Review: Warhawk

Warhawk Box Art.jpgPlatform: PS3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Incognito Entertainment
Release Date: 8/28/07
Genre: Multiplayer Combat
Players: 1-32

Normally, multiplayer-only shooters just aren’t my cup of tea. It’s a rare few that ever make it into circulation on my PC or consoles. So when Incognito announced that they were chopping off the single-player portion of Warhawk and focusing the PS3 remake of the classic PS1 title of the same name solely on multiplayer I was disappointed and began to lose interest in the title. The closer it came to launch and with every new scrap of info that came out, however, my anticipation gradually began to climb back up again until I simply couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And now that the game has launched and I’ve been hooked into it for a couple weeks, I can safely say that Incognito’s decision to focus Warhawk on multiplayer turned out to be a stroke of pure genius after all.

As a multiplayer shooter, Warhawk doesn’t break any new ground when compared to what’s been seen and done before on the PC (i.e. the Battlefield series), but for a console title it really does set a new benchmark for what a multiplayer game should be. On paper, the feature list doesn’t sound too overwhelming. There are four match types – Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and Zones (capture and hold bases to expand their zone radius and assert control over the map) – only five maps and a fairly run-of-the-mill arsenal of weapons and vehicles to battle with, such as machine guns, pistols, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, flamethrowers, grenades, tanks, turrets, jeeps, aircraft and so forth.

Beyond that deceptively meager-sounding content lineup, though, Warhawk is actually so full of variety and value it’s insane (more than worth its controversial pricing structure, whether you get the boxed headset bundle or the PSN download). Featuring offline LAN and online play for up to 32 players — complete with 2-4 player split-screen off and online — Warhawk’s matches run the gamut from epic, multi-fronted wars to focused, run-and-gun infantry battles in close quarters to intense aerial dogfights. Five maps may not sound like a lot, but they too pack an immense amount of diversity. All five have multiple configurations in place to accommodate varying match types and capacities, effectively providing each map with about four or five different looks and play experiences.

What immediately stands out about Warhawk’s gameplay is just how instantly accessible, tightly balanced and blazingly fast-paced it is – it’s like Battlefield, Crimson Skies and Twisted Metal all rolled up into one! Unlike most multiplayer shooters, there’s no real learning curve or tedium to suffer through to get to the action. You log in, select a match and start firing away without having to fuss with learning complicated control schemes or trekking across huge maps at a snail’s pace just to find other players to kill.

Aside from the optional motion controls for vehicles, the game handles beautifully and remains consistently intuitive across the entire scope of on-foot, ground vehicle and aerial gameplay fronts. Early on it may not always seem like it, but all of the maps, weapons and vehicles are extremely well balanced too, with their individual strengths and weaknesses to learn and master. Warhawk may sound shallow, but there’s an underlying depth of strategy abroad that reveals itself the more time you invest.

Incognito has also done an amazing job packing the game with server options and community features. On top of the dedicated servers SCEA has running around the clock, you too can turn your PS3 into a dedicated server to host matches on, which is a remarkable feat for a console game. Setting up a game is easy as pie, as is finding one thanks to numerous adjustable filter options ensuring that you get into the matches you want. As far as community features go, Warhawk supports XMB-integrated buddy lists, clans, leaderboards, voice chat, server favorites and full stat-tracking that records every tiny detail of your performance and rewards your accomplishments with ribbons, badges and medals and new avatar customization skins as you rack up points and advance in rank.

Warhawk looks spectacular as well, showcasing quality textures and lighting on the environments, characters and vehicles, and some of the most satisfying explosions you’ll see (and hear) in a game, complimented by a cool shaky cam effect that really bangs home the impact. But most technologically impressive of all is the game’s jaw-dropping draw distance. Whether you’re screaming through the skies in a warhawk or sniping high atop a tower, you can literally see across the entire map in crystal clear detail without even the slightest bit of environmental pop-in or fogging tricks to hide graphical imperfections in the distance. What’s more, the framerate never stutters nor is there ever any lag online (not that I’ve experienced anyway), so each and every time you fire the game up you can count on a stable and fluid gameplay experience.

From top to bottom, Warhawk is an absolutely fantastic game. In fact, it’s one of the most downright entertaining games I’ve played this console generation! It’s had a few growing pains to fight through out of the launch hangar (as any online game does) — mainly stat-tracking bugs, network connection problems and very rare occurrences of the game freezing up — but the team at Incognito has been busting hump since launch day to remedy these issues, and after a couple recent patches all the server kinks seem to have been ironed out, leaving the game running like a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine. Unless you simply can’t stand a game that’s missing a single-player component, Warhawk is a must-buy title and a definitive PS3 killer-app.

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Pros:
+ Well-balanced, fast-paced gameplay with smooth and accessible controls
+ Fantastic map designs offer a ton of variety
+ Satisfying stat-tracking and rewards features
+ Expansive draw distance will make your jaw hit the floor

Cons:
– Hurt by some initial launch bugs and performance inconsistencies
– No single-player content may upset some

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!