Hawken patch changes progression, adds Last Eco map

Hawken has been in beta for quite some time now, but before the release version sees the light of day, Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment have some changes to make to their multiplayer mech FPS. Many of the game's menus and HUD elements have been given complete visual makeovers, and the game will be receiving some new features. To learn more about them, Adhesive's Jason Hughes walked me through some of the main features of Hawken's new patch, as well as the game's new map, which takes the fearsome mechs away from the industrialized city and into the woods. Many of Hawken's improvements will come from the UI end of the spectrum. Beyond completely changing the visual look of the main menu, the new patch will include a party creation and party matchmaking system. If your friends need to get up to speed, they'll be able to do so, thanks to some of the new offline game modes. Updated tutorial modes and offline Team Deathmatch have been added to help tutor rookies, a problem that Hughes notes plagued Hawken in the past. The new Hawken patch also promises some big changes for progression. Mech progression will now include more options for the player and additional rewards for leveling up. The most notable change here involves the use of other mechs. While these other mechs can still be purchased, they can now be unlocked through in-game progression, as well. Hughes reeled off an example of a player leveling up his CRT Recruit to its max level and receiving a fresh Vanguard mech as a reward for his troubles.

New pilot ranks help unlock fresh mechs

"We were seeing a lot of the same mechs out there," Hughes explained. "Because who knows if you would like the new mech or not? There was a large barrier of entry and you might not even like it, so you were a little bit more hesitant to spend that money. What we've done is attached all the mechs to a progression, where you could unlock all of them and we've also reduced the base price of the mechs, so you could start off with them earlier." Beyond the mechs, pilots will also have their own separate leveling system. The reason for this, according to Hughes, is to give players a chance to try out new mechs without having to start from scratch. In that same spirit, attribute points are now attached to players at the pilot level, essentially doing away with the previous optimization system. With players encouraged to try more mechs, they'll start to notice that mech attributes significantly differ from one another, a change that Hughes said was based off player feedback. Another change that was based on player feedback are the mech internals, which now do more than simply offer minor stat boosts. "The internals system that we have in the game wasn't met with a lot of positive response," Hughes added. "It didn't end up contributing to differences in how the game actually plays. We have internals that will take zero damage if you fall or reduces the damage that you can do to yourself. So they aren't just small little buffs on the way that you play. It actually has potential to change the way that the game functions and we've had a lot of great feedback on that stuff. So we've definitely ramped up some of the unique aspects of customization in the game."

Mech internals now offer more than minor stat boosts

Hughes then discusses one of the major issues that Hawken's next patch is actively addressing: overflow XP. "What happens right now is, let's say you love playing the CRT and you have so much fun with it," said Hughes. "But you have this other mech you want to try. We don't want to punish you for playing what you like. So in this particular case, once you level the CRT all the way up to its maximum, that mech will now continue to generate XP and you can transfer that overflow XP to another mech." With the menu layouts out of the way, Hughes walked me through Hawken's upcoming new map. Last Eco is unlike any of the game's map to date. Shaped like a triangle and optimized for all game modes, Last Eco takes place in a lush forest stage filled with trees and cliffs. It's here that I got to see some new pieces of the patch in action, particularly the new killcam, which shows players exactly who blasted their mechs to smithereens and where they were positioned. It's a standard FPS feature, but one that will be a welcome addition to veterans and rookies alike. The natural landscape of Last Eco creates some natural hiding spots, as I noticed when I attempted to close in on an opponent, only to watch two of his buddies ambush me from behind some fallen lumber. Hughes wasn't ready to commit to an exact deployment date for Hawken's new patch and the Last Eco map, but hopes to drop it later this month. As for the final version of Hawken, Adhesive and Meteor remain hopeful that it will release before the end of 2013 on PC.