E3 06: Warhawk hands-on

Given the PS3's reported capability for rendering huge, seamless environments and throwing hundreds of objects onscreen at once, you'd think it would be the perfect system for free-roaming, Grand Theft Auto-style games. Developer Incognito agrees, and today they definitively revealed that Warhawk won't just be the futuristic flight simulator we've been seeing for months. The meat of the game will still be in flying a hoverjet, dogfighting up to 500 enemies at once and blowing up huge capital ships in a sci-fi world. But you'll be able to explore that entire world freely and seamlessly, and you'll be able to do it on foot, in tanks, and however else you feel like.

Warhawk started out looking like a niche title, but quickly shot to the front of the pack when it was revealed on Monday as the first game to use the PS3 controller's motion-sensitivity feature. We've had some more time trying the game out, and while it feels like the kind of thing that can be picked up with practice, tilting the controller around to steer our retro-future hoverjet still feels a little awkward. Even so, it's surprisingly sensitive - maybe a little too much so - and impressively implemented, considering that the developers weren't even shown the controller until about a week and a half before E3.

Incognito tells us that motion-sensitivity will be optional, with players still able to use analog sticks to steer if they choose. Those who opt for the more adventurous route, however, will be able to use the analog sticks to aim while angling their craft around.

Controller issues aside, Warhawk looks awesome. The demo we played felt a little limited - the game world is simply a craggy island surrounded by water, and there weren't too many enemies tearing around for us to shoot down. Still, that island was full of hidden tunnels and secrets, and there were a few big, floating battleships that we took apart piece by piece. It also looks like the impressive array of weapons from the original PSone Warhawk will return, and we were able to easily fire off cluster missiles, dummy missiles and even what looked like lightning bolts as we sprayed a steady stream of machinegun bullets at our foes.

Promising an "epic, sprawling storyline," Warhawk takes place In a fictional world, during a war between the Eucadians (that's you) and the Chernovans. Following two friends who go from civilians during an invasion to war heroes, it will include a few nods to the original PSone Warhawk, such as the return of that game's villain, and its hero being your commanding officer. Even so, Incognito stresses that this is a remake, not a sequel.

It'll be an online remake, too, supporting up to 32 players in online matches. And not only will four people be able to play on a single PS3, but they can join in an online match just by picking up a controller; the screen will actually split in the middle of the game to accommodate them. It's also worth noting that, thanks to the PS3's hard drive, the one loading screen we saw went by blazingly fast. Given how impressive Warhawk's debut was, we're looking forward to seeing what else Incognito has up its sleeve.

May 10, 2006