Gamescom presented us with a two-in-one opportunity this morning – firstly to have another look at Hawken, the first-person mech game from Adhesive Games (check out our last preview here), but secondly, to play it with MadCatz’ ridiculously hi-tech and gadget-tastic S.T.R.I.K.E.7 gaming keyboard. Overall the combination of the two was disturbingly (read: awesomely) similar to being an actual mech pilot in the actual future.
Above: It glows. It glows in different colours. Also, Hawken!
The game was set up as a quick-play multiplayer session. We leapt in and got to learn the basic controls. Movement is with the WASD keys as you would expect, left weapon firing with the left mouse button and right with the right. Space bar allows you to hover, which actually lets you fly quite a long way up before warning you you’re running out of fuel.
Gameplay is comparatively fast-paced for a mech game, your machines able to be chucked around with almost as much acrobatic prowess as the ones in Avatar but with a slightly greater sensation of bulk. Just walking around the environments causes all manner of collateral damage as you flatten telegraph poles and crush cars.
Above: All that smoke looks wonderful on a crisp monitor
We didn’t even meet another player for a minute or so, yet so good was the handling and environmental feedback that we still enjoyed the sensation of piloting the mech just for its own sake. The game looks superb, with plenty of almost-tangible smoke effects and distance misting, and a real, kinectic real evocation of exploding concrete dust and electrical fires as the mechs start getting down and dirty with each other.
We switched our weapons out from standard rockets to Hellfires after a restart, which resulted in a very pleasant flurry of ordnance with each press of the right mouse button, at least until everything overheated and we had to stop. This stuff might look so gorgeous that you just want to blow stuff up all day long, but tactical considerations must be, well, considered. Watching the missiles spray out before homing in on their targets is sweet, but even more so when they hit home and leave your opponent’s mech either destroyed or crippled, ready for your finishing blow.
As for the new keyboard, it's something of a techno-geek’s wet dream. You can pull it apart and just play with one half if you want. You can take off keys and move them around, and you can customise your main control keys by replacing them them with special coloured units.
Macros are old news, but selecting them with a high-resolution touch screen attached to the top of the keyboard is not. The screen is gorgeous – and you can even create your own icons for your macros and import them as JPGs.
Above: Officially the coolest way to render your Function keys obsolete
The keyboard is literally available yesterday, and it’ll set you back a cool 299 Euros or around £199. That is an awful lot for a keyboard, but we have to say, if we were creating the ultimate gaming rig with sheer technical spectacle as a key point (pun probably not intended), this would get our money.
Our time with Hawken came to an end all too soon thanks in no small part to fighting game supremo Ryan Hart turning up to challenge anyone and everyone to a game of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Gamescom’s great like that. But we enjoyed what we saw very much and are keen to play more. Slick, pretty and surprisingly easy to get into, we were reminded more of Virtual On than Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. And that's obviously a good thing.