Hawken: Advanced PhysX Effects Coming Soon To F2P Shooter

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Hawken Physx - Header Art

Free to play games are a dime a dozen, each vying for attention in a crowded marketplace. Strategy fans are well catered for with the likes of League of Legends, and there’s no shortage of free-to-play MMOs, but what about first-person shooters? Is there a free to play FPS that matches the quality of a Battlefield or CoD, and doesn’t demand your money to remain on equal footing with other players? Before 12.12.12 the answer would have been “no”, but on that day Hawken entered into Open Beta.

A free-to-play, multiplayer, mech-based first-person shooter, Hawken puts players in the pilot seats of giant robotic war machines and tasks them with the mere eradication of the enemy, or the completion of objectives, which include the destruction of sky-blotting, flying battleships. Effectiveness in battle is determined entirely by player skill, and through the earning of XP mechs may be specialized and upgraded. New mechs and mech weapons are acquired with in-game currency that’s granted at the completion of missions, but also through the spending of real world money, should a player desire instant gratification.

At launch, the Unreal Engine 3-powered Hawken included several NVIDIA GPU-accelerated PhysX effects, increasing the visual impact of weapon effects and helping add weight to the robots’ interactions with the terrain, which saw chunks of concrete torn up and kicked about as their multi-ton frames moved and flew around the visually-arresting environments. Next month, with the release of a game update, a slew of new and far more advanced effects are being introduced, bringing Hawken’s world to life like never before. To give you a taste here’s a side-by-side video showing Hawken with and without PhysX the new effects enabled:

In total, seven aspects of Hawken have been enhanced through the addition of GPU-accelerated PhysX effects, and of those seven, four are powered by Turbulence. Available as part of APEX, a scalable, multi-platform toolset designed by NVIDIA to give artists quick and easy control over advanced GPU-accelerated effects, Turbulence adds the many futuristic particles seen in our video, and allows them to be manipulated by velocity fields, which simulate particle motion.

First seen in Capcom’s Dark Void in 2010, Turbulence particles have come on leaps and bounds since, culminating with their use in Hawken, where up to 110,000 particles are individually generated and manipulated in realtime, adding to the action-packed spectacle and emphasizing the sci-fi setting and technology of the game.

Energy Collectors

Energy is important in Hawken, and to acquire it players typically head to the nearest Collector. With PhysX enabled, Collectors spew APEX Particles that are thrown about by the movement of the machine’s apparatus. As mechs approach the particles are directed towards and pulled into the cockpit of the stompy robots, visually demonstrating that they are being charged with energy.

Hawken Physx - Energy Collectors

Mech Health Orb Embers

Following a mech’s destruction health orbs are dropped, repairing other mechs. With PhysX enabled the orbs emit APEX particles that flow and dance around, and as a player approaches the particles are drawn into the mech’s cockpit. Once fully absorbed a few remaining particles dissipate into the surrounding air, showing all players that the orb’s healing power has been drained.

Hawken Physx - Mech Health Orb Embers

Mech Death Embers

When mechs are destroyed a burst of orange embers emanate from the wreckage before dissipating gradually. As with other APEX particles these embers can be further manipulated by mechs, weapons, and scene elements.

Hawken Physx - Mech Death Embers


In Hawken, deployable shields can turn the tide of a battle, and with PhysX enabled shields emit APEX particles when struck by enemy weapons. Like other particles these flow around the emitter (the shield), and are manipulated by further weapons fire and player movement. When the shield expires the particles dissipate into the air.

Hawken Physx - Shield

The final three PhysX enhancements in Hawken come courtesy of the PhysX Particle system, which is integrated into the Unreal Engine 3 development kit, allowing anyone to quickly and easily add immersive, realistic effects to their games. As in Borderlands 2 the GPU-accelerated particles are powered by the latest PhysX coding, allowing them to collide and be further manipulated by the environment, objects, and players. Furthermore, each particle exists as a physical object within the world, allowing them to be shadowed and self-shadowed.

Weapon Impacts

PhysX Particle effects add a feeling of weight and power to mechs and weapons. With PhysX enabled, missiles, bullets and other projectiles strike surfaces and cause debris to shower the environments.

Hawken Physx - Weapon Impacts

Mech Impact Debris

If debris is being emitted from weapon impacts it makes sense that the same should occur when shooting the mechs themselves, and so that is one of the additions Hawken’s PhysX update introduces, illustrating that a mech is taking damage and giving players an added sense of satisfaction as a foe’s mech explodes into hundreds of persistent pieces. As with weapon impact debris, all of that goodness is lost without PhysX.

Hawken Physx - Mech Impact Debris

Mech Footstep Debris

When a multi-ton mech is careering down a road one expects the surface to be torn up and debris tossed about, and that’s precisely what happens when PhysX is enabled, emphasizing the weight and power of the robotic war machines. Similarly, when a mech comes down to terra firma after having used its jump jets, the impact is calculated and debris realistically thrown up and outwards. And like the debris and particles of our previous examples, footstep debris persists and can be further manipulated, adding greatly to the realism of the scenario.

Hawken Physx - Mech Footstep Debris

In concert, the seven PhysX enhancements bring the battlefield to life, adding a level of unscripted, dynamic action that is currently impossible to replicate through any other means. Hawken is a fantastic and engaging first-person shooter, and with debris and particles showering the scene the free-to-play game is taken to a new level where players become ever-more immersed in the action. That sounds like hyperbole, I know, but take PhysX-enhanced Hawken for a spin next month and you’ll hopefully agree.