The lights are on
At E3 in 2006, gamers got their first glimpse of Warhawk. Unfortunately, the first impression wasn’t exactly stellar thanks to the developers overacting on stage in an effort to sell the capabilities of PlayStation 3’s SixAxis controller. In the face of the buzz circulating around the Wii, Sony wanted a piece of the motion control pie. SixAxis was their answer, but no one was impressed by this particular presentation. It’s a shame, as Warhawk wound up being one of my favorite PlayStation 3 exclusives.
I’ve been a fan of vehicular combat games for as long as the genre has been around, and Warhawk managed to combine on-foot, vehicular, and air combat in one package. Surprisingly, Sony managed to make all three options feel balanced and fun. I could fly a Warhawk directly into an enemy’s base, hop out, shoot a couple of guys on foot, grab the flag, then speed back to my base in the jeep or tank I stole. I never dreaded any of those three modes of transportation, as they all played a pivotal role in Warhawk’s multiplayer gameplay. Thankfully, the game also shipped with standard control options for those that wanted to avoid SixAxis control (which was everyone, basically).
Maps were gigantic, with numerous ways to infiltrate opponents’ bases and nab the flag. If most of their team was positioned on anti-air turrets, you could try to drive into the heart of the base and grab the flag before they could react. If they were hovering in Warhawks and keeping an eye out for tanks, it was possible to land an aircraft near the rear of their base and try to sneak in on foot. Every time I died, I’d look at the map and attempt to devise a new approach that they wouldn’t expect. Even playing defense was fun. I’d frequently hide near the flag on foot, hopping out to stab anyone who got near it.
Looking back at my old review for the game reminds me of the crazy events that frequently happened during multiplayer sessions. I shot down planes with a rifle, shoved enemies off cliffs with the wing of my plane, and watched enemy aircraft explode by crashing directly into the flag.
If there’s one bad memory I have of Warhawk, it’s the server wipe that happened early on in the game’s life cycle. Many players were having connection and stat issues in the first couple of months, so Sony made the call to wipe the servers and start from scratch. I had spent dozens of hours earning medals, unlocking skins, and ranking up my character, and the server wipe discouraged me. I didn’t want to spend all that time earning things I had already unlocked, so my enthusiasm for the game tapered off quickly.
Despite the disappointment of the server wipe, I look back on my two or three months of heavy Warhawk play fondly. No one seems to talk about it any more, and Starhawk didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Regardless of its successes or failures, Sony gave me one of my favorite multiplayer experiences this generation with Warhawk.