Warhawk is a 32-player, multiplayer-only shooter from Sony. It has ties back to another Warhawk, an early game for the original PlayStation that focused on the warhawk itself, a fighter jet that can convert to hover mode and back again. You probably don't remember it, which hardly matters, because the multiplayer focus of the PlayStation 3 Warhawk game leaves it with no real story and no real sense of the war you're fighting. This game has a stripped-down feel, but the exciting gameplay certainly makes up for those feelings. This is blue versus red across multiple modes and maps, in the land or in the air. And it's excellent fun.
You definitely don't need to know anything about the old PlayStation 1 Warhawk game to play this one.
The real story of Warhawk isn't about the epic conflict between two opposing sides. It's about how this game has been made available. If you want it immediately, it's a downloadable purchase from the PlayStation Store for $39.99. If you're desperately in need of more things to put on shelves, or if you want a voice-chat device, you can buy the game in stores for the standard $59.99 in a package that comes with a wireless headset, some behind-the-scenes video, and a full manual. There's no functional difference between the two games, so it really comes down to personal preference. The downloadable version does not come with instructions at all, which is sort of messed up. Other games on the PlayStation 3 have had Web browser links built in to load up offsite manuals and things like that, but Warhawk has none. So the only way you'd know that you need to push the L3 button to talk or find out about the zones mode is to fumble around for yourself or go to Sony's site, where it has a downloadable manual available. But even that manual, which comes in the box with the retail version, doesn't explain everything, such as some of the terms used in the ranking screen.
It's a good thing, then, that most of Warhawk is incredibly straightforward. It's easy to jump right into a game using the game's server browser, and there seem to already be plenty of people playing at all hours. If you've ever played something like Battlefield 2 or Star Wars: Battlefront, you'll probably take to Warhawk's brand of team-based multiplayer shooting quickly, as it's a simplified take on that experience. The maps have bases strewn about that your team can capture. Capturing them gives you a place to spawn, or if you're playing in the zones mode, it'll help you earn points toward winning the game. You spawn on foot, with nothing but a lowly pistol and a couple of grenades. But at bases and spawn points, you can usually find a host of weapons. These include an assault rifle, flamethrower, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and binoculars, some of which you can use to call in air strikes. You'll also find plenty of vehicles, such as jeeps, tanks, and the warhawk itself. And in some fortified areas, you'll find turrets that shoot flak or homing missiles, which are very, very effective against incoming aircraft. All of this balances out nicely because the ground troops can take out vehicles with the homing rockets from the rocket launcher, the turrets can defend base positions against air--but not as well against other vehicles--and the tanks are usually sitting ducks for warhawks to plink away at with swarm missiles or cluster bombs.
One of the major gameplay differences between Warhawk and other similar shooters is that you'll find a ton of aircraft on most of the maps. Sometimes you'll feel as if half of the game's 32-player limit is buzzing around, dogfighting overhead, or attempting to strafe ground targets. This gives it a unique feel, and it's a lot of fun. Warhawk controls well regardless of what you're piloting too. You can play around with controller sensitivity to get things just right, and, if you like, you can fly the warhawk using the tilt sensing of the Sixaxis controller. However, the tilt support never feels responsive enough to be useful in tense situations.