Warhawk brings proper online warfare to the Playstation Network. It resembles Battlefield 2 on the Xbox 360 most closely, but differences are major enough to matter.
First, the cosmetics. It looks much sweeter than the first-generation 360 title ever did, but there are some odd choices, like the very simple models. Paired with their naive design, it sometimes resembles a toy war more than, well, a battlefield. This extends to the levels, which resemble nothing out of the real world – not a fault per se, but something you may need adjusting to. I like the aircraft, but the ground vehicles are kind of dorky, as are the character models. This is a shame especially because this is strictly third person. The characters animations are lame, too, although the ragdoll effects are fine. On the other hand, physics are better handled and the vast playfields sport some great lighting, including clouds to hide in.
Then there are the controls. Battlefield 2 was always a very tight game and Warhawk just never reaches that level. Ground combat feels awkward and especially the character combat is a mess. Several guys run around emptying whole clips at each other, scoring very few hits and jumping around like mannequins in an earthquake. Not very dramatic. However! I am but a recruit myself and playing with other recruits – I fully believe much of this lameness of the ground action to be due to inexperience. I’m still tweaking the controls to find settings I’m comfortable with.
Air action is a whole other world. The game has been built around aircraft, and it shows. Flying around is simply fun and a massive air melee is a sight to behold, with up to 32 fighters duking it out in an endless circle, leaving smoke trails every which way, zooming between buildings and shaking off missiles with frantic maneuvering. It’s something you want to engage in, regardless of being blown out of the sky again and again. The learning curve is steep, but you can always set up local games to practice by yourself (there are no bots to play against).
Which brings me back to controls. The flying feels exhilirating when controlled with the Sixaxis motion controls (once you’ve tweaked the sensitivity), but the problem is, they’re absolutely useless in ground vehicles. And no, you can’t have both. I’ve lately focused on ground war and taken the motion controls offline, but the flying just feels better with them, so it’s a shame.
Overall there’s a feel of immediacy and, well, chaos, that’s never present in Battlefield. This can frustrate if you’re in a tight game and need more coordination from your team, but on the other hand, it keeps the game focused on having fun and not worrying about things.
The game also supports splitscreen online play with up to four players on the same machine. There are plenty of players out there (I’m at 140 000+ in the world rankings) and the developer and publisher are ready to expand the game if the popularity warrants it. I think this will become a mainstay of the Playstation Network and we’re only seeing the first salvo here. To quote a competing platform, jump in while it’s hot!