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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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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Super Meat Boy: That’s A Lot of Meat

Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is The Shit. That’s about all this review really needs to say, but I guess I’ll elaborate since I have room. It’s one of the best platforming games I have ever played. It will kick your ass back and forth, grind it up in saw blades, and mash it like putty. My fingers are sore from pressing the jump button too hard, but that’s okay. I can still type this review. I’ll play through the pain. That’s what Meat Boy would do.

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Transformers War for Cybertron: Screw Voltron

Transformers War for Cyberton

The Transformers… more than meets the eye!

At its most basic, Transformers: War for Cybertron is a third-person shooter that outlines the events leading up to the Transformers’ exile from their home planet, Cybertron. Developed by High Moon Studios and published by the folks over at Activision, this game was released on June 22, 2010 for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Before the game’s release, a multiplayer demo was released on June 10th for the Xbox 360, and allowed the player to take control of the “scout” or “soldier” character classes. This is the game that old school Transformers fans (like myself) have been waiting for the last two decades to be made.

War for Cyberton

From here, things look peaceful. On the planet’s surface? Not so much.

Transformers: War for Cybertron’s story starts off from the perspective of the Decepticons, led by Megatron, who are hunting down fragments of dark energon in order to fulfill their quest of annihilating the Autobots. The dark energon is being guarded by Starscream in his research station, who ends up betraying the Autobots, which allows Megatron to easily lay claim to the planet’s source of the dark energy. Near the conclusion of the Decepticon campaign, Megatron forces Omega Surpeme to open the passage to Cybertron’s core and travels there with his squadmates. Upon their arrival in the planet’s core, Megatron decides to infect the core of Cybertron with his newly acquired dark energon.

War for Cyberton Megatron

All hail Lord Megatron, leader of the Decepticons!

The second half of this game focuses on the Autobot’s story, where the original Autobot leader, Zeta Prime, has been slain and Optimus eagerly takes up the role of their leader. He starts by recruiting Ratchet and Bumblebee for the good cause in order to fight Megatron and the rest of his Decepticons. The Autobot campaign essentially kicks off in their home capital of Iacon, where they have to defend their way of life by activating Cyberton’s armaments. Near the end of the Autobot campaign, newly minted leader Optimus Prime orders the evacuation of all Autobot cities. As Autobot escape crafts are fleeing the planet’s surface, they are attacked by a large Decepticon, known only as Trypticon. Optimus Prime and his squad stick around to defeat this menacing foe, and after they do, they elect to defend Cybertron from Megatron and his allies as long as the escape crafts are leaving. At the game’s conclusion, Optimus Prime commissions a large ship to shuttle all remaining Autobots into the safety of deep space.

Optimus Prime

Autobots! Transform and roll out!!

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Limbo: ???

When it comes to side scrolling games, I tend to think of bright colors and extra lives. Limbo boasts neither of these. The game is almost too dark, featuring a world engulfed in shadow and almost completely devoid of color. As for the extra lives, you have an infinite supply. The game would be too brutally unforgiving otherwise. As you venture through the world, you will die quite a bit. There is no getting around it. Death happens.

If you expect to find any story in Limbo, you will be let down. As far as I can tell, there isn’t one. The only hints you have are the title of the game and a girl who briefly appears. We are left without a who, where, when or why and must imagine the reasons behind the what. This might be some artsy “looking glass” type of story, but that doesn’t quite cut it with me. At least Mario had a princess to save. F for story.

I love violence (just ask my ex-girlfriend) (kidding). Limbo gets an A+ for violence. The mysterious shadow boy that you play as will find himself getting impaled on spikes or ripped apart by bear traps, fairly often. Mind you, this is not gore. There is no blood. The visual effect of making everything a shadow allows for a certain brilliance in brutality. It just looks cool. The environments share this brilliance. They have a beautifully dark artistic feel that makes up for the failure for a story. I didn’t know where I was, but I enjoyed playing through it.

Limbo Xbox

All the levels are different and have certain themes. One makes you use water to change the world around you and another involves climbing up and around mechanical objects. Just when one level starts to get old, the next one begins with perfect timing. There aren’t really many enemies in the game, though. One level involves natives setting traps for you, but they don’t show up. The only real constant enemies are these little glowing worms that attach onto your head and control you, but there is always a specific way of getting them off. Every puzzle has a specific way for you to get passed it, too. These two facts leave very little replay value. I tried a second run-through, but just got bored.

In retrospect, I probably could have spent the $20 used to buy Limbo on something more useful like food. However, it was a fun game and definitely worth the couple of hours it gave me of playtime. B+ for entertaining me.

Limbo Xbox 360

The Good: Cool visual style, fun puzzles and gameplay, interesting world.

The Bad: No story and not very long. The game makes absolutely no sense.

The Verdict: If you have an extra 20 bucks lying around and some time to kill, buy and download.

Written by Not Judas

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Bayonetta: Devil May Boobs?

Bayonetta

Watch out boys, she'll chew you up

Released near the beginning of 2010, Bayonetta was created by Hideki Kamiya (with Platinum Games) and released with help from its publisher, Sega. For those that don’t already know, Kamiya is the creator of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, which are both very great games in their own right. It’s been documented that the game went into creation almost three years before it was released, and has been showered with positive feedback from a large majority of its playing audience… myself included. Long story short, this game completely blew me away and playing it constantly reminded me about everything that’s good about well-written and expertly crafted video games. Now that I have that off my chest, let me continue the review…

Bayonetta

There's Bayonetta. As deadly as she is sexy.

Bayonetta’s story mainly takes place in a providence called Vigrid, which is essentially a mythical spin on what we know as Europe. The heroine (Bayonetta) is a witch that’s tasked with dispatching Angels in order advance through the story, all while unraveling the mystery behind her five hundred year slumber spent in a casket at the bottom of some lake. Her informant, Ezio (who sounds like a Mafioso type) tells her that his intel has indicated that Vigrid is where most of her questions can be answered. We find out early in the game about another of her allies, Rodin, who happens to be the owner of the “Gates of Hell” bar – and his establishment can be visited anytime that a portal to it is located, and weapon/item/attack upgrades can be afforded. The other main characters in the story are a rival Umbra Witch named Jeanne (who wields a similar, four-gun dress ensemble), Luka (a young man that met Bayonetta as a child), a young girl named Cereza, as well as the character that claims to be Bayonetta’s father – Balder.

Bayonetta Ass

Yeah, I would follow that ass to the gates of hell. For sure!

The back story of the game relates to the age old traditional symmetry between the forces of light and dark. Several centuries ago, the groups known as the Lumen Sages and the Umbra Witches maintained a constant, symmetrical balance between these opposing forces. The Lumen (aligned with the god of Paradise), controlled the power of divine light, while the Umbra (utilizing power from the demons of Inferno) watched over the sinister power of darkness. Both of the clans had a deep rooted respect for one another, but a mysterious tragedy caused the two clans to enter into a bloody war. Right near the end of this bloody conflict, only one Umbran Witch remained – Bayonetta. What I found most odd about Bayonetta is the fact that I never, ever felt overly evil while playing through the game as Bayonetta. Much to the contrary, I felt more of a sense of playing an outright evil character during my play throughs of such games like Dante’s Inferno, God of War 3, or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

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Dragon Quest IX: Where My Dragons At?

Dragon Quest

Editor’s note: sorry for the delay in new postings. I was on vacation, and since I’m the site’s administrator (as well as its number 1 fan) nothing new was posted. Expect new content—and from now on, I’ll let you know when I’m gone. Because, you know, I like ya.

Reviews are obviously very subjective. There is no golden standard for the perfect videogame: people might call Half Life the best ever, but what about people who love platforming games? It all depends on who is reviewing the game. Luckily for Dragon Quest IX, I happen to A) love RPGs, especially traditional JRPGs, and B) I was on a long trip, so my Nintendo DS was great for extended periods of sitting. I’m also not a hardcore Dragon Quest purist. I’ve only played a few other games in the series. All the cards were stacked in Dragon Quest’s favor. So how do I feel about it?

First of all, this game isn’t for you if you don’t like the time-honored Japanese tradition of level grinding. However, for me, and I would argue for a lot of people okay with that system, I kept wanting to see what skills/abilities I would unlock next in my character’s progression. Second of all, this game is not story intensive, but certainly has a story. Dragon Quest IX is the equivalent of a short story collection. Each quest has its own narrative arc, and the whole game is structured around your character trying to collect all of these mystical fyggs. (Why fyggs? And why the misspelling? Personally I would have rather hunted down some ypples and bynanas, but hey, Dragon Quest is a JRPG after all. It doesn’t always have to make sense.) Some of the quests are endearing, while others have the emotional depth of a Bon Jovi song.

Dragon Quest Fygg

Behold, a fig. Not to be confused with a fygg

So the story is a mixed bag, and the level grinding will only appeal to some. What else does the game have to offer? Multiplayer is a huge feature this time around; however, thanks to Nintendo’s insistence of treating everyone like they are five years old—and admittedly, most of Nintendo’s install base is five years old (ZING!)—I wasn’t able to connect to other people because of security concerns. Not that many people I know own a DS, and since this isn’t Japan, even fewer of those people own Dragon Quest. This isn’t some sob story; I’m just saying, Nintendad, we’re ready to get rid of the child locks. Let me play with anyone, anywhere over Wi-Fi, not just people who I have some arbitrary friend code. I can’t make friends with people online unless I have their friend code, so really, Nintendo, you’re hampering my social skills.

Imagine, for a second, if you had to have a friend code to meet anyone. Actually don’t, because I would hate to give some psychotic American senator any ideas.

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