Fresh off the presses at Sony, developed by LightBox Interactive in conjunction with Sony Santa Monica, comes Starhawk. This title is a spiritual successor to Warhawk, though there are many differences that prevent this from being a direct sequel. Either way, this game picks up all the multiplayer action left behind in Warhawk and gives you more options at your disposal. Lucky for you Playstation fans, this game is an exclusive Playstation product.
Starhawk is essentially a futuristic western game. In this game, you play as Emmett Graves, a gun-for-hire ready to help the man with the highest bid. However, Emmett is not an ordinary human. He has been exposed to a new form of energy called “Rift Energy”. Normally, this energy mutates humans into psychotic monsters, but for Emmett, it failed to do so, leaving him on the border of humanity. Emmett finds himself on his home settlement of White Sands, which is on an alien planet out in the frontier. A mysterious band of outcast warriors has been causing trouble in the system. Emmett is hired to investigate these disruptions and find out who is behind the attacks. While investigating, he discovers that he has a lot more vested in the outcome of these expeditions than he originally counted on.
For the first time in this series of games, Starhawk features a full-length campaign. It is a fairly short run, taking about 7-9 hours of gameplay to finish, but it does so in a very stylistic way. The cut scenes are beautifully animated, and they contrast the brightly colored world of the campaign. Most shooters today are some variation of grey and black, so having a world that is as colorful as this one is a nice change of pace. The campaign also does a nice job of changing up the environments so you never play in one setting for too long. There’s a sense of continuity, though, so while you experience a lot of different environments, they always maintain that western feel.
While you are pushing the enemy back, you now have the ability to call in equipment from your orbital drop ship. If you need a tank to take out some artillery, simply create a garage and a tank will spawn. Need more weapons? Simply call in a bunker and stock up. This building system is very interesting, and it is something that carries over to the multiplayer modes as well. This system gives the game a real-time strategy feel while still working for a third-person shooter. It sounds like an eclectic mix, but it works well and is surprisingly fun and addictive.
In particular, the vehicle combat during the campaign feels great. Summoning a vehicle is quick and easy. Simply press a button, choose a building, confirm, and whatever you need is placed in front of you. However, when you summon a vehicle platform, you only get one vehicle. If you need another one, you’ll have to build a new platform. This isn’t a game breaking issue, but it would have been nice to be able to just order another vehicle instead of finding a new area on the map with enough empty space to build a new platform. Despite this flaw, vehicles are what makes this game so much fun; specifically, the ability to fly a hawk. This time around, hawks have the ability to turn into a mech. Now you’ll be able to transition from space dogfighting to mech warfare with the push of a button. This transition feels great, and it is definitely a highlight of the game.
As for the multiplayer, it follows the same vein as the single-player campaign as far as gameplay is concerned. Up to 32 players can play at the same time, making for some pretty intense battles. The “Build & Battle System” is present, and this is the mode that you are going to spend the most time with. Battles are fast, furious, and a lot of fun, but they do take some adjusting. The campaign itself is a good primer for multiplayer battles, but the vehicles and buildings in the single-player campaign don’t have the same attributes when you go online. For example, hawks are devastatingly powerful in the single-player campaign. An entire chapter can be completed using a single hawk. However, online hawks can go down rather easily, which is in stark contrast to single-player. However, if you are a quick study, you’ll find that the multiplayer is what this game is all about. Dogfighting, base construction, and fast-paced multiplayer are all hallmarks for this game and series. Fans of the original game will feel right at home with this game, and you should enjoy the improvements made to the system. If you are looking for a great multiplayer experience, Starhawk has you covered.
Starhawk gives the player the ability to change the battlefield however they see fit, and that level of control is what makes this title truly unique. Buildings are created and destroyed quickly, and your outposts can be taken just as easily as they are constructed. The pace is often frantic due to this fluidity, but it is also exciting and strategic. Strategy plays a pivotal role in the later levels of multiplayer, and you’ll soon realize that destroying buildings can be just as important as killing players. Unfortunately, lessons like these aren’t necessarily evident when starting this mode from scratch. If you put in the time, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts with a multiplayer mode that surpasses most modes you’ve seen before.
Finally, if competitive multiplayer isn’t your thing, there is co-op play available . This mode is a survival challenge that requires two players to construct a base against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Though this mode isn’t anything completely new, it still maintains the fun factor. Learning the choke points on the map, knowing which buildings to build, and choosing the right weapons are just some of the skills you’ll need to master to get to the later levels. Unfortunately, these skills are completely different from the skills you’ll need to master the other two main modes of this game. Moving from mode to mode can feel quite different, so expect a steep learning curve each time you embark on a new experience. This isn’t to say that it isn’t worth it, but you should be aware of the challenges that await you.
Starhawk is one of the best multiplayer games this year and is certainly worth your time. The single-player is passable, though nothing special, but this game truly shines in the multiplayer modes. Getting online and flying around in a hawk is gratifying and just plain fun. It is too bad that this game is only available on Playstation systems, because it could easily find success across all platforms. Either way, if there were ever a reason to play your Playstation, this game is it. We truly enjoyed Starhawk, and we know you will too; because of that, this game deserves our highest recommendation.
This review is based off a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Starhawk by SCEA developed by LightBox Interactive and SCEA Santa Monica