Warhawk Beta Impressions
So the public beta for Warhawk is in full swing, and we were invited to take part. So after downloading the 776MB beta, it didn't take long to get going online. And after several days of toying around in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, in groups of anywhere from 4 to 32 players, we've come up with some early impressions.
First of all, the flight in the game is actually somewhat unique. It can be a touch confusing at first, until you locate the triangle button which enables "flight mode." When you first enter an aircraft, it's automatically in "hover mode," which means you won't go anywhere quickly, and you're basically a sitting duck. But as soon as you hit flight mode, you can zoom around the skies with very solid control, barrel-rolling away from enemy gunfire and missiles, and taking steep dives to attack ground units. It's actually surprising how well it controls, but it's unfortunate that your ship can't really withstand much of anything.
Whether it's stationary guns or missile setups on the ground, some dude with a rocket launcher, or enemy aircraft, you had best avoid just about everything fired at you, or you're toast. On the other hand, the challenge forces you to adapt to your surroundings that much faster. The hover mode really can't be used during missions that focus entirely on flying, but in the missions that involve both flight and ground units (like some Capture the Flag maps), it's cool to sit high above and fire on defenseless soldiers on the ground. It's tough to be wary of other enemies in the air when you're doing this, though.
So the flight aspect of Warhawk seems just fine - and a lot of fun, too - but the ground parts are definitely lacking. Control seems very loose, the camera tends to get in the way, and the weapons don't respond quite as fast as we would've liked. As a third-person shooter, Incognito needs to make plenty of refinements and fine-tuning measures, because it just screams "early build." And that's just fine; this is a beta, after all. But as you will be spending plenty of time on the ground (more time than you might've thought), it's something the developers need to address before issuing the final version. We need more options with the weapons, and if the control stays that loose, we'll need a lock-on or auto-aim feature of some kind.
Another small downside: the beta crashed on us three times in only three or four hours of play, which got a little frustrating by the third freeze. But they accepted plenty of people to test this beta, because it was always quick and easy to join any number of games. Waiting is definitely at a minimum, and despite the crashes, most of our Warhawk beta experiences consisted of relatively seamless action. Being forced to listen to the goofs online was a bit of an issue, but we assume we'll be able to turn them off in the final version if we don't choose to use a headset. However, this is one game that could benefit from online communication, primarily due to the separate ground and air elements. Being able to coordinate a plan of attack that involves both elements might be essential in Team Deathmatch, for example.
Lastly, we do like being able to choose our respawn point, even if we're limited to maybe three or four on any given map. During gameplay, collision detection is just about right even though it's sometimes difficult to know when an enemy plane is in range. Oh, and there are ground vehicles like jeeps and tanks, too, which adds even more diversity to a game that depicts more variety than most titles. The driving control actually seems better than running around with your character, too, so that's another bonus...the braking is a little iffy, though. We went flying off several hard-to-see cliffs due to a slight problem with the camera and a lack of braking power.All in all, the game appears to be on the right track, but the flight aspect certainly seems further along than the ground portions. It's likely most everyone playing the beta recognizes this, though, and provided Incog listens to the feedback, Warhawk could turn out great. It has got a lot going for it, and we suddenly consider this to be a much more promising title.
6/4/2007 Ben Dutka