Hawken Died 5 Years Ago And I Still Miss It

Poor, dead Hawken. The PC version of this ill-fated multiplayer mech shooter was taken out back and shot 5 years ago, but I still think about it a lot. It was by no means a perfect game, and its stingy free-to-play model was poorly implemented, but I loved it all the same. It was beautiful to look at, the mechs were a joy to crash around in, and it was just so damn tactile. You really felt like you were strapped into the cockpit of a metal exosuit laden with high-tech weaponry.

Hawken's mechs were not the heavy, stompy kind that lumbered across the battlefield like unwieldy rocket-firing elephants. They were surprisingly nimble, zipping around with the help of a back-mounted jet engine. Hit the boost button and this thing would ignite, propelling you forward with a screen-shaking surge of energy. If another player fired a missile at you, and you had enough fuel in the tank, you could jet-strafe to the side and avoid it. That felt amazing.

You could jet-jump too, confusing opponents by leaping over their heads, hovering in the air briefly, then triumphantly unloading a volley of missiles into their backs. Your mech's fuel reserves would burn out pretty quickly, preventing you from abusing the system, but it did regenerate eventually. In terms of pure movement, I can't think of many better first-person shooters. Titanfall feels similar, and is great in its own right, but Hawken's agile mechs still have the edge.

With practice you could pull off some wild acrobatics, rampaging around the small close-quarters maps in a deft flurry of dashing, hovering, and strafing. The sensation of piloting a mech was thrillingly evocative too, with the cockpit shaking and rattling as you moved and dirt hitting the glass. Turn your 'head' and there was a microsecond delay, accompanied by the audible whirr of internal machinery, giving these death-bots a real sense of weight and power.

The mechs were nicely varied too. I was a big fan of the Brawler class, which had a brutal close-range flak cannon inspired by the classic Unreal Tournament weapon. Dashing around and unloading red hot globs of razor sharp metal into rival mechs, watching them shred their armour to ribbons, never got old. The Rocketeer class was fun to pilot too, letting you change into a form that made you essentially immobile, but majorly increased your armour to make up for it.

Alas, Hawken wasn't quite deep enough. The mech customisation—typically a hallmark of the genre—was disappointingly limited. But I found it hard to care when I got into a match and started dancing around launching heat-seeking missiles and chunks of flak at people. The hard industrial sci-fi aesthetic was stunning, with tasteful grain and cinematic colour grading adding a layer of grime. The scrappy, worn-out mechs and their cockpits were brilliantly designed too.

In 2020, some enterprising Hawken fans managed to unofficially revive the PC version of the game—albeit without the multiplayer component. This limits you to playing offline modes against AI bots, which isn't ideal, but at least gives you a chance to pilot those wonderful mechs again. Apparently the Xbox and PlayStation servers are still active, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) empty most of the time. The world has moved on from Hawken, and I probably should too.

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