Hey remember when a lot of people got excited that cult mech shooter Hawken was coming back from the dead? That was Monday! Now it’s Wednesday and I’m sad to say the excitement has been very short-lived.
Hawken Reborn, which is free to download and in Early Access but is also charging for microtransactions, has launched in about the roughest way imaginable. On Monday I voiced a small concern after seeing Reborn’s launch trailer that “the edges seem to have been sanded off the game’s aesthetic”; after playing it I don’t know how this game is even set in the same universe.
Hawken was a game made most famous by its visuals, which were not only technically impressive, they were also heavily inspired by the kitbash stylings of Maschinen Krieger. Hawken Reborn’s visuals look to have been inspired by a free-to-play mobile shooter, and it’s hard finding any common ground between the original’s rusted, bristling look and...whatever this is:
This jarring discrepency between what we remember and what’s being offered today continues through into the game itself. This is what Hawken looked like in 2016:
And this is what Hawken Reborn looks like in 2023:
Yikes. Perhaps most damning is some of the art used in Hawken Reborn’s static cutscenes, which raise some questions. Like...why is she holding that iPad upside down?
And why do these almost identical angles of the same character look so different? Especially her teeth? And why do her earring designs change every time you see them?
Would a human artist have overlooked these things? I asked publishers 505 Games, via both an email to a PR representative and a community rep on Reddit, whether AI art was used in the game’s development (and also who, exactly, the development team are behind this project, since it’s listed only as a “505 Games” title on Steam). At time of publishing I have received no response from either.
Anyway, what about the game itself? Also sucks! Hawken’s trademark thing was a swaying view of your cockpit, which gave players the illusion they were piloting a big, lumbering mech. Hawken Reborn tries to copy this, but in a way that’s slightly sickening to have to constantly sit through, and it’s PvE levels are a meandering slog through barren wastelands trying to shoot tiny and insignificant human enemies and static rocket turrets, a monotony broken up only by the occasional bullet-sponge enemy mech piloted by the stupidest AI imaginable.
On Wednesday night the game had a “Mostly Negative” rating on Steam, with players hating everything from the game’s microtransactions (which are for actual in-game equipment, not cosmetics) to the repetitive missions. The most useful one is perhaps this, from Shard:
This is the Hawken IP being used by the publisher to dress a shallow and generic Destiny clone that despite not having any multiplayer at the moment, already has premium currency packs being sold for it right under the Play Game button on the store page (which you’ve already seen). It lacks the amazing art direction of Hawken and instead combines the familiar Hawken mechs with the most bland modern sci-fi artstyle out there. Graphically, it manages to look worse than the original, a game that came out in 2013. I get that it’s “”Early Access””, but with the state it’s in we all know why there was literally no public knowledge about this until 36 hours before release.
Things aren’t any better over on Reddit, either. I know the game is in Early Access, meaning there’s room for improvement. That’s why this is an impressions piece, and not a review. But the fact its publishers saw fit to release it in a state like this, looking like this and playing like this, and have the nerve to charge money for microtransactions despite it all...does not bode well!