For many PS3 owners and members of the TSA community, Warhawk was our first foray into the mesmerising world of online multiplayer. Now, after more than a decade of dogfights, the skies over Eucadia are clear, the game’s two warring factions having called an eternal ceasefire. To put it in less poetic terms, Sony finally pulled the plug on January 31st with the online servers no longer accessible.
A spiritual successor to 1995’s Warhawk on the original PlayStation, Incognito’s reimagining of the game was an early go-to game for the first wave of PSN users. Combining intense dogfights with objective-based, boots on the ground action, players would find themselves sucked in for hours on end.
That core idea – of having infantry, vehicles, and aircraft fighting in the same space – was hardly new, though even today studios have a hard time slotting these pieces together. Despite the backing of a huge publisher and an even bigger license, even Star Wars Battlefront II struggles to deliver on that vision.
In Warhawk, however, there was a seamless union between those three core pillars in which everyone had their own role to play. If you had a hard time trying to pilot a jet, there was always plenty you could do on the ground below – I’d often be found nestled in one of Warhawk’s anti-air guns.
Just months after its release, Warhawk was quickly followed by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a game that would single handedly sculpt the multiplayer landscape for years to come, at least on home consoles.
Despite the game’s all-encompassing presence, it’s hard to say whether Call of Duty cast a shadow over Warhawk or, in fact, gave it a shot in the arm. With gamers rapidly flocking to the PlayStation Network as a result of the game’s success, it’s not hard to imagine other online titles getting to steal some of the limelight as well.
Needless to say, Warhawk didn’t fall off the radar. Where a lot of modern multiplayer games fall quiet after just a few months, Incognito reported that tens of thousands still populated the game’s servers well into 2009.
Also, in a time before the normalisation of downloadable content, the studio released three expansions: Omega Dawn, Broken Mirror, and Fallen Star. Each of these added more maps as well as three new modes of transport including a dropship, armoured APC, and even a jetpack.
Although there was never a direct sequel, Sony and Incognito, later renamed LightBox Interactive, launched Starhawk in 2012. This space-themed successor was larger in scope with intuitive build mechanics and a story-driven campaign, yet failed to win over fans and critics. It’s own servers were shut down, without notice, last June.
It’s an odd feeling, looking back at Warhawk. Having a physical copy of the game in my hands yet knowing I won’t ever get to experience it ever again.
Guess I’ll just go and boot up MAG instead…