The Space Goldrush: Starhawk – Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
In the first year of its launch in 2006, the PlayStation 3 had quite the impressive selection of new franchises to stock store shelves. One of the titles was Warhawk (technically a PSone remake released in ’07), an experimental game focused solely on warfare from ground and air. It was a title that only offered online gameplay and was centered around a team-based multiplayer not seen before on consoles. It developed a large cult following and showed promise in the newly created PlayStation Network. Now, nearly six years later, we have a spiritual successor with Starhawk. Developed by Lightbox Interactive, made up of former members of Incognito (Warhawk), Starhawk doesn’t break any new ground in the market of online games, but what it does manage is greatness.
This time around, Starhawk sports a storyline that offers some insight as to what we are fighting for in the multiplayer. Humans are across the galaxy starting colonies and happen upon this strikingly bizarre essence called Rift Energy, a bright blue power force that resembles lightning in ways. Miners begin harvesting it for profit; eventually these miners, called Rifters, are exposed to it for too long and it consumes their body, transforming them into savage tribe-like individuals that become known as the Outcasts.
Emmett and Logan Graves are two miners who unfortunately fall victim to an ambush by the Outcasts, and Logan is exposed to the Rift Energy and disappears, whereas Emmett, our hero in Starhawk, was saved by his friend, Cutter. Emmett bears blue scars from the attack, and is implanted with a regulator to control the Rift Energy that is now a part of him (think Tony Stark of Iron Man). Now with a second chance at life, Emmett and Cutter take to the skies and ground to put an end to these Outcasts once and for all.
Too many galactic video games tell the tale of humans and aliens with the Humans on the brink of extinction. With Starhawk, the Outcasts are still human – just infected with the Rift Energy and needing this power to survive. The story slightly resembles the Incas and the cursed gold: while the Rift Energy is the key to riches, making man feel like they can only live if they have it, it eventually kills everyone in the end. Without giving away any more of the story to avoid spoilers, it’s worth a trip to run through the single player.
The meat of the game – the reason you are purchasing Starhawk – is the multiplayer, and it is impressive. With four different multiplayer modes, 10 maps, and 32 players this is a beefy online experience. Much like Warhawk, players are given small, narrow to large open maps to explore and rage-battle on. You have your standard fare of multiplayer options in the goodie bag: Free- for-all, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Zones. The mode, Zones, is the same as your King of the Hill but with multiple spots to take over on the map, earning you points for every second you control each area. What makes the other three modes interesting is how the game, unlike others out there, is constantly evolving.
Lightbox Interactive has introduced “Build- N- Battle”, taking what made Warhawk so entertaining but also throwing in a heaping tablespoon of the real-time strategy genre. Players, who gather Rift Energy through the course of a match, can spend that on building a barrack, watchtower, walls and turrets. These can be placed anywhere on the map, so the match is constantly evolving with places to respawn from or turn the tide of battle. No more, when lugging that flag back to your base, does it feel like an eternity since your teammates can easily drop down defenses to help ease the stress of being a flag carrier. The pop-up radial menu is extremely smooth to use but doesn’t stop the combat, so you need to be timely and respect any enemies that could be lurking around you. Granted, if you’re lucky you can get an easy kill by simply dropping a building from orbit right onto your nearby adversary!
There are also multiple structures that can generate vehicles to traverse across the terrain of Dust with grace or complete destruction. The Hawk is a giant mech that can turn a losing bloodbath at your base into a win streak with effortless power. If you want to take to the skies, with one button you can transform the Hawk into a Jet that would make Starscream of The Transformers blush. Weapons can be collected by flying into floating symbols in the skies across the maps, from your homing missiles, mines, mortar style assault and your barrage of missiles. Avoiding these attacks from pursuing attackers is all about timing, as the controls in gliding these mechanical beasts are simple and work superbly for both vets and newcomers.
The Hawks are also used in an exclusive mode of dog fighting as well. If you don’t want to take to the ground to level up, you can easily play a free-for-all of Hawks screaming across the skies. Again, with the help of the user-friendly controls, anyone can get into wanting to use the Hawk often and this mode resembles the Fourth of July with missiles and flares covering the airways; it’s truly a sight to behold.
With each kill in multiplayer you earn experience points and level up to gain more abilities such as staying off of your enemy’s radar, repairing vehicles while stationed in them, or gaining more XP with each kill. It’s your usual leveling up system and the game never feels as though your adversary has the upper hand on you. You aren’t relying on bonus perks to maintain your presence on the battlefield, but rather your skills alone. You do also unlock skins for your head, torso, feet, hands, etc. so no Outcast or Rifter looks like another, bringing a little personal appearance to the galaxy. Clan support is there as well, allowing you and 99 other friends to coordinate battles with others and represent your name proudly.
The only problem with Starhawk is the generic weapons that are at your disposal. You have your standard missile launcher (that is perfect for use against pesky Hawks), a machine gun, sniper rifle and shotgun. It feels like the game was missing an end-all-be-all weapon, similar to that of Halo’s Energy Sword. The game is balanced this way across the board, so I understand why Lightbox Interactive might not have added a powerful weapon to fight for on the map. At least offer more than just four weapons.
Starhawk’s visuals are a real treat, especially for the amount of chaos that rains on your screen. Both the single player and multiplayer offer a wide array of settings, from your steel orbiting workstations to acid fire surrounding your feet on ground, and android belts when you take to the skies. The game is centered on a steam punk western space illustration that works really well, without ever feeling pushed or disjointed. Cutscenes are laid out in a comic book-style paneling that rolls across your screen to help explain the conflict tearing the surface of Dust. The character models are gorgeous, as are the building and vehicle models; the textures are rich and full of detail. The menu system is displayed in a slick futuristic tablet; it almost resembles the Pipboy 3000, a weapon from Fallout 3.
Starhawk is a must have for anyone looking to show their competitive skills to gamers across the world. It’s a game that requires you to be on your toes at all times; no driver or sniper is safe from being slaughtered and being some XP for your foe. Playing from 10 to 32 players never felt too low or too overwhelming on the theatre of war, and experiencing no lag or connection issues resulted in quite an awe-inspiring experience. With the developer letting its fans know that all upcoming map packs will be free and their track record of constant support, the future of Starhawk is looking mighty bright.
Starhawk scores a 4.5/5.0
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