In the skies above a lush jungle, a hovering aircraft launches a volley of missiles at a column of tanks, as they cross a bridge on their way to lay waste to their enemy's troops.
Suddenly, an anti-air missile streams from the foliage below, fired by a lone soldier hiding in the brush, striking the craft and disorienting its pilot. The pilot calls for help as he regains control of the craft and tries to take off, but it's too late. An enemy aircraft has already locked on to him, and it's just a matter of seconds before a homing missile finds his tail and sends him crashing back to Earth in a million tiny pieces.
Intense, fast and fun, "Warhawk" from Incognito, has all of the necessary parts to make an online battlefield game everything it needs to be. The game includes no single-player campaign — instead, it thrusts players directly into multiplayer mayhem online, and it's enough to keep any frag-loving thumb jockey entertained.
Though others have tried, it's really the first PS3 game to effectively make use of Sony's SIXAXIS controller, which allows players to move the controller along six axes, to interact with the game. Pilot an aircraft, tank or jeep simply by "steering" the controller left, right, up or down.
As is pretty typical of these kinds of games, there are a few basic game modes to choose from: Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Zones, in which players capture control points, and must maintain control to stay in and win the game.
Games range in size from just a few players to a maximum of 34. The boards are big enough for pacifists to hide out and avoid combat, but small enough for bloodthirsty grunts to get up close and personal with the bad guys, without spending too much time looking for trouble.
Vehicles and weapons are everywhere, as are spawn points, so players are never far from the fight, or from their instrument of choice.
Though most maps feature the use of many weapon and vehicle types, dogfighting is a key element in the game, and the ability to stop and hover, using the vehicles, makes for deep and varied air combat scenarios.
Players can customize their avatars and aircraft with different colors and patterns, and can pick from a number of different emblems, ranging from skulls to Japanese characters.
By defeating enemies, defending control points, capturing flags, creating general mayhem for their adversaries and other methods, players rack up points, which open up more customizable options for their avatars and aircraft, and move them up through the ranks, from cadet all the way up to general.
The drag here is that, while playing is an abundance of fun, playing at all can be tricky at times. Issues with the game's servers have resulted in sometimes excruciatingly long wait times, connections timing out and players being denied access to games, because they're "full," despite showing openings in the server list.
Still, it's a problem that the folks at Incognito are working on, and should be fixed through a patch sometime soon.
In the end, "Warhawk" is one of the best battlefield shooters available for next-generation consoles, and a must-have for PlayStation 3 owners. Both of you.
"Warhawk" is rated M for Mature by the ESRB, and includes blood and violence.