Starhawk Review (PS3)

If you’re reading this then it means you haven’t run away from the thought of a third person shooter using RTS elements. One could be forgiven for the inevitable shudder that crawls down your spine when thinking of games like Brütal Legend that thought they could blend seamlessly both action and strategy when they really, really couldn’t. But Starhawk can.

It really, really can.

Developed by LightBox Interactive and Santa Monica Studios for the PS3 as a spiritual successor to their 2007 game Warhawk (which itself was a remake of a PS1 title), the entire game reeks of old-school ps2 action.

Orange and teal: not just for movies anymore!

Multiple weapon slots, ammo boxes dropping from enemies, unlimited sprint, and more importantly: no cover mechanic. Everything seems to be designed to keep the gameplay fast-paced, fun and frantic. Missions usually consist of driving to an area, clearing it of enemies, then setting up defenses to hold off a fresh onslaught. And this is where the RTS really comes into play.

Throughout the game, you can bring up a buildings wheel by hitting triangle. These buildings range from walls and turrets, a bunker containing weapons and protection and even a sniper tower. At any time during a mission, you can call one of these structures to be dropped near you, or even on your enemies, to help you in the heat of battle. Each structure costs a certain amount of ‘rift energy’ which is gained by killing enemies and destroying certain glowing containers with the substance in. Structures even allow you to enter them while being constructed, (a process that takes little more than 3 seconds), keeping the gameplay flowing nicely.

The rift energy is the main anchor of the storyline. You play as Emmet Graves, a gun-for-hire whose job is to protect rift mines from the Outcast: humans that have been transformed into mutants by the same energy they mine, and who are being led by none other than Emmet’s brother, Logan. The story is a good concept but is played out in a bit of a mundane way, being used to pull you from one mission to the other rather than flesh out any characters etc. However, the comic-book style cutscenes and cheesy-yet-awesome voice acting are good enough to keep you engaged between missions.

Although there was one thing that was bothering me whilst playing the game - Mining, unions and ‘scabs’ (which is what they call the mutants). I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing some form of rightwing subliminal propaganda. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying the game, and it wasn’t as overt as people yelling “heil Thatcher” every other word, it just seems surprising that a game can go through all the stages of development without someone picking up on something like that, unless it’s intentional...

Ridin’ shotgun... (Get it?)

But I digress. While the gameplay is fast paced and engaging, the mission structures allow for the game to get a bit repetitive. Luckily, there is enough in there to mix it up and keep you on your toes. Varied aesthetics ranging from deserts to swamps help make each level feel fresh, and just as you feel like you can predict what’s coming next, the game throws you into space.

A big aspect of gameplay is vehicular combat, be it driving from one objective to another, or, as I discovered much to my own childish delight, flying round having dog-fights in space. It’s almost as if the developers thought “okay, we’ve made an awesome game, but what else is awesome? Space combat!” but without it feeling contrived or having been tagged-on.

Another great aspect of the game is the AI. Aside from the various buildings and tech you can have called down, you can also have allies and vehicles dropped to your location if you need them. And these guys really mean business. They pick up weapons, use structures to their advantage, and even man unused vehicles.

In fact, sometimes they can be a bit too smart. At one point during the game, I had just finished an objective, and had to drive to the next. As I turned around to get into my buggy, I saw a couple of friendly AI hop in it and drive off into the distance, leaving me to trudge across the map as I didn’t have enough rift energy to call for another vehicle. By the time I got to the next point, the entire area had been pretty much cleared without me. It’s a testament to how useful they can be though, and calling on them when being overrun can really change the course of a battle.

The flip side of this however, is that the enemy are similarly intelligent. It doesn’t show much on the ground - these troops are all muscle and no brains - and often it takes entire clips of ammo to down them, but in the air during dog fights, enemies will evade your missiles to the best of your abilities, and constantly try to out-maneuver you. It doesn’t feel unfair in any way, it just provides a good challenge.

If you don’t think this looks awesome, then this game isn’t for you

The multiplayer side of the game plays much like the single player. The game modes are your standard bag of tricks, ranging from capture the flag to team and standard death matches, and ‘zones’. Capture the flag is especially interesting because there didn’t seem to be a limit as to what you have called down. Rift energy was provided in a slow but steady stream from a mine at your team base, and so it seemed entirely possible to spam the entire area with walls and turrets and just sit back and watch your opponents fall at your feet. Until they save up and bring a tank crashing down on your heads. It’s that whole aspect of one-upping your rival by buying a bigger gun than them that makes Starhawk’s online that extra-bit more interesting than what’s already being played now, and with up to 32 players in each match, you can be sure things can only get more ridiculous.

While there are a couple of issues with the controls of the game; those being the weapons can be hard to pick on-the-go, and sometimes objects can be hard to place when the movement control are the same as the placement controls, these complaints pail in comparison to the final product. Things like slow motion multi-kills and great music all add up to make an awesome game It really feels like a lot of effort was put into Starhawk, and that effort has certainly paid off. After dusting off my PS3 to play it, it seems Sony have finally found a new exclusive title to show off and be proud of. What a shame they’ve done next to no advertising and released it around the same time as Max Payne...

Top Game Moment: Running out of ammo and dropping a bunker on the enemies head instead.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 22, 2012
The orange and teal thing, I do hope you picked up on that earlier xD

Seriously, everything is fucking orange and teal now. It annoys the hell out of me.