Incognito’s latest will thrive or dive on the strength of its community. The game needs busy servers - double-figures, minimum - to stop the game from deteriorating into a tedious rush for the finite, but quite generous number, of Warhawks, leaving a multitude of vehicles rotting on the ground. Equally, on-foot combat is currently only used as part of the madcap struggle to bag a plane. Stragglers dart around, trying to leap into any vehicle so they’re not left exposed. Others flop around like fish on a sun-baked riverbed, trying to avoid being ground up in the caterpillar tracks of an oncoming tank.
With some tweaking - making ground vehicles more effective, and reducing the number of planes, perhaps - this could easily be improved. It’s not all Warhawk’s fault, of course: a 32-man server, fully occupied, provides an exhilarating mix of dog-fighting, armored vehicles slugging it out and squads of commandos in volatile firefights and the genuine feeling that you’re in the middle of an extremely pretty - and violent - warzone. At its height, it recreates the multi-faceted, rack-up-kill thrills of PC games like Operation Flashpoint or Tribes - it’s easy to ignore the real people behind the avatars and become obsessed with your statistics - but with the intensity and speed of something like TimeSplitters or Unreal Tournament.
Single-player campaign? Not just yet, no. As we type, Warhawk is slated for a double assault on the multiplayer arena - a basic edition will be made available for download, with a Blu-ray collectors edition featuring DVD-style extras and a Bluetooth headset for real time troop communication. Either way, it’s shaping up to be PlayStation 3’s ultimate casual online shooter - more accessible, varied and frantic than Resistance: Fall of Man, but in need of weaponry/vehicle balancing to truly get off the ground.