Warhawk

Flying a fighter jet at Mach 2 has got to be a pretty exciting and memorable experience. The idea of carving a path through open skies, arcing through clouds and skimming mountain tops all seems extremely exciting and, amazingly, Warhawk seems to got a considerable way towards capturing that sort of magic. I suspect genuine pilots would disagree but, that aside, there's something special about flying in Warhawk. You can take to the skies in highly-manoeuvrable, well-armed, boost-powered doomcraft in the form of a Warhawk or Nemesis, depending on the side you fight for, and unleash special amounts of craziness on your enemies. That's the main feature of Warhawk. It's all about combat and mayhem, and it's flippin' good fun.

Warhawk

There's no real plot to speak of, other than the involvement of two groups, each clearly intent on the total annihilation of the other. Beyond that, it's down to you and up to 31 other players to battle it out online in large arenas, competing in the usual selection of modes, including team deathmatch, capture the flag and zones. As you enter a game though, there's never a single path to take, required to achieve success. If you wish to take to the skies and battle for air supremacy, clearing a path for your team to escape with a flag, that's fine, but equally you could choose to stick to the ground, using tanks, jeeps, turrets and other weaponry to help you out. The choice goes much further though, since you could choose to run straight for the enemy flag, provide cover for another flag carrier, protect your own base or simply work your way around the map gaining control of strategic locations from which to launch further assaults. The variety of tactical play that results leads to incredible replayability in the matches. Each ranked match lasts a maximum of 30 minutes, and you can guarantee that no 30-minute battle will ever be the same as another.

The game's controls play a huge part if any tactical play is to be entered into. Piloting an aircraft in the game is, at first, complicated, and with good reason. The downside, of course, is that new pilots in the game can be swiftly put off. The controls contribute significantly to the learning curve, as a result. Putting the focus on aircraft (since ground-based activities are generally simpler in this game), there are two modes of operation: hover and free-flight. The latter is significantly faster, and each mode is quite different, especially in control setup. Any complaint levelled at the controls soon disappears though, particularly if you spend time trying to think of an alternate configuration. The truth is that, it takes a while to master, but the controls work brilliantly and, after practice, allow you to charge through the skies and engage in exciting dogfights. If the controls were to be toned down, then the aerial experience would be nowhere near as satisfying. Of course, being an online game, you can always guarantee that somebody will be an aerial wizard, so it can be a stressful experience initially, but it can be overcome quickly with experience.

Warhawk

If you've got the hang of flying around, that's an excellent start, but that's only half the puzzle. There are then primary (machine guns in the case of a Warhawk) and secondary weapons to choose from that can be used for both defence and offence. For example, the range of weaponry includes cloaks, to evade enemies, mines to get rid of pursuing craft, homing missiles, swarm missiles, electric attacks and more. A favourite weapon is actually a remote-control missile (called a TOW missile) that allows you to fire the weapon and, leaving your ship temporarily exposed, pilot the missile towards the intended target. Against ground targets, the weapon is particularly effective, especially since it can destroy a tank or turret, but things are kept balanced since your craft is exposed in your absence. That's the key thing with the weaponry in Warhawk and the vehicles involved. Whether you're in a tank, on foot, in a turret or in an aircraft, there is always somebody you could take out, and always somebody that could take you out. There's no safe or precarious position, the balance is perfect. In the sky, you might get plucked out of the air by a powerful turret, but the soldier in the turret is a stationary target for a TOW missile.

While there's no plot or story, the fighting does serve some purpose: your own growth and merit. As a soldier in Warhawk, you can immediately begin working towards increasing your rank, earning medals, awards and ribbons, and improving your player's statistics (detailed in incredible depth). The medals on offer are, understandably, quite difficult to achieve, involving targets such as "Achieve 1,000 kills with the aircraft machine guns". There are also badge awards for significant achievements that are more straightforward than the medals, involving flag capures, weapon usage, accuracy and that sort of thing. Ribbons are also awarded after each match, dependent on your performance, picking out great acts of team play, good kill streaks, honourable play and that sort of thing. The most long-term achievement though is an increase in rank. Improving your rank relies on two things: reaching a particular points total and receiving a particular award. The rank is only awarded if you achieve both requirements. The clever part here is that you cannot reach General without experimenting with all aspects of combat. Simply staying on the ground or sticking to the air won't get you to the high ranks; you are required to show mastery of all skills, and this means Warhawk provides a huge challenge.

Warhawk

If there's not enough to be getting on with there, expansion packs are also on the cards. Ranging from dropships in the expansion Omega Dawn, also featuring an additional level, through to ice levels, APCs, jetpacks and more in later expansions, there is a huge amount of content in Warhawk or on the way. It could take well in excess of 1,000 hours to see everything and achieve all awards and ranks, probably more.

To help enable team play, the example set by the excellent Resistance: Fall of Man, would have been a good one, though sadly it was ignored, possibly because of input from misguided beta testers. To avoid unwanted comms chatter, the adopted solution is to employ a push to talk system. This means that, for those in an aircraft, it's significantly more difficult to talk and manoeuvre. The not-so-secret alternative would simply be to employ a squad or party system, like that in Resistance, to allow proper teamwork with players communicating and implementing strategy. Instead, communication relies on a few garbled messages in between manoeuvres that are broadcast to your entire team, without being reserved for your friends. In addition, the clan support is a bit dubious. I've entered many matches only to find that my clanmates are on opposing teams. There is a clan battle option available, but it relies on having clans on each team. It is unfortunate that the developers have fought very hard to avoid two or three small problems arising, while introducing several far larger points for criticism. Warhawk does not easily develop into an enjoyable team game to share with clanmates, despite the obvious potential.

Warhawk

Music plays a significant role in Warhawk, despite the game being seperated from a traditional, coherent story. Ranging from incredibly stirring music in the game's start menu, through to moody and atmospheric tunes that play at significant moments in the active game, the music, coupled with superb sound effects, completes the Warhawk experience. The sound of the Warhawk engines (the boosters in particular) and primary fire from a dropship are stunning every time I hear them. I can happily spend a game alone from time to time, just enjoying the experience and turning the volume up to feel the power of the dropships or, as an alternative, the contrast between near-silence and full boost when you force a Warhawk to stall, then re-engage. The troop and vehicle noises are perhaps a little weaker, but still provide the desired effect. The thuds of distant tank fire are certainly impressive, even if the up-close version isn't so spectacular.

Warhawk really is a love/hate game. If you overcome the steep learning curve and get involved in lots of balanced matches, the game can grow on you rapidly. The challenge the game presents is incredible and the online experience is practically unrivalled, making this an essential purchase for Playstation 3. Rocketing through the skies above a Warhawk arena unleashes a feeling of pure joy; the hard part is keeping that feeling going before getting shot down.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Incog. Inc

Players:

1-4

Online:

1-32

Release:

2007-08-30

Trophies:

57

Review summary

Gameplay:

Online mania with tonnes to try

Graphics:

Excellent, even with 32 players involved

Sound:

Great effects and stirring music

Lastability:

Endless rankings and rewards

9.3

Storming

Post a comment

Comment:

characters remaining.

User comments

MeteorStorm Random Quote Picker

QuoterQuoter

DeathSpank

Greetings cow!

Cow

...

DeathSpank

You're so wise.