Most gamers are probably unfamiliar with a little game that came out in 2007 called Warhawk, and I say ‘little’ with the utmost respect because the game went on to generate a tremendous cult following.
Starhawk steps in as the spiritual successor to Warhawk, with Lightbox Interactive taking the reins with the help of God of War specialist studio Sony Santa Monica. But does Starhawk end up flying high or crash landing with the hopeful expectations from dedicated fans?
Starhawk follows the traditional format of its predecessor, although improves upon many of the shortcomings where the original fell short. The game maintains its third-person and vehicle based combat, but it’s thanks to a lot of the tweaks and new additions that the game manages to succeed.
While Warhawk was purely a multiplayer game, Starhawk does feature a single player component. The game’s story is centered around the discovery of ‘rift energy’ – a currency of sorts, which has fuelled an interplanetary war between Rifters (colony miners) and Outcasts – people who have become infected by being exposed to the rift energy.
Players take control of Emmett Graves, a farmer that was exposed to rift energy, although is kept from turning into an Outcast by a spinal implant. Graves is now a gun-for-hire, tasked with protecting rift-mining sites from Outcast attacks.
The story is a little more involving and does dig up conspiracies and some pretty-obvious ‘surprises’ along the way, although the story feels a little tacked-on, as the single-player never feels like it leaves the realm of being a tutorial for the multiplayer.
And this isn’t a bad thing, because (like Warhawk) Starhawk has quite the learning curve before jumping into the online arena.
The fast-paced shooting experience makes a return in multiplayer, with vehicles playing an integral role on the large and open-ended maps, which manage to act as the battleground for the 32-player battles.
Players can choose a number of match types, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a version of King of the Hill called Zones. The match types are not creative or inventive in the slightest, although the game’s third-person shooting, vehicle hopping and new building mechanics make it feel fresh and stand out from the pack.
The most notable improvement from the original is the introduction of real-time strategy elements through the new building features, which are reminiscent of something along the lines of a stripped-down Command & Conquer building system.
The on-the-fly building mechanic allows players to bring up a selection wheel to literally drop buildings and structures from the sky. Barracks’, vehicle launch-pads, war factories, guard towers and perimeter walls are just some of the structures players can plant down in order to gain a tactical advantage.
As expected, this stuff doesn’t come for free. Players have to protect their rift mining structure, which essentially stores up credits in order to build things.
While all of the building elements may sound vital, they are merely a sideshow to the intense on-foot and vehicular action that erupts around the maps, as players need to balance their strategy and building with pure attacking third-person gameplay. However, players do need to coordinate with team members in order to build the right structures and find out who is attacking and defending, as to not overlap with one another.
Thankfully, you can also do some local split-screen multiplayer and head online with a buddy on the same console. The vehicles are also provide a strong tactical advantage in the maps, as getting your hands on a tank or starhawk (a mech/plane like vehicle which could easily be a Transformer), makes a huge difference if used effectively.
The overall presentation of the game is really impressive. The design is unique and delivers a wild-west inspired world set in space, which is shown through the creative animated cut-scenes in the single player. This translates through to the multiplayer as the game’s Western aesthetic, locales and mood all seem to fit perfectly within the Starhawk world.
The graphics themselves are a treat too, with interesting character designs, silky-smooth animations and large open-desert and space vistas which test the PS3 without a hiccup.
Entering the current game market, Starhawk is an underdog, although is an incredibly refreshing surprise. The single player lets players enjoy the core mechanics of the game, although the multiplayer is where the game really shines.
It’ll undoubtedly build up a strong community as its predecessor did, and should provide players with heaps of fun and dynamic combat if a more involving and unique online shooter is what you’re looking for.