecting them," said Le.<br/><br/>Le ended up guarding my mech as I collected energy and powered up turrets and launched the battleship. The heavy mech was cumbersome but great for dishing out (and taking) a lot of hits. The smaller mech is definitely designed for a more experienced gamer (at least when taking on the game's creator), given its lower armor rating. <br/><br/>The game was initially designed as an Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) title early on, so it fully supports console controllers. But the PC mouse and keyboard set-up allowed for quick movement through the multi-tiered futuristic battlefield. All the mechs feature a cool 180 degree turn that allows for quick targeting when an adversary sneaks up from behind. And one press of the keyboard allows players to watch from a third-person perspective as their mech is repaired (just make sure to find a quiet place for this, or have a teammate on guard).<br/><br/> <object id="vid_4e5ec1028e88c5027400017e" class="ign-videoplayer" width="467" height="263" data="http://oystatic.ignimgs.com/src/core/swf/IGNPlayer.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="movie" value="http://oystatic.ignimgs.com/src/core/swf/IGNPlayer.swf"/><param name="" value="true"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><param name="bgcolor" value="#000000"/><param name="flashvars" value="url=http://www.ign.com/videos/2011/08/31/hawken-desert-gameplay-trailer"/><param name="wmode" value="opaque"/></object> <b><center>Lock and Load</b></center><br/><br/>The game level we played was designed with lots of alleys and obstacles to navigate. The ability to hover and jump made navigation relatively easy. There was always a clearly marked color-coded icon on-screen to point you in the right direction with your latest objective during the game. All the mechs have a "run" capability to traverse the landscape more quickly.<br/><br/>"As a fan of all the old mech games like MechWarrior, Virtual On, and Steel Battalion, I liked the idea of the slower lumbering mech back in the day, but it could be frustrating," said Le. "It felt so much like a civil war type of gameplay, where people just walk up to someone and they each fired away until someone died. We wanted Hawken to be somewhere between a simulation and something fun like Virtual On and Halo, so it will appeal to a wider audience and keep things twitchy, but not so much so that it becomes like a skin of an FPS game."<br/><br/>The world of Hawken looks even more impressive up close. The fast-paced videos don't give you time to take in the many '80s sci-fi influences that Adhesive Games have infused into the world. Le is a fan of Blade Runner, the original Star Wars films and Japanese anime like Ghost in the Shell. Blending those elements together, Le summarizes the world of Hawken as a post-apocalyptic Hello Kitty.<br/><br/>"The vision was to mix the Japanese mech style of things like the more humanoid-style Mobile Suit Gundam with the more lumbering American MechWarrior-style games," said Le. "This blending brings out a very dense and colorful world. It's post apocalyptic, but if you notice the details in it there are a lot of the billboards that are very cartoony."<br/><br/><img src="http://pcmedia.ign.com/pc/image/article/122/1221698/hawken-20120327002154526-000.jpg" /><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>The ability to customize Mechs is something that has evolved as the game expanded from downloadable console title to free-to-play online game. "With the Benchmark/FirstMark funding we've been able to grow our team and now the mechs are fully customizable. It's going to be a lot of fun for players out there to just dress up their mech," said Le. "At the same time we're going to make sure that this isn't a pay-to-win game. We want to monetize variety, not give players advantages. So if you spend money, you're going to get variety of weapons. But they're not overpowering weapons. They just play differently, so it's just opening up a lot of different options for the players."<br/><br/>The experience of Hawken continues to evolve. From Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch gameplay on out, the game is being designed to expand over time. The upcoming Beta will play a big role in allowing Adhesive Games to fine-tune the experience for large numbers of players.<br/><br/>"The great thing about free-to-play is it treats the game as an ongoing experience. It's not like you ship the product and it's done," said Le. "You're always serving people and making sure they enjoy the thing you serve them, so anything that's not fun, we're going to take it out and anything that's fun we're keeping in. We're always updating the game to provide the best experience possible."<br/><br/>Even at this relatively early stage, Hawken lives up to the hype. As an Unreal Engine 3 game, this first-person mech game stands out from anything else out there. The Siege mode, especially, will separate this free-to-play game from the crowd. It's the type of experience that gets under your skin, making you want to come back for more. And that's exactly the type of formula necessary in the free-to-play gaming landscape. <br><br/><br/>&#169;2012-03-27, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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