Republished on Wednesday 21st September 2022: It’s the 15th anniversary of Warhawk, so we thought we’d bring back this Soapbox from the archives to celebrate the classic PS3 shooter.
The year 2007 was a particularly good vintage for online multiplayer. Most notably, this was the year Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare launched, and its influence can’t be overstated: it changed the landscape of multiplayer shooters for good. While I absolutely loved my time playing Infinity Ward’s seminal FPS, another PS3 shooter released a few months earlier had already won me over. Its name was Warhawk.
Obviously, this third-person shooter was a smaller scale offering than the mighty Call of Duty. There was no offline play, and no single-player campaign; it was online only, which was a relatively foreign concept in console gaming back then. It had a limited number of maps, weapons, and game modes. You could commandeer a small variety of vehicles, including the titular fighter planes. While you could level up to unlock various customisation options, Warhawk wasn’t really operating on the same level as Modern Warfare. The thing is, though, it didn’t need to be. It was a rather simple game, but everything in it was just excellent.
Despite early issues with server disconnects, I couldn’t stop playing it. Getting into a round of Team Deathmatch, piloting a fighter jet/helicopter hybrid Warhawk to spots I could find weapon pick-ups, and engaging in tense shootouts with enemy players — it was straightforward but endlessly fun. There wasn’t anything particularly unique about this game, save for the aforementioned transforming planes, but I was compelled to stick with it for hours and hours regardless.
I really appreciated how lean it was. All of the weapons, most of which were standard archetypes like assault rifles and rocket launchers, were useful in one way or another. Similarly, all the vehicles had purpose, and even the anti-air guns, in which you were kind of a sitting duck, could prove very handy too. I distinctly remember the sound design being a real strength, with impactful gunfire and explosions, and the whoosh of Warhawks flying overhead every now and then. The sound aided the gameplay too; it just felt so good to shoot things in this game. The time-to-kill was generous, such that you could potentially recover from sticky situations, and every elimination felt satisfying.
You could pull off some mad stuff, as well. I remember the delicious overkill of using the binoculars to call an airstrike on one hapless soldier, or blasting a Warhawk out of the sky with a well-placed shot from a tank. If you were good enough, you could use a sniper rifle to one-shot the pilot of a Warhawk, and it would not only kill the player, but it would blow up the plane. I could list plenty of other things like this, but needless to say, there was a lot of fun to be had with, really, quite a small number of elements.
Because the planes were so core to the experience, each map had lots of verticality, and there were so many great vantage points and sneaky spots to discover. While I mostly played Team Deathmatch, other modes like Capture the Flag and Zones were equally fun. Even after the post-launch release of new maps and other bits and pieces, the content was on the slim side, but I didn’t mind — this was an unpredictable, moreish multiplayer game I’d be delighted to still be playing today.
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against a revival. Online servers were shuttered, and the studio behind the game, Incognito Entertainment, no longer exists. However, I think Warhawk could thrive on PS5. The ideal scenario would be a remake that keeps the gameplay feeling the same while refreshing the visuals for a modern audience. Perhaps the answer would be to make it free-to-play, and keep it going with cosmetic-based microtransactions and new maps every once in a while. Heck, it’s perfect for a battle royale mode, too.
Sony’s expressed interest in the multiplayer space gives me the smallest sliver of hope that it could happen. We also know the platform holder is cooking up several live service games, and this shooter would slot into that framework perfectly. I know it’s unrealistic to expect Warhawk to return, so I’m not holding my breath, but I think about it on PS5 with 3D audio, DualSense features, and improved visuals and performance, and I suddenly don’t want to play anything else.
Do you agree with Stephen? Should Warhawk fly back into our lives on PS5? Have your say in the comments section below.