Here’s some inside baseball style chat for you if you’ve ever been interested in how the gaming industry works. There are a few types of previews when it comes to conventions. Players have hands-on kiosks to wait in line for (that stuff you’ve probably seen at fan conventions like New York Comic Con), then behind-closed doors previews and then after parties.

After parties are great. Really. Free food, free drinks and free play. You have developers breathing down your neck while you play the games in almost every other atmosphere out there. After parties? You’re left alone to play the game and enjoy the atmosphere.

That was the case for my time with Hawken, the free-to-play mech combat game for the PC platform.

Hawken is actually really, really cool. This is a mech-based multiplayer title that pits players and their loadouts against one another on a futuristic battlefield.

Players customize their mechs before every respawn. You’ll have a host of body styles and weapons to choose from (assuming you unlock them first). From there, you’re taken to the battlefield and made to fight over objectives.

Our game featured a few unique mechanics. We had to head to energy stations in order to fill up our tanks with fuel. Then, we took that fuel back to our bases. Once our bases had enough fuel, they launched huge battleships. Those battleships flew towards the enemy base and tried to destroy it. The battleships are vulnerable to enemy mech fire. The process repeats until one base is destroyed.

The game felt really, really good. Piloting each mech had a nice feeling of tightness and response to it. Motion felt weighted, and combat, in turn, felt like there was actually a sense of momentum working in the background.

That weight made kills and destruction even more enticing. In Hawken, you’ll routinely match up against other mechs in moments of intense dodging and firing. In the demo I played, each mech felt balanced against the others. There was no case of, “holy crap, that guy’s gun is too strong.”

Instead, combat felt responsive and well rounded, something that’s unique within the free-to-play genre.

We never won our game. In fact, our team was never sure exactly what the objective was. Maybe it was the fault of all the free drinks, but it seemed like I was the only player actively going for energy throughout the entire conflict.

My partners? They were content shooting one another.

That’s fine, we were all piloting sweet, sweet mechs.

Hawken will launch as a free-to-play title for the PC platform on December 12th, 2012. We’ll have more on this title as it comes.