Things are coming up mecha!
It's funny: until Hawken went into open beta roughly a year ago, I never was interested in the sci-fi concept of 'mecha'. It just always seemed really silly to me for an armored vehicle to drop the inherent stability of treads for balance-heavy legs! In retrospect, maybe it never was a silly as I once thought it was as legged machines seem to be all the rage lately in the world of robotics research. Go figure.
Be that as it may, once the mecha bug bit me, it bit deep. Those main battle tanks that had somehow managed to grow a pair of legs can be quite addictive! I have found that there is a thoroughly unique feeling of power that comes with the ability to stride across a battlefield rather than ride across it like some peasant on a donkey. What is more, I quickly learned to appreciate the distinctiveness of the combat that surrounds bipedal tanks. Because something with legs is always going to be more elegant in its movements than something merely sporting wheels or treads, combat between two mechs quickly becomes a contest of technique rather than raw firepower. In some ways, mecha warfare resembles the dogfights of World War I where the pilot's skill was the determining factor more than the qualities of the biplane itself. I guess that is why mecha operators are referred to as "pilots", and why they also swagger with all the esprit de corps of the Red Barron himself.
As I mentioned above, I credit Adhesive Games' Hawken for getting me hooked on this genre. Their game of futuristic mech warfare really nailed all the qualities described above. To pilot one of the fleet-footed Hawken mechs is to really get a sense of what it would be like to command such power and grace as a mecha pilot. If you haven't had a chance to experience it for yourself, it looks something like this:
I was thrilled to learn recently that Hawken has finally decided to come out of the shadows and make its debut on Steam. While Hawken has achieved a cult following during its open beta process, it has never really broken out into the mainstream. Nothing really surprising about this - a lot of gamers aren't interested in beta testing a game so they ignore it, free to play or not, until the day it goes v1.0. Even though Hawken remains in an open beta, its presence on the Walmart of gaming should go a long way in catching the attention of those gamers who have forgotten all about this gem that debuted with quite the hubbub.
For reasons of Steam's "Early Access" policy, as well as to keep the Hawken servers from potentially melting down from all the new attention, Hawken currently requires a $29 purchase of a Nemesis package for new players. Note: if you have an account from the pre-Steam days, Hawken remains free to you. Truth be told, even if I couldn't continue to play the game for free as a grizzled pilot from the early days, I would still happily fork over the money to keep playing this great mecha game!
If $29 is too steep for you to get in on this game sight unseen (understandable), don't fret: Hawken is expected to (finally!) leave beta by the end of March, so you won't have long to wait. Also, Adhesive has said that there might be cheaper packages coming down the pike soon enough as well, so keep an eye out for those.
All I can say is that Hawken is one heck of a fantastic and addictive mecha experience. While there is currently another free-2-play mech game out there, one that is based on a very popular science fiction IP, I believe it cannot hold a candle to Hawken. Adhesive has managed to produce a great looking, highly polished and extremely fun and addictive game, one that is constantly being updated with new mechs and maps no less (even in beta!). And don't fret about any pay-2-win schemes: everything in Hawken, with the exception of cosmetics, can be earned with in-game currency. No $500 "golden mechs" here! Simply: If you are a fan of mechs, you really must try this delightful mecha game.
Here is the official Hawken Steam page for more info.