Warhawk and I have endured a relationship not unlike your typical high school romance. I picked it up on the day of release, and our daily infatuation extended throughout the better part of two months. We were having a lot of fun together, but I was lead astray by other new titles during the holiday season. Time went on and I was only seeing Warhawk once or twice a week; certainly not enough to remain competitive. Soon my skills atrophied and I was a stranger to the game, eventually leaving it all together. Warhawk and I casually tried to rekindle the relationship twice - once with the Omega Dawn Booster Pack and again with the Broken Mirror pack a few months later, but, despite the new bells and whistles each time out, we failed to hold each other's interest for any significant period of time. "Only if you had Jetpacks," I told Warhawk. "I'll be back when you get Jetpacks."
Warhawk Now Has Jetpacks
The above story was a silly interpretation of my experience with Warhawk, but throughout the course of playing the game, my friends and I really would nonchalantly talk about how jetpacks would be a perfect addition to the formula. Hell, I mean, jetpacks, no matter the context, make anything at least twice as awesome. While their presence would significantly alter Warhawk’s gameplay, I didn’t think it would damage a game that was, for all intents and purposes, already balanced.
So, how do jetpacks feel in the framework of Warhawk? Exactly as they should. Available as a pickup from the field, the feel of the jetpack is not unlike a modified version of a Warhawk in hover mode. Ascent is achieved via R2, and descending is as easy (and fast) as releasing the throttle. A brief stint of boost can be engaged by double tapping R2, but it runs out fairly quickly and is intended for dodging rather than fast transit. For stability purposes, holding down L2 allows you to hover anywhere and maintain your position. They have a solid feel, completely free of any abstract “floatiness” and are quite easy to use after tooling around for a couple minutes.
I expected to be able to use all my weapons as I hovered, I figured flying around the maps would be intuitive and amusing, but I completely overlooked the fact that the addition of jetpacks meant warhawk's would finally have the basic equivalent of an ejector seat. Much to my surprise and satisfaction, wearing a jetpack grants you the ability to dismount from your plane at any point and blast yourself into the sky. Within minutes I was arming my warhawk with proximity mines and using it as a missile, but later I found I was having even more fun with bailing out of hover mode, firing a few rockets, and then landing on my descending craft before reentering as a pilot. It's a little clunky and its practical purposes may by limited, but the fact that the game actually lets you do all this cool stuff is a testament to the developer’s intention of creating a truly free, non restrictive environment with a pure focus on amusement.
More so than any of the other expansions, jetpacks completely reinterpret the traditional Warhawk landscape. Ejecting out of planes is reason enough, but the ability to fly anywhere at any time, sans the bulky jet, revolutionizes the Warhawk paradigm. Want to camp in a tree and break out the binoculars? Go for it. Feeling like ascending to a secluded alcove and busting out the sniper rifle? The power is yours. Does capturing the flag and flying it across the map sounds like fun? It’s now possible. To be fair, there is some balance thrown into the mix. Jetpacks are subject to rocket launcher lock-on's, and are also fairly easy targets for Warhawks to literally crash into and slam out of the sky. They also reveal your position on radar, easily rendering you a sitting duck if you're not careful.
Tau Crater, the new map bundled with Fallen Star, does well the compliment the strengths of the jetpack. It's full of high points, like trees, cranes, and a massive crashed battleship, to explore with your newfound aerial capabilities. It's also considerably smaller than all of the other maps, and the close quarters add a necessary degree of intimacy to accentuate jetpack combat. Previous expansion maps, Vaporfield Glacier and Omega Factory, lack any jetpack configurations, but all of the original maps feature new, smaller layouts that play into Fallen Star's strengths. As with every other pack, I suppose it's only a matter of time before the hardcore elite completely ruin the fun for casual players. Already some more coordinated teams were camping the jetpack pickups with rockets and arming every inch with proximity mines, but such is the way of online gaming.
While not officially part of the Fallen Star expansion, some other new features debuted with recent 1.4 and 1.5 patch released over the last month. This added two new modes: Hero, which is kind of like kill the man with the ball, except the ball is a super powered member of each team, and Collection, which has your team scouring the map for tokens. Also added were some much needed tutorials, the option for custom in game music, and gaggle of trophies.