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WarHawk with Bluetooth Headset


Introduction:

The PS3 has been having a hard time.  With only a few titles exclusive to the platform and none of those being really standout games, the system hasnít been performing as well as it could.  That may change however with the release of Warhawk.  This on-line only multi-player shoot-em-up is incredibly fun and the first Ďmust-owní PS3 title that Iíve played.  While thereís a bit of a learning curve and no single-player mode, this fast paced game is well balanced and will provide hours upon hours of fun for gamers looking for exciting action.

Gameplay:

Designed for on-line play only, Warhawk is a multi-player war game that really makes the best of the PS3ís technology.  With up to 32 players battling it out at a time, the game has some great features that will make it enjoyable for a long time to come.  Upon starting the game players get to customize their character, and then they are ready for battle.  Thereís no background story, you have no idea why youíre fighting this war, but who really cares.  The action is this gameís selling point and it delivers in spades.

Logging on to the (free) Playstation network, players have their choice of games that they can join.  There were always a good number of players on-line, no matter what time of the day or night I logged in, so finding a pick-up battle shouldnít be difficult at all.  There are four different modes to play and five different maps which can be adjusted for size.  Thereís also a Ďdogfightí version with more Warhawks available.  This makes for several possible variations and keeps the games fresh.

Most of the modes will be familiar to people with even a modest amount of on-line experience.  In the Deathmatch mode, players try to kill the enemy and who ever has the most points at the end of the match wins.  Team Deathmatch groups the player into two teams.  Each starts at a base, then neutral bases can be captured and used as spawn points.  (To capture a base, a team member needs only to stand in the center of the base until the ĎCapture Meterí is filled, something that can be a bit tricky at times.)  The team with the highest total number of points is the victor.  In Capture the Flag, one team has to snatch the otherís flag, return it to their base, and touch the enemyís flag with their own.  One nice feature of this mode is that you can still capture neutral bases and use them to spawn.  Capturing a base close to the enemyís flag is a real advantage in this game.

The last type of match is new and the one that is arguably the most enjoyable:  Zone Mode.  In this version, a team gets points for being inside their zone; the highlighted area around their base.  Players can capture other bases to grow their zones and once the two zones are large enough theyíll merge, creating new spawn points, more weapons, and letting points accumulate at a quicker rate.

When a game begins, players spawn on foot with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a pistol, and a couple of grenades.  Luckily there are weapons to be found, including tanks, jeeps, gun turrets and the gamesí namesake:  Warhawks.  The gameís greatest strength is how well balanced it is.  There isnít any one tactic that will give players an advantage as every weapon has a counter.  The Warhawks are great fighting machines and their bombs can be deadly, but a homing missile fired from a turret will make short work of them.  Turrets can cause massive amounts of devastation to anything that gets in range, but they are vulnerable during their lengthy reloading time. Once you fire, everyone knows where you are.  Foot soldiers seem to be the weakest, but they can take out a Warhawk or tank with the right weapons and they are so nimble that they can be hard to kill.  A Warhawk has a hard time killing someone on the ground unless they are in hover mode, which makes them sitting ducks by eliminating the planeís speed, one of itís greatest defenses.

Itís the well balanced nature of the game that makes the encounters so much fun.  You canít just grab a sniper rifle or turret (or Warhawk or tank) in every game and hope to do well.  Each conflict is different based on the other players and their choices will influence yours.

The matches are very fast paced, with Warhawks dog fighting overhead, tanks blasting turrets, and foot soldiers battling everywhere.  Thatís one of the cool things about the game but also lead to its greatest weakness:  it can be hard to learn how to play.  Thereís no on-line tutorial, only a very few pop-up hints at the beginning, and no solo mode where you can become familiar with the controls and the intricacies of the game.  If you downloaded the game directly to your PS3, there isnít even an instruction manual included.  There are four different sets of controls to learn (for ground troops, ground vehicles, aircraft in flight mode, and aircraft in hover mode) and while most of the controls are fairly obvious, there are some that arenít very intuitive.  (Like the fact that you have to depress the L3 stick in order to chat on-line.)  Even with this problem, most players will be able to figure out how to play the game without too much trouble.  Just expect to die a lot in the first few matches.

The controls themselves are very responsive.  Pressing the right controls will have your Warhawk zoom up in a corkscrew spin instantly without any perceptible lag.  You can even control your ground and air vehicles with the tilt action of Sixaxis wireless controller.  While this works well in general, I found it to be not as sensitive and responsive as the control sticks and buttons.

After matches end, players are awarded ribbons, medals, and increases in rank (assuming it is a ranked match.)  While these awards are easy to get at first, as your rank increases it becomes harder to get promoted again.  Of course this gives players something to work towards and it can be a thrill getting a promotion that youíve worked at for a while.  The higher rank doesnít equate to any advantage on the battlefield, but it does allow players to unlock new uniforms to outfit their character.  And of course there are the bragging rightsÖ.

Players can get a copy of Warhawk two different ways; either buy a hard copy that comes with a Bluetooth headset for on-line chats for $60 or download a copy for $40.  Both of these are a good deal, but Iíd recommend getting the physical copy.  The Jabra Bluetooth device is well worth $20, and the instructions come in handy at times.  Of course thereís also the resale value of the game disc.  If youíre in the habit of recycling your discs at the local game store, splurging for the hard copy is even more appealing.

Graphics:

The graphics on this game, which will run on 480i/p, 720p, or 1080i, are really impressive.  The designers didnít go for a photo-realistic look but the results are still remarkable.  All of the designs in the game are great.  The tanks look big and imposing, the turrets are formidable and the Warhawks are just awesome.  The detail is excellent too.  Not only the fine lines on the vehicles, but the little touches that make the game so much fun:  seeing the wreckage of a Warhawk fall out of the sky or the body of an opponent spinning through the air after he was hit by a rocket.  Thatís just cool stuff.

The full power of the PS3 is used with this game, and Incognito used it well.  The game doesnít slow down even when there are several explosions happening at one, and texture glitching is absent.  That makes the game look all the more stunning.

Audio:

The audio effects in this game work very well and help create the feeling that the player is in the middle of the action.  The explosions are loud, especially when several go off at nearly the same time, and the rumbling of a tank make players who are still on their feet run for the nearest turret.  The more subtle sounds are there too like the *whoosh* of a flame thrower and the crack of a sniper rifle.  Overall this is a nice sounding game.

The live chat with the Bluetooth device isnít as impressive.  First off, you have to press the L3 button to talk, which can be a bit inconvenient at times.  Even worse is the quality of the voice reproduction.  Itís a bit scratchy and very thin.  The voices arenít nearly as clear as I was hoping they would be.  The Jabra headset that is included with the retail version works well and is relatively comfortable, though it can get a little tiresome if you wear it for more than a couple of hours.

Conclusion:

Warhawk is an exciting game that is filled with rapid action, impressive graphics, and almost addictive gameplay.  While there is no single player mode and it can take a while for novice players to get the hang of the controls, the tight response and incredibly fun nature of the game itself more than makes up for that.  If Sony was smart, theyíd start packaging this with new PS3 consoles.  It is a game that shows off just what the PS3 can do, and is fun to boot.  You canít ask for much more than that.  Highly Recommended.