A Wild Hawken Appears!: A Review of Hawken

Hawken image

Image from hdwallpappers.com

“Hey dude, you should try out Hawken.”
“What? Hawken? That’s not Dota.”
“Do it or I’ll SACRIFICE YOUR FIRSTBORN!”
“Geez, not that again. Fine.”
And that is the truthful tale of how Josh Duke introduced me to Hawken, a Free-to-Play Mech FPS developed by Adhesive Games.

My hesitation was real; there are a myriad of fantastic Free-to-Play games currently released, and Hawken was just not catching my fancy. But since my friends were enjoying it, and peer pressure being one of the most powerful forces in the universe (and threats to my nonexistent children), I decided to give it a go.

First impressions weren’t the best. The game thankfully runs you through a tutorial before being allowed to join any matchmaking, and it does its job well, but it definitely needs some polish. The graphics are overly bright in the hologram map, and the voice acting of the trainer is sub par. However, even though those aspects were a turn off, I was rather impressed with some of the game mechanics:

Unlike most shooters, you do not need to reload. That’s right, no reloading. I mean, you’re in a futuristic walking death machine- why the heck would you need to reload? Instead, it uses a heat system. Your primary weapon uses a small amount of heat, while your secondary weapon (usually a missile) uses a moderate amount. If you overheat, weapons are completely disabled, usually meaning a quick death from your opponents. I LOVE this idea. After playing a lot of shooters over the years, I feel trained to mash “R” whenever I find cover. It’s nice that a game found a balanced way to remove that feature.

Next up is the healing system. No regenerating shields, no health packs. When your mech has taken a beating, go find yourself a place to hide and hold down “C”. A cuddly little repair drone will pop out of your exploding carcass and restore you to full health overtime. WHAT! Awesome! “But Mattchew,” you might ask, “how is that fair or balanced?” Well sirs and ladies, when you are in repair mode the mech is completely disabled. Not only that, you can’t see the minimap. That means if you try to repair when an enemy is chasing you down, you’re going to die. I honestly think this is one of the best heal systems in a shooter in recent memory. The only similar mechanic that comes to mind is the Heavy eating his Sandvich in Team Fortress 2. That means no long fire fights with regenerating shields, and no worries from map creators about balancing issues because of health pack placement. The only downside is that if your team loses a big fight, and the enemy team is basically dead, it doesn’t matter. They’re going to be back to full health. That only stresses the need for teamwork and focusing down single targets, instead of everyone doing their own thing.

Finally, fuel management. Every mech has a fuel bar that allows several actions. Think of it as a glorified sprint bar. Holding shift activates jets which make you move faster (although you can’t shoot while sprinting), and certain combinations allow dashes (which are essential for dodging opponent’s missiles, and general positioning). Fuel is also used to do a quick 180 degree turn, in case you need to suddenly run away, or in an ambush. Oh, did I also mention every mech can fly? Because the mechs can freaking fly.

It was about three hours in when I finally decided that Hawken had something special. I had just been in a team fight where I almost died horribly several times, and I think I killed Josh’s eardrums fourfold from my school girl screams of terror. I pushed my mech to the absolute limit, used about every trick in the book, and got a triple kill- all against opponents with fancier mechs than my walking TV. That’s when I said through Steam voice chat “This made me feel like I was in an episode of Battlestar Galactica.”

That’s right. A land-based mech game made me feel like I was in an epic space-based flying shoot out. All of my opponents felt smarter. All of my enemies were better equipped. But through skill and guts we defeated them all, ready for the next challenge that awaited us.

On that positive note, it’s time to kill the mood with what I don’t like about this game. The class unlock system is stupid. Just plain ol’ stupid. I get that it’s Free-to-Play, and that funds have to come from somewhere, but I think Valve nailed that formula in games where a vast amount of customization is possible. The mechs are insanely expensive to unlock with the free Hawken Credits you receive for playing (it’ll take about ten hours to earn enough for the higher tier mechs), and you can only test drive a small sample periodically. Mechs you test drive don’t receive experience, so it doesn’t give you much incentive to stick with those freebies. Also, there is a lot of customization available in this game, so I can’t help but wonder if Adhesive would make more money by just having all mechs available, and thus more opportunity for people to customize. Team Fortress 2 is probably the best apple to apple comparison of how it should be done.

Thankfully, although the higher tier mechs are a lot better, they’re not so much better than your starting TV-with-a-windshield-wiper mech that you’ll feel the opponents have an unfair advantage. A player with a lot of skill will overcome those Pay-to-Win fiends (and it feels REALLY good to wipe the floor with them).

Overall Hawken has been a solid, solid experience. I wouldn’t say it’s as polished yet as some other shooters, but it has an insane amount of potential and is a lot of fun for free.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

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Pokemon X and Y Review: Pokecrack

pokemon-x-and-y-starters

Here I am again, crawling through the grass, looking for a trainer battle, willing to do anything just for one more fight—anything, I mean anything. Someone has to tell me to stop, to move on to the next route. There’s no more Pokemon you haven’t seen here. But I can’t stop, I’m digging through the dirt, just hoping that maybe I can catch a wild duduo—is that even possible?—and suddenly it’s 2 AM. I got the Pokemon fever, and I got it bad. In fact, it hasn’t been this bad since the original Pokemon in 1998.

A lot has changed since the original 150 graced Game Boys everywhere and began printing money for Nintendo. Some of the changes feel disorienting—quite literally, the change of perspective from top down, 2D sprite to full 3D took some getting used to. But the new animation, sound, and forward-thinking design really sets both X and Y apart from former entries in the storied series. For example, you get a faster method of transportation (rollerblades in this case), a town map, and EXP share within the first hour or so of the game. EXP share that early in the game is a true game changer, as it’s much easier to keep your party closer in levels. In previous games, it took concerted effort to not have one Pokemon shoot up past your other party members. I’m not sure why that always bothered me, but it just did, and now that’s fixed and I have played so much in the last few days and this is my cry for help.

The improved graphics are such a huge change. I try not to be vain when reviewing and playing games. I tell myself that graphics don’t matter, that it’s really about gameplay, but what happens when the gameplay is already addicting like crack and suddenly the graphics jump from 1999 quality to 2013? Disaster, that’s what. This game has obliterated my free time. Even when friends convince me to do something else, I have my 3DS with me with Pokemon installed on its SD card. Play the Battlefield 4 beta? When I die, I might just stay dead for a bit as I finish a fight. Queuing up for Dota 2? Sounds like a perfect opportunity to explore a new route.

Pokemon X and Y Frogadier

Some people have criticized the character designs of some of the new Pokemon, to which I say: did you just chug a bottle of stupid pills? Yeah, a pile of garbage might not be the most interesting design, but look at those starters—look at Frogadier. I know I just did. And I just took 15 minutes from writing the previous sentence to this one because I started playing again.

In all seriousness, this game brings back what made the first game so addicting to me. I have been away from the series for quite some time, so seeing a ton of new Pokemon is both overwhelming and exhilarating. What type is that Pokemon? I found myself wanting to both look up wild Pokemon on a wiki and avoid it at the same time. Surely, it’s more interesting to capture one for yourself and update your Pokedex. Add to the formula the ability to customize your appearance, and you have Pokecrack all over again.

Of course, not everything is perfect about this game. If you don’t like RPGs, leveling up characters, and minimal storytelling, Pokemon hasn’t changed in those departments. In fact, the story in Pokemon X and Y I think is its weakest point. The cast of characters surrounding the main character are kind of pointless and don’t add anything to the game; without spoiling anything, there have been some “moments” that are trying to have some impact on the player, but they don’t pay off because no one cares about the characters, just the Pokemon. Also, the inability to control the camera in certain segments can make moving around tricky, particularly since the turbo for the rollerblades active whenever you push a direction. I ran into trouble moving around Lumiose City on occasion, but it wasn’t enough trouble to put down the game, clearly.

The biggest problem? For me, the game is too large to review properly. I can’t go into the ins and outs of high-level battling. It feels weird to even mention as a footnote how great the online system is, too, but it is great and it is awesome. A few taps of the lower screen and you can trade and battle anyone in the world or give them a temporary buff. Did I mention Mega Evolutions? No? There, they’re mentioned, they add another level to an already deep fighting system, and make badass Pokemon look even cooler. Everything that was awesome about previous Pokemon games has returned and the majority of it has been improved.

What can I say? This is the Pokemon game I always wanted as a kid. When talking to a friend about this write-up, he said, “I’ll start it for you: Best Pokemon ever. Oh wait, that’s all you need to write.” I think he might be on to something, but I don’t have time to bother. I have to get back to Pokemon X.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review: Out of Time

Final Fantasy 13-2

Note from the Editor: We here at Morality Points firmly believe that video game reviews don’t have to be the most timely occurrence; many games go through initial bursts of popularity and fan-dom only to be hailed as the most boring 20 hours in the history of ever. Even though Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out in January, Stephen’s review offers a better perspective over the true merit of the game.

To avoid spoilers, I have avoided discussing the plotline.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the latest installment of the series created by Square-Enix and was released at the very end of January 2012. So, that begs the question: Why is my review coming out just now? Well, my playthrough of FFXIII-2 was nearly complete when my time and attention was stolen away by the arrival of Mass Effect 3. However, now that I’ve finally beaten the single player and played plenty of multiplayer, it’s about time for me to finish up with FFXIII-2.

As you can tell by the title, FFXIII-2 is the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy XIII was a controversial game that had both lovers and haters. I prefer to take the middle ground and say that Final Fantasy XIII had many great points but several big detractors, such as a lack of open world exploration, a linear plot, lack of cities and annoying voice actors.

With the creation of FFXIII-2, Square-Enix hoped to rectify the mistakes of Final Fantasy XIII. However, whether or not it was a success is debatable.

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Tribes Ascend Review: Killing in Motion

Tribes Ascend logo

Tribes, regrettably, was one of those series that I discovered too late into my gaming career. While I played a few rounds of the original, too many of my friends had moved on and I quickly did too. With the release of Tribes Ascend I was determined to get more out of the fast-paced experience, and although I’m horrible at the game, Hi Rez studios has done a great job of capturing the essence of the original while bringing the blazingly fast action to new audiences.

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Super Monday Night Combat Review: The Wacky World of Sports

Super Monday Night Combat

The Atlantic recently commented that most games are dumb. The characters of Super Monday Night Combat read that article and took it as a challenge, but in the best possible way. The newly released PC game takes the idea of absurdity, puts it in a weirdness food processor, force feeds it to an awkward unicorn, and poops out solid gold.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review (Xbox 360)

The Witcher 2 Xbox 360

It’s been a long time since a game has told me that I sucked. After playing through the opening tutorial, Witcher 2 recommended that I play on the easiest difficulty. And for the first few hours of playing, I couldn’t agree more; I really did not know what to make of Geralt the Witcher. The Witcher 2 is a tough game but, once you embrace the gameplay, explore the lore and invest in the character, you’ll experience a flawed, yet entertaining game.

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Battlefield 3 Beta Review: Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

There is a flash of flight as fire reflects off a sniper scope. I see it out of the corner of my eye and jump to the ground—but, too late. The bullet zips right through my head and Battlefield 3 cheerily sends me to the all-too-familiar YOU ARE DEAD screen. Fortunately, respawn times are so short that I can hop right back into the foray in the metro, but there’s a second of hesitation before I click that deploy button.

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