Starhawk Review

Player(s): 1-2
Extra Features: Online Multiplayer (2-32), Online and Local Co-op (2-4), Leaderboards

Starhawk is a third person multiplayer shooter developed by Lightbox Interactive exclusively for PS3. Starhawk is the spiritual successor to 2007's Warhawk and is just as much of a multiplayer game as Warkhawk. Unlike Warkhawk, Starhawk includes a single player campaign that sets up the western story for the Starhawk universe. Starhawk supports up to 32 players for its online multiplayer and it has a 4-player battle mode that is much like Gears of War's horde mode.

The single player campaign of Starhawk starts in the distant future when humans are colonizing other planets. A mineral known as Rift Energy is now used as an energy source. Miners known as Rifters have started to mine planets for Rift Energy but some of them have been exposed to the Rift Energy and transformed into mutant savages known as the "Outcast". The main story focuses on two brothers, Emmett Graves and Logan Graves. Both brothers have been exposed to Rift Energy. Emmett was saved before the Rift Energy completely changed him into an outcast and he now spends his days hunting for Outcast in Rift Energy mining locations.

Players take control of Emmett Graves and work their way through several stages of the single player campaign. The single player campaign has a story with cutscenes and voice acting - the overall quality of the cutscenes is quite nice, but, for the most part, the single player campaign stands as a tutorial for multiplayer. The action in the campaign can get intense and interesting, but after a while, I felt like I was just trying to work my way through each stage in a hurry just to see the cutscenes at the end. The single player campaign literally reaches a point of a repetitive one enemy wave after the other with only cutscenes to keep a player involved.

The overall gameplay of Starhawk is much like a basic third person shooter. While on foot, you can shoot while moving, aim for precision shooting and duck behind objects. The main focus of gameplay in Starhawk is to build objects during battle. By collecting rift energy, a player can hold the triangle button to select from a variety of objects to build and call them down. It's like having a local Sam's Club or Wal-mart over your head at all times. So long as you have the rift energy, it can be built in seconds.

Starhawk screenshot 4

A player can construct turrets, gates, mech hangars, cannons, rift energy extractors, landing beacons and several other types of objects to help out during a battle. The action becomes so intense in later campaign stages that you will be forced to learn to build quickly in order to have some form of cover against the advancing horde of enemies coming your way. You can literally build a full base to prepare for oncoming enemies. By using the control pad on each object, all objects can be reclaimed to gain back rift energy and some objects can be upgraded.

One of the best parts about Starhawk's gameplay is the way a player can quickly transition from ground combat to vehicle combat to air combat in a matter of seconds. It's all so seamless much like Star Fox Assault's quick transitioning combat. All of the combat transitioning in Starhawk is smooth and easy. You can call down vehicle hangars and then simply get in a vehicle and start driving it. The mechs that can transform into fighter spaceships are some of the best examples of Starhawk's quick transitioning combat. You can get in a mech then have it transform into a fighter plane and be airborne in seconds. The controls for all vehicles are easy to get the hang of once I figured out the basics. There are quite a variety of stages in Starhawk and all of them are quite big and allow for land and air combat.

The multiplayer is where Starhawk's gameplay really shines. A player can choose from Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag or Zones. These modes can support up to 32 players total while online. All modes allow a player to use the Build and Battle gameplay found in single player. A player really doesn't have much time to build up an entire camp in Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch since the focus is mainly on killing other players but in Capture the Flag (CTF) and Zones, the build and battle gameplay is highly useful. While playing CTF and Zones, teams are more likely to construct a base for their team to fortify their locations and keep the opposing team out. Only 32 objects can remain on each team's side during a session.

Starhawk screenshot 6

In Zones, two teams fight to take over certain zones as labeled on the map. The player that takes over all zones is the winner. Enemy players begin to lose spawning areas as their rivals take over each zone. The build and battle gameplay is at its strongest in games of Zones. A game of Zones can be won very quickly once one team starts advancing past the other team - the other team is basically backed into an inescapable corner. As already mentioned, Starhawk also has a co-op mode where 4 players (Rifters) can work together to fight several waves of Outcast.

Players can customize their Rifter or Outcast in the player customization menu. All customized parts must be unlocked by playing the online multiplayer mode. A player will level up by winning online battles or by performing certain tasks during a multiplayer match. Skills are unlocked by performing certain tasks in multiplayer modes and these skills can be bought with skill points and equipped to a player's character for certain extra abilities (such as gaining more rift energy per pickup) while out on the field.

Starhawk is one of the best multiplayer shooters that I have played mainly for its strategic build and battle gameplay. The gameplay style truly brings a lot more to the usual online multiplayer gameplay that is found in other games. You feel like your thinking is coming into play through strategic building more than just how much you can outgun your opponents. It did get quite addicting once I started playing the game online. If you're interested in buying a multiplayer shooter with more strategy than usual, Starhawk is definitely worth a look.

The Good:
+ Very strong multiplayer with much variety
+ Build and battle strategic gameplay has much depth
+ Easy to play once you learn the basics

The Bad:
- Campaign is dull and short

Final Rating: 80%. Starhawk's multiplayer is much more strategic and addicting when compared to most other online shooters I have played.


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