There aren’t too many multi-player only titles flying around these days. In fact, you could probably count the amount of next-gen titles on one hand (unless you’re missing fingers). It’s no surprise then that WarHawk, which is due out on the Playstation 3 later this year, has sparked an interest with the gaming world.
If you cast you minds back to last years E3, you’ll remember Sonys keynote showing off this game in all its glory – with lush graphics, supposedly superb game play, and an intuitive SIXAXIS control system. I say supposedly superb game play, because we never really got to see that much of it, and we definitely didn’t get to play it! Luckily however, we have now – and it’s shaping up very nicely.
The game is named after the main vehicle within the Third-person shooter – a winged fighter plane called the Warhawk. This devastating war machine can either hover or fly at full speed and is great to get around the vast maps. I’ll go into the details of the plane a bit later on.
As a multiplayer game, you’d expect huge battles on giant battlegrounds, and you definitely get that here. Warhawk offers up to 32 player online gaming, with a four game modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Zone Deathmatch. All of them do exactly what they say on the tin – no need for explanations there then.
You spawn on foot each time you die (which is quite a lot if you’re me!), with nothing more than a handgun and a knife. If you’re feeling daring, you can attempt to run behind an enemy and slash their necks, with an instant kill added to your score if you succeed. More often than not, though, you’ll stick to the handgun – which is extremely good when it comes to quick shooting. If you can’t settle with that, there are a variety of other weapons to find within the maps – everything from flamethrowers (great against vehicles) to proximity mines!
Warhawk obviously includes vehicles within the game, and they come in the shape of jeeps, tanks and planes (Warhawks). The jeeps are pretty standard, with the back shift buttons offering accelerate and brake functions. If you’ve got a mate, you can get him on the back of the jeep manning a hefty set-position machine gun. The tank again follows the same control scheme, with the addition of the turret movement via the analogue sticks. Finally the Warhawk – by far the most popular choice within the game. The Warhawk has two functions, hover or fly. If you’re attempting to take out a fair few ground units, then hover is quite handy as you can move around at a slower pace and pick off your targets with either the primary or secondary. It soon becomes evident though that you’re a sitting duck when hovering, so you’ll have to pick and choose it wisely.
Because of that, you’ll mostly find yourself using the fly option. This straightens the wings and blasts on the thrusters, sending your plane at a superbly quick pace into the skies ready for some dog fighting – one of the best aspects of the game. Scattered across the maps are pick-ups, containing various weapons for your Warhawk from homing missiles to air mines. Holding the front-left shift button will set your missiles to lock onto a target and launch. The front-right shift fires a machine gun to help the missiles destroy their target.
Dogfighting within the game is extremely fluid, and heaps of fun. The speed the Warhawks move at is just about right, giving you a great sense of speed without it being too much to control.
Whilst we’re on the subject of control, I guess it’s worth mentioning the SIXAXIS feature. It was one of the main features shown at Sony’s keynote. With a tilt of the controller, your vehicle will move in that direction. After a quick tinkle with the sensitivity setting, I soon started to get used to the new control idea and found myself weaving in and out of canyons like a pro. It was a very different story in battle however. Although originally a very cool addition, the SIXAXIS control soon became cumbersome and not ‘natural’ enough for me to be able to move and fire comfortably, especially with the land vehicles. I soon found myself switching it off and settling for the analogue control system, which worked extremely well – specifically with the Warhawk. The left stick will steer your plane, with the right stick providing instant evasive manoeuvres, careering your plane up and down or spinning it, in an attempt to avoid a missile lock or to out-manoeuvre your opponent.
Considering you’ll be up in the air for most of the time in Warhawk, the graphics understandably have to make an impression – and they really do! Warhawk is simply stunning on a High-definition TV, with absolutely mind-blowing textures and environments that look extremely realistic whichever angle or height you see them from. Coupled with that is a seemingly endless draw-distance which make the maps seem never-ending, even from great heights.
The game features five maps, each one with their own unique look and style – from desert plains (think Motorstorm) to jungle like environments (think FarCry). One map specifically that caught my eye was Destroyed Capitol. The entire map is designed for Dogfighting, with small land areas scattered at the top of sky scraper buildings, all of which are hiding within clouds. The map looks superb, and Dogfighting whilst using the clouds for cover is simply genius.
It’s the little things that map Warhawk so impressive. Simple things like the way your Warhawk reacts in the air, the way the wheels drop as you bring it in to land and the fact that you can see spits of rain lashing past your plane as you speed through a dark cloud within the sky. Couple those small effects with some superb gameplay elements, along with 4-player split screen online action, and you’ve got yourself a truly superb game.
Sony also promise plenty of additional downloadable content throughout 2008, including expansions and new game-modes. Warhawk is set for a Fall 2007 release, so that’s Autumn for us UK’ers.