I'd heard a few things about MechWarrior Online and its incredible range and depth in customization, but it's been at least ten years since I last fired a railgun and I was afraid the learning curve might sour the experience for me a bit. I decided to wade in rather than dive and give Hawken a try. I'm glad I did.
Hawken is fairly similar to MechWarrior on its surface. Player pilot giant robots around a map and shoot at each other. Once you've played a match or two, it's clear that the two are very different games. Hawken features fewer customization options than MechWarrior, but the pace of play is much faster. It's more shooter than strategy action game. There are numerous mechs available in Hawken, each with its own special ability, and two weapons. As you level up, more weapons become available for the mech, and you can invest in items and internal parts to give you static and active buffs.
While faster paced, the gameplay isn't complete anarchy. Finding the best ways to use your mechs weapons and abilities takes some time, especially when you're also learning how to counter the tactics of your opponents. It becomes a sort of boxing match with bullets, each player adapting strategy and timing attacks to hit the other where it hurts.
I've only had a limited amount of time to invest in the game, as is too often the case with online titles. I love them, I really do, but I can never give them the amount of time really required to dig deep into the content in a deeper game like MechWarrior. This makes Hawken an even more attractive choice. It's experience system allows me to level up and add new mechs to my garage regularly.
I will be playing MechWarrioir Online, when I'm ready. I have far too long a history with it to abandon it completely, even with my recent turn towards Hawken. For now, Hawken fits my need for futuristic, mechanized carnage quite well.