In terms of the next-gen console wars, I’m afraid to say Sony has been playing catch up for quite some time now. Nintendo’s Wii has made gaming even more accessible to the ‘casual’ gamer and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has built a dedicated and solid fan base with quality titles such as Gears of War and with hotly anticipated games such as the infamous Halo 3 on the horizon it will continue to do so. Sony’s ace in the hole as it were has yet to surface. Sure, Heavenly Sword is a technical marvel, a remarkable achievement in terms of presentation. However, it felt a little too short and didn’t provide the ‘oomph’ the PlayStation faithful were looking for. Oh what a fickle bunch we are, aren’t we?
Another disappointing aspect of Sony’s hardware is the online capabilities of its titles. Because it leaves it up to the individual developers to incorporate their own online play modes, it lacks the polish and overall profession feel that Xbox Live achieves. Players have had to make do with the (albeit awesome) online modes that the launch titles Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm have had to offer to fulfil their competitive needs; no other title has been able to keep players coming back for more for prolonged periods. Well folks, I’m happy to say that the time has come for a change. The time has come for Warhawk!
PlayStation veterans may remember the original Warhawk title on the PlayStation that was released early on in the console’s lifetime. It was a fun, yet sadly forgotten flight sim game that put you in control of the futuristic aircraft of the game’s title, battling the forces of Kreel in an attempt to prevent him from harnessing the power of a substance known as Red Mercury. Strangely reminiscent of the plot of Command & Conquer, but I’m not complaining. Anyway, it was this title that caused the initial spark in Incognito’s collective consciousness to resurrect the idea of a sort-of remake of this forgotten classic, but with a new twist…
Enter Warhawk on the PlayStation 3; new, sleek, sexy and with a lick of high definition paint. The Warhawk ships of the title still remain in the game, but they are only part of the new Warhawk experience. In this online only title players must battle it out against each other in tanks, in jeeps, at gun and missile encampments and even resorting to good old ground work when the need arises. Think of Unreal Tournament’s onslaught mode and you’ve got the basic idea.
Speaking of modes, lets just have a quick rundown of the modes available, shall we? There’s the oh so familiar Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes which speak for themselves, the obligatory Capture the Flag mode, the Zones mode where players have to take and hold vital bases to accumulate points for their team and finally the Dogfight mode where it’s just Warhawk verses Nemesis baby!
The Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes are the most common mode of play; it’s kill or be killed. You have all of the battlefield’s ‘tools’ at your disposal and must make use of all of them to be victorious. There’s no hogging the Warhawks here as the game has been balanced so that even a mere foot soldier with a rocket launcher can take down a Warhawk without too much hassle. On the other hand, the Warhawk will have a hard time hitting a small target such as a person on foot, but will take out a heavily armoured tank like nobody’s business. The same goes for the missile emplacements; Warhawks have no chance when a missile has locked on unless they deploy chaff, but a player stuck on the missile turret is a sitting duck for a well placed tank shell or grenade.
Capture the Flag is pretty much the same mode as you’ll find in any first person shooter – got to enemy’s base, grab flag, bring flag back to your base and score a point. Simple, eh? Well, the other team are doing the same so it’s all about a balance between offence and defending your own flag. A slight twist to the format allows players that currently have the flag to enter vehicles to get back to their base. Yes, that means the flag holder can get into a tank and blast their way back home. In ranked matches, you are forbidden to jump in the nearest Warhawk though; wouldn’t want to make it that easy now, would we? If you’re feeling particularly adventurous or skilful you can enable this option in your own hosted games so that it is possible to escape into the sky as soon as you have the flag. Just remember that you’ll probably have four or five angry opposition players in their Warhawks unleashing holy hell on you when you do…
Zones mode is your take and hold scenario where players move to bases and turn them into spawning points for their players. There are three levels of ownership and each level increases the area of influence around the base and the amount of resources that become available to your team. If you’re fortunate enough to expand the influence of the base so that it overlaps with another friendly base, they can ‘merge’ so that any enemy player who tries to take a base from you can only expand it up to say level two until they can take hold of adjoining bases.
This little feature adds a whole new feel to the way this mode is played. I know of one instance where a team chose to do a ‘Zerg rush’ with all players storming from base to base, capturing all resources as they rampaged across the map. Whilst they were doing this our team simply split into several smaller teams and hid near each base. As they passed by we just jumped right in and took the base back! Tactics plays a key part in this mode as you can tell.
The most straightforward of the modes has to be Dogfight where players as confined to their Warhawk or Nemesis aircraft and just fight it out in the skies. Although not the most varied of play modes, it certainly does help you become accustomed to the different weapons types, deploying chaff effectively and perfecting the power slide and inverted roll techniques. Essential if you are to survive in the air in the Deathmatch modes.
Graphically, Warhawk isn’t as breathtaking as other games (for example, the aforementioned Heavenly Sword), but that doesn’t really matter when it comes down to it. That’s not to say the game is ugly – far from it – the visuals are still great. They just fail to take your breath away as some other PlayStation 3 title can. When it comes to the sound effects and musical scores though, Warhawk manages to impress. From the rousing militaristic theme of the title screen to get your blood pumping before you’ve even entered the game, to the almost heart-stopping moment you hear the ‘missile locked’ warning flash on your Warhawk’s screen, the game’s sound immerses you totally. Nothing sounds better than the beep, beep, BEEP! You hear when you yourself have a target locked in your missile sights…
To make things a little easier when it comes to organising your team and communicating effectively with each other, headsets are fully supported. I used the old SOCOM USB headset from my PlayStation 2 and this works fine. You can used any supported headset though, including those with Bluetooth connectivity. My gripe about this though it that the voice communication seems to of a low quality, but this may be a client issue and not restrictions set in place by the game’s designers.
Warhawk incorporates a fairly simple yet structured ranking system, with all players starting out as new Recruits and working their way up the ranks by earning points before ultimately becoming an elite General. In order to earn points and statistics, players must play on the official ranked servers where all game settings and rules are fixed to prevent any underhandedness. Players can also host their own servers though to hone their skills or even humiliate just their close friends in closed servers. Hey, whatever floats their boat. Having said that, there’s no real reason to set up these servers just to learn the ropes; don’t be afraid to just ‘dive in’. Players will have a hard time not earning points in any ranked match and only players that are actually trying to mess things up will end up with a negative score. Of course, there’s scoring points and then there’s scoring a shed loads of points. That’s where ribbons come into play.
Ribbons are special rewards that are earned by fulfilling certain criteria in battle. They not only look good on your achievements screen, these ribbons earn you bonus points to help you on your way up those ranks I mentioned earlier. For example, gaining ten kills with the Warhawk’s machine guns in a single round without dying will earn you one such ribbon. This may seem like a tall order at first, but after hours of play you’ll find this is not as hard as it first seems. If you are utterly hopeless and cannot manage this, you still have the opportunity to earn the ribbon with its global requirements. These are a little more time consuming, but you are not limited to a single round to fulfilling them and you can die as many times as you like. Of course, you really want to try to avoid that if you can.
Overall, Warhawk has proved to be one of Sony’s better online titles and although it is still early days for the game, the future looks bright indeed. One of the first major titles to be distributed on the PlayStation Network, you can purchase and download this game for £20 in the UK And absolute bargain for the fun that there is to be had with it. It still has teething problems in the form of the number of players in a room being incorrectly reported (sometimes off by up to eight) and then being told the room is full, not being able to access the lobby from time to time due to ‘network timeouts’ and the infamous stats and ranking update problem. The first two are minor niggles, but they had just better sort out the ranking glitch that causes stats to not update/delete/ calculate incorrectly pretty sharpish or they’ll have a lot more miffed players on their hands. Sure, it’s not all about the bragging rights; it’s just a very large part of the game, that’s all…