Warhawk comes with five different maps. Before you get all up in arms about how low that number looks, each map can be configured for different game sizes, so there are configurations for small, medium, and large-sized games. Each map also has a dogfight configuration, giving you more warhawks to use. The different configurations make the maps feel totally different, giving you different strategies to work with and so on. This means that playing in an eight-player game can be just as thrilling as a 32-player fracas. There are also multiple modes. Team deathmatch works as you would expect, with control-point captures giving you new places to spawn but no real points benefit. Capture the flag is a standard two-flag CTF mode that puts flags in each team's main base. Zones mode creates colored circles around each base, and the goal is to earn points faster than the other guys by holding more zones than the other team. The zones link together if you hold the right ones and level up your control over them to make the colored circles bigger, which brings in even more points. Lastly, there's a deathmatch mode, which can be fun for dogfights, but this is very much a team-based game, so playing with no team to back you up isn't as much fun. You can also play online with a split-screen, which allows multiple players to play online from the same machine. On top of playing on the Internet, the game has support for LAN games.
Outside of the game, you can chart your progress to look at your rank and medals. You'll earn ribbons for a variety of round-specific accomplishments, such as finishing first on the winning team, getting 10 antiair kills, not shooting your teammates, and so on. Badges and medals also take your global counts into consideration, giving you awards, such as a meritorious service medal. You'll get this award for capturing the flag 100 times, defending 100 zones, capturing 500 zones, and then getting two flag captures in the same game. That's sort of steep, but it certainly gives you something to shoot for as you play. As you rise in rank, you'll unlock additional head, shirt, and pants types for your soldiers, giving you a clear way on the battlefield to see if someone's totally raw or a honed online killing machine.
Warhawks aren't fragile, but a few well-placed shots from a homing rocket launcher will bring one down, so be careful.
Warhawk will run in 480p, 720p, or 1080i, and the game looks really nice overall. Its greatest visual feature is that you have a very long draw distance, giving you a clear view of things that are really far away. For example, on one map, which is made up of a series of high islands, you can sit in your base and see turrets moving in bases far, far in the distance. Armed with a sniper rifle, you can practically reach across the entire map and knock fools out. The equipment looks good, and it also blasts apart really well. Exploding warhawks cause burning hunks of metal to fall out of the sky, and it looks great. The game sound is also effective, with good weapon noises and explosions. Warhawk, unlike most online PlayStation 3 games, has voice chat, which comes in handy.
Regardless of how you get it, Warhawk is a great multiplayer shooter and one of the first of its kind to land on the still-new PlayStation 3. It offers just enough content to justify its price tag, but more importantly, it plays well, with just the right mix of tactical considerations and finger-on-the-trigger action. With hooks in there for additional map downloads, it'll be interesting to see how this one develops from here.