HawkenThere are many ways to slice the history of gaming, but one of the most decisive is to separate it into pre and post-3D acceleration.
In 1996, both Rendition and 3dfx released graphics cards that were for 3D-acceleration only--no 2D support. So you used a regular graphics card for 2D, and the acceleration card for 3D. These cards also had their own proprietary APIs (for 3dfx, it was "Glide") because Direct3D didn't even exist yet (Open GL did, though, and if I remember correctly, was supported by both types of cards).
Remember, this was 1996, and PC graphics, to put it nicely, looked like ass. Total ass. Then these 3D acceleration cards came out.
I can't remember which card I tried first (I eventually tried both Rendition and 3dfx), but I do remember the moment where my mind was completely blown. It was after I installed the first 3dfx card, when I fired up Mechwarrior 2.
I still remember the first 30 seconds, just staring at the screen in absolute freaking wonder. The game looked absolutely spectacular, so far beond regular PC graphics that it was almost impossible to even connect the two. Colors, frame-rate, textures--it was all amazing.
And the game itself was great. Mechs are conceptually perfect, somehow, and Mechwarrior 2 was a spectacular fleshing out of the concept. The combination of the graphics and the sound effects gave the idea of Mechs impact--you could feel the gigantic forces at play.
That game permanently made me a huge fan of mech games, but after Mechwarrior 2, the quality of the genre began a steady decline. Steel Battalion (2002) was fun (and you used a bad-ass controller), and Chromehounds (2006, 360) had its moments, but that's not much for an entire decade.
Which is why Hawken looks so interesting. Actually, "interesting" is an entirely inadequate word. "Ass-kicking" is far more descriptive. All you need to see is this gameplay trailer and you'll understand what I mean.