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Rich goes hands-on with the beta - and likes it.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Released last weekend in beta form to a lucky few thousand in the USA, Warhawk - from Incognito, (creators of Twisted Metal) - is actually something of a landmark title for the PlayStation 3, shaking off a combination of non-committal previews and vicious behind-the-scenes rumours-mongering to provide a hugely enjoyable online warzone with support for up to 32 players.

We've played it pretty much non-stop over the last couple of days and you can find a packed screenshot gallery right here.

Once the beta has loaded up, getting into the thick of battle is an absolute doddle, thanks to a server mechanism very familiar indeed to PC gamers. A list pops up with a complete rundown of Warhawk games in progress - and you can join any of them whenever you want so long as slots are available. Additionally, latency between you and the server ('ping') is also displayed, with the fastest games listed at the top. This is where the first issues I had with the beta manifested themselves.

The latency detection was pretty random, to the point where servers exhibiting a totally useless 9999 ping actually turned out to be just as playable as the faster ones. My advice? Choose your server based on what kind of game you want to play as opposed to what may well be a phantom connection speed. Keep to servers in the same geographical location as you, and all will be well.

Once you're into the game proper, it's clear to see that Warhawk's main inspiration is very much shaped by the Battlefield series of games. The maps are absolutely colossal, easily able to accommodate the advertised 32 players.

You instantly get that same Battlefield feeling that you're taking part in a grand military campaign, with infantry battling it out on the ground while the airborne Warhawks are dogfighting in the skies above. Jeeps with mounted machine guns zoom by, tanks besiege enemy gun emplacements and manned turrets spin around, lighting up the sky with anti-aircraft fire.

Controls are very easy to get to grips with and by and large, very intuitive. It's the usual analogue stick arrangement for control, with shoulder buttons reserved for weapons fire and the d-pad used to access your armoury.

Slightly different control schemes are in place for the various vehicles you take control of - the biggest departure being with the Warhawk aeroplanes. Here, you can opt to choose between helicopter-style hover controls (useful for strafing ground targets and indeed taking off in the first place). Or you can hit the triangle button, swing the wings back and engage the afterburners for a more traditional flight mode. Motion sensor support is there, but it's not the default control scheme and as such, response is crisp and precise thanks to the conventional analogue sticks.