|Hardware Online Arena|
|Developer: London Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1 - 16
Hardware is a bit of a strange one - a vehicular combat game vaguely in the style of Twisted Metal but with immensely detailed and believable looking tanks and fast attack vehicles - it looks a lot like the result of a mating between Smuggler's Run and Dropship's driving bits (with good reason as it's by the same studio as Dropship). As you zoom around the sizeable and varied purpose-built arenas at impossible speeds any thoughts of this being a serious combat sim soon sail out the window, but you'll probably be having enough fun or just be busy enough trying to survive that you can forget about real-world physics and handling for a while. The usual first person shooter game types are available - straight multiplayer death matches, Capture the Flag, Team Death-match options are all available for up to 16 players, and like SOCOM the game lends itself to clan play perfectly.
Obviously designed primarily an online multiplayer experience, the only single player game ("Training") allows you to learn your way around the levels and practice and hone your skills against up to eight A.I. bots offline before trying out the game online. There are only five levels (Arctic, Area 51, Mayan City, Ruins and Quarry) and eight vehicles; four tanks (Sledgehammer, Barbarian, Predator & Hooligan MBT) and the Hog, Wraith, Nomad and Scarab four-wheel fast attack vehicles, but the combination of interesting maps and varied vehicle handling certainly gives a bit of variety, and you will have your own personal favourite. If the original line up of vehicles looks a bit on the bland military side or just too impersonal to you then the promised downloadable extra vehicles & weapons should keep the game fresh, and there is also talk of optional texture sets and decals with which to customise vehicles (should the PS2 HDD ever get released in Europe).
There's a Hardware forum on the Playstation.com website - on which you can get together with other Hardware nuts and yap about the game, find out about the latest news and Central Station sponsored competitions with prizes. We've been promised regular organised competitions and leagues, so hopefully the game will be popular enough to justify them. Gamers will of course be able to create clans or groups (have already in fact) and begin to build an online community
I found Hardware to be a highly enjoyable diversion for a couple of hours, and mastering the independent control of a tank and its turret is a real challenge (there are simple, point-and-shoot control setups too), as is finding the best weapon upgrades and power-ups on a level (and hugely satisfying when it all comes off and you get several kills on the trot - which usually results in someone calling you a cheat), but the wham-bam nature of it all and a relative lack of control and tactics compared to SOCOM or other FPS means that despite a certain charm, Hardware is unlikely to appeal to the more thoughtful and tactical gamer, and despite the immediacy of the gameplay the problem is that there's a real lack of depth and I suspect longevity - this is a perfect alternative clan game but with no story mode or offline game as such, even at the low price it's Hard to recommend this Ware as a purchase, but great if you get it free with the Network Adapter.
- It's got Tanks in it.
- Smooth 16-player action.
- No solo game, no progression.
- Samey gameplay.
- Vehicular combat games never really seem to work as well as they should.