Warhawk is a very good Battlefield clone that anyone who has a PS3 should consider getting. Great graphics and excellent audio is only let down by a bit limited content.
It is no understatement that the Sony Playstation 3 has had a rocky start. Competing the with Xbox 360 with its excellent selection of games and the Nintendo Wii with its impressive sales, the PS3 has found itself in some kind of limbo – neither having the games nor the sales that you could expect from a new Playstation.
Luckily for Sony the solution to one of the problems, the lack of games, is now slowly being rectified. Over the next few months we will see the release of a series of high profile games like Lair and Heavenly Sword and the onslaught is being led by the game Warhawk from the developer Incognito.
ONLINE IS WHERE THE FUN IS
Warhawk has changed appearance a few times during its development. When it first was showcased before the release of the PS3 it was used as a showcase for the new Sixaxis controller. At that time the game was supposed to be a game with both a single player and a multiplayer component. Over the time though this changed and when the game now has been released it is purely an online game. There also were discussions during development whether it would become a PSN (Playstation Network) only game or a game with a proper retail release. In the end it turns out that Sony did both. The game thus is available as both a PSN download and as a retail box.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In this case Incognito is really flattering Dice. Dice, as you all probably know, is the Swedish developer behind the Battlefield games (BF1942, BF2, BF2:Vietnam, BF2:Modern Combat and BF1942). Warhawk is nothing more or less than a good Battlefield clone. In the game you fight on foot, in a vehicle or in air in one of 5 different maps.
Each map is quite large so you can also fight in smaller maps that are cut-out sections from the larger maps. Any Battlefield veteran knows how it works.
The game has 4 different game modes:
In this mode it is all about killing or getting killed. Some maps are just for airplanes while others work for all types of transportation.
This time you are not alone. Fight together with your buddies and rack up the kills against the other side.
Capture the Flag
Each side has a flag that needs to be protected.
The maps is filled with zones that give you points if your team holds them.
As you can see the game has all the game modes you expect.
The game lets you play in three different ways.
Except for the pure dogfight games you will always start on foot. You can choose to stay on foot or find a vehicle or a plane.
There are only 2 types of ground-based vehicles in the game; a jeep and a tank. The jeep has a gunner section while the tank has the main gun only.
Each side has one type of plane. There really is no difference between them except for the look.
Overall I was a bit disappointed with the lack of variety of vehicles in the game. After playing the various Battlefield games with its wide variety of different vehicles, it feels pretty cheap to basically only offering 3 types of vehicles in the whole game. I know this is a budget release but a few more variants should not have been hard to include.
In addition to the vehicles you can also climb into 2 types of ground guns. One is a regular flak cannon and the other fires guided missiles.
If the game has a limited variety of maps and vehicles, it at least has a better selection of weapons.
On foot you can choose one of these:
- Gun (starting weapon)
- Assault gun
- Rocket launcher
- Sniper rifle
- Binoculars (call in artillery strike)
While you start with the gun you can find icons lying around the map which gives you the other weapons.
In the air you get the choice of:
- Swarm missiles (fire up to 8 missiles against a target)
- Long range missile (more powerful)
- Chaff dispenser
- Cluster bomb
- Stealth package (makes you invisible on the radar)
- Proximity mine
- Energy weapon
- TOW missile
In addition to these, which all can be picked up from icons on the battlefield, your plane has a regular cannon.
Overall the weapons are balanced but I think the missiles have a bit too much punch. The main problem is, as I will explain in the next section, that it is not easy to quickly switch to the chaff dispenser when a missile is hunting you. I might just suck at this but I found it very hard to evade the missiles with fancy flying (and trust me I have tried hard). One large part of the problem is that since the map area often is quite small, missiles are being fired from close proximity giving you a second or so to react. I personally would like to see the accuracy of the swarm missiles turned down a notch.
CONTROLS – NEWBIE’S BEWARE
When you buy the game in the stores you at least get a manual with the game. The same cannot be said when you buy the game from PSN. Luckily the manual can be downloaded from the Warhawk site.
The reason I mention the lack of manual with the PSN version is that the game itself completely fails to give new players a way to get comfortable with the controls before being thrown into the heat of battle. It does have some hints that pop up during the first games but seriously, did they expect people to take a minute to read these popups while getting shot at?
The best way to get comfortable with the game and controls is to set up a local game and run/drive/fly alone. This gives you some time to find the best setups for the controls. The game has 4 modes of control: on foot, in vehicle, hover flight and regular flight. You can customize the control to a minor extend (invert up/down etc.) but you cannot make any bigger changes (like change which button does what).
Unfortunately this game just highlights the fact that I do not like the Playstation Sixaxxis controller. The game requires you to use all available buttons, including all 4 front face buttons, and especially when flying my hands simply hurt after an hour or so of playing. If you like the PS3 controller I am sure you will not find this a problem but to me it is a serious issue. Even worse is the decision to place the weapon change on the D-pad direction buttons. I might have small hands but when I at the same time had to have fingers on all the face buttons I had a serious problem reaching the D-pad and pressing the correct button. Incognito also chose to use a 3 by 3 grid for the weapons while the D-pad only directly supports the 4 main directions (up, down, left, right). This means that to select a weapon at the top left corner I have to press up and left at the same time. Try doing this in the middle of a dogfight or advanced aerial manoeuvre. Most of the time you will either select the weapon at the up position or the weapon at the left selection. Even a weapon at one of the 4 main directions is hard to select. If you press “right” you can select the flare, a necessity when someone has shot a missile at you. Unfortunately 9 times out of 10 you won’t have time to first select right, and then wait a second for it to be selected, then release the D-pad and then press L1 to release the flare before you are being hit by the missiles.
The game also supports the motion-sensors in the Sixaxxis controller but I just could not get it to work well. It lacks the sensitivity needed when you are dogfighting. Luckily the regular control with the two sticks works very well. Together with the 4 face buttons you can do pretty awesome aerial manoeuvres and this makes the dogfight extra fun. The planes have two modes of flight; hover and regular flight. You can easily switch between them, even in flight, and it allows you to do a lot of fun stuff with your plane. If there was anything you could complain about in the Battlefield games, it was how it handled planes. Mostly the game area was far too small for the planes and you ended up flying round and round not to fly outside the area. Warhawk has no problems integrating the planes into the game.
There is not much to say about the control on foot and in a vehicle. It works pretty well with decent accuracy.
THE VISUAL AND AUDIO EXPERIENCE
Warhawk is a game that both looks and sounds good. It might not be a showcase for “the power of the Cell!” but even larger 32 user games work well without any hint of slowdown. All action is viewed from a third-person view but this lets you enjoy the nice vehicle and soldier models.
The effects are really nice, especially on a large full-HD screen. The game supports 480p, 720p, or 1080i. One nice detail is the long draw distance. Forget the use of fog (with the exception where it intentionally has been added) to mask a limited draw distance.
The sound is just as good. There is proper audio-positioning going on which means that it is possible to locate a plane/tank/shot by following the sound. This is especially important when sitting in a flak cannon trying to find the enemy planes.
The headset that is included in the boxed version
The game also supports voice communication over a Bluetooth headset. In fact Sony and Incognito promote it by bundling a Bluetooth headset with the retail version of the game. Unfortunately not everyone has headsets and so far there have been very few games where I have noticed the headsets being used.
Before you start the game you can customize your soldier.
As you play games on ranked servers you gain points. These points, together with ribbons, badges and medals, help you rise in rank. As you rise in rank you get access to new squad markings. As far as I can see there are no other improvements you can gain from a higher rank.
If you have a bunch of friends you want to play with you can set up a clan so you can play with them. Unfortunately I have not been able to use this feature much yet as the only clan I know of, the Eurogamer clan, was full before I had the chance to join. I will set up a Bjorn3D clan though for everyone who wants to play with us.
The server browser allows you to filter the games you see by several parameters including maximum ping, which region of games you want to see and if the game only allows a certain rank. What is missing is the ability to filter away all games that are full.
Sony is hosting a lot of servers which are marked blue in the server list. This all are ranked servers but there also are a few non-Sony ranked servers out there. The server browser unfortunately is a joke, at least at the time of writing. You cannot really trust what it is saying and you will sit and try servers on random to get in. The main problem is that even servers with free slots are full. As a PC gamer I know that many games allow the game creator to set aside a few slots of the administrator. This means that in the Battlefield games you know what games with one or two free slots probably are full. In Warhawk you cannot even be certain with games that have 5-6 slots free. And the issue is not that you are not getting in as others get in before you. These games stay in the browser list as 18/24 or 17/24 or 20/24. A few times I’ve spent 30 minutes just trying to find a game that I can get into and in the end giving up doing something else. Sony and the devloper are working on improving this so hopefully by the time you are reading this the problem has gone away.
In addition to playing alone on your PS3 you can have up to three friends with you.
BUT IS IT FUN?
The answer to this question is: YES! It is really fun, at least for a while. It also depends on what people you get stuck with. With the right people the game does a lot right. As both sides basically has the same equipment there are no balancing issues. If you loose it is because you are not good enough.
That said some maps and game modes are more fun than others. I personally love playing the dogfighting maps. True, you will probably die a lot with all the missiles flying around but it just takes a few seconds to get back into the battle. The Zone game mode also is fun as the battle flows back and forth while the zones are being taken/lost. The least fun game mode is the CTF game mode. I probably had bad luck with my last 5 CTF games but in all games both sides just kept crashing their planes into the flag area and trying to run off with the flag. There were a definite lack of coordination and the lack of voice communication was obvious here.
So yes, the game is fun. But the question is how long it will be before the fun wears out, especially with the few maps and vehicles that are on offer. I’ve played quite a lot since the game was released and I’ve started to feel that the game lacks variation. Sure, when you get with the right bunch of people the game can be a blast. The problem is that this does not happen.
Warhawk is a cheap game, costing just $39.99 for the PSN version and $59.99 for the retail version that includes a nice Bluetooth headset. This means that it can get away with a bit limited content in the game. It still is a fun game and in the end that is what should count.
Game play: 8.0 – Overall the gameplay of the game is spot on for a Battlefield clone. The game is well balanced and planes work well in the maps. There however is a lack of variation in the content with few maps (even with the variations) and few vehicles types.
Graphics: 8.5 – Long draw distance, jerk free graphics and good looking models makes this a great looking game.
Sound: 8.5 – The sound effects are very good and actually help you when playing the game.
Fun factor: 7.0 – The first few hours are fun as you experience the different maps but after a while you do notice the lack of variation. The fun factor depends on who you play with and if you find a good game it is easy to have a blast even the 100th time on the same map. Hopefully Sony/Incognito will release some new content in the future.
Value: 7.5 – The game is pretty cheap and thus scores high in this category. The complete lack of any offline component and the limited variation in maps and vehicles however drags the score down a bit.
Warhawk gets 8 out of 10 paws and a Bjorn3D Seal of Approval.