Review: Warhawk: Operation Fallen Star

This generation, and the capabilities of each console’s online platforms, has prompted the gaming industry to find what kinds of downloadable content make consumers happy. Free content always holds a special place in the hearts of gamers, but pay-for-play content has become more of a mainstay. Many companies have resigned themselves to charging for more maps or a new game mode or two, and while Incognito charges for their additional maps like Tau Crater, the map found in Warhawk’s latest expansion pack "Operation Fallen Star," there’s much more than just a new neighborhood to explore.

Like "Omega Dawn" and "Broken Mirror" before it, "Fallen Star" offers players new methods of play that mix up the game’s play dramatically, and also like the previous two expansions, this change comes in the form of a new vehicle, the Icarus Mk. 1 Rocket Pack. These jet packs are dispensed to players from objects called Daedalus Rapid Assembly Devices, which work much like a vending machines; players only need to wait for the next Icarus to spawn before getting their unit. While it’s different for each map layout, each team’s home base has a Daedalus and some of the more important nodes spawn the machines as well, so they give players yet another reason to protect certain bases.

The jetpack itself gives infantry an impressive amount of agility. Holding R2 turns the jetpack "on," propelling the player into the air, and releasing R2 turns it "off;" it doesn’t work like normal Warhawks, which operate in either a flight mode or in hover. Players can, however, hover by pressing L2 and hold themselves at a constant altitude. Double tapping R2 boosts the player in any direction they choose, even straight up, so even infantry flag carriers can motor around the map with ease. Players are hardly indestructible, however: while missile turrets and Warhawk missiles cannot lock onto a flying infantryman, the standard RPG can.

Continuing with tradition, Incognito has packed in a large number of new layouts that allow players to use the jetpack in other maps, but if you really wanna find out what the Icarus can do, Tau Crater is the map to play. Tau Crater is one of the first maps in Warhawk that feels truly 3D for ground troops. The island is centered around the immense wreckage of a capital ship, which raises high above the battlefield. Tall, barren trees are scattered around the battlefield. A tall demolition crane rises above the recovery efforts of both the Eucadian and Chernovan teams. Bases are found nestled in valleys, suspended in the trees, bolstered within hillsides, and held high above water. The detailed landscape makes for a very exciting combat stage, one that finds new ways to save you (and screw you) in each match.

Dylan Jobe, Game Director for Warhawk, made it clear that the team at Icognito spent a lot of time balancing the Icarus, both in Tau Crater and the game’s original maps. Team vehicles are one thing, but giving individual troops the ability to fly throws a wrench is the delicate balance to which players have grown accustomed; in the end, it simply adds another layer to the rock-paper-scissors standard. Troops in jetpacks have a sizable advantage over troops without, but even the disadvantaged troop needs little more than the right weapon to level the field. Veteran players will certainly need adjustment to find the new game balance, but before-and-after accounts are sure to report that the intense multi-tiered affair that is Warhawk is still around, only in a more fluid state.

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