Warhawk doesn't do anything new. There's nothing here you haven't seen in a thousand other games. But it's also confoundingly brilliant. Why? Because rather than worry about competing with other developers and coming up with hundreds of elaborate ideas, Incognito have focused on making a straight-up online action game that's as rugged as anything we've seen - however many people are on screen, or how scenery-defyingly high you fly, the game never slows down or breaks into pop up. The controls are brilliantly simple, gameplay is fast and tactical and there's nary a sniff of lag.
First things first - Warhawk is multi-player only. There was talk of a single-player mode in the early stages of the game's development, but it's been canned. The game is specifically designed for people with internet connections and people with friends. Neither of the two? Stop reading now. There's nothing here for lonesome Luddites, unless you fancy flying about on your own giggling to yourself.
A typical Warhawk match will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played an online FPS. There are good old-fashioned Deathmatches and Team Deathmatches for people who favour fast-paced violence over tactics, and then there's Capture The Flag if you enjoy a comfortable balance of offence and defence.
Our favourite though has to be 'zones', which is like CTF but sees you steadily taking over the map, a bit like the turf wars minigame in San Andreas. There isn't much variety, but the number of ways to play makes up for it.
Warhawk is essentially a Battlefield clone, with huge maps filled with vehicles, weapons and people battling to take control of the level. The freedom afforded by both the scale of the maps and the number of tools at your disposal is what makes it exciting. You can sneak about knifing people in the back, you can charge around in a tank, you can dive-bomb the enemy base, you can pick warhawks out of the sky with a rocket launcher... there's so much to do.
It's the thrilling freedom, and fact that you're playing against up to 31 other people with their own playing styles, that makes Warhawk so rife with memorable moments. Like the sniper in a far-off tower who put a bullet through our head the moment we respawned.
Twice. We hovered up behind him a warhawk, landed quietly on the tower and ran up behind him, killing him with our knife. It was a moment of beautiful revenge and giddy air-punching glee. And Warhawk is full of them, especially if you're playing against friends with USB headsets.
This does, of course, depend on the server you're playing on. It's easy to find yourself battling against a dozen arrogant Americans who are part of some horrid little clan and use cheap, underhand tactics like planting mines on all the planes in your team's base. But mostly it's brilliant, and when you find a good server with a good set of players, it's awesome. You can bookmark your favourite servers too, or make your own if you want to be in charge of the levels and game modes.
Fight the good flight
Vehicles play a key role in the game's success. Jeeps are good for speedy transport and can carry up to three soldiers, one of which is a gunner. The handling is arcade-like, and you can perform powerslides by squeezing the back triggers. Tanks are the same as every war game - slow and monstrously powerful. With a careful shot you can blow aircraft out of the sky with its cannon, but they're susceptible to mine attacks - so watch out for people sneaking up behind you and dropping off an explosive surprise.