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July 11, 2012
Starhawk - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
11/5/2012SonySonyLightbox Interactive1-22-32
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Starhawk is the successor to Warhawk.
Starhawk is the spiritual successor to the surprise 2007 hit Warhawk, and, like its predecessor it features online play for up to 32 players. Unlike the multiplayer-only Warhawk, Starhawk includes a single-player campaign that helps you learn the basics of the game before throwing you to the online wolves. With an innovative new Build and Battle system that allows you to dynamically change the battlefield, can Starhawk live up to the standards set by its predecessor? Read on...

In Starhawk humans have started to colonise distant planets, and in the process have stumbled across an energy source known as Rift Energy. Before long people start mining Rift Energy, but while Rift Energy is valuable it is also extremely dangerous, and humans exposed to it directly transform into savage mutants known as Outcasts (or scabs). Outcasts donít appreciate their Energy being taken away and will aggressively defend it, leading to many a battle between miners and Outcasts.

Enter Emmet Graves, a former-miner who was exposed to Rift Energy, and avoided becoming an Outcast only through the ingenuity of his friend Cutter, who installed a regulator into Emmetís spine that somehow lets him retain his humanity despite the blue glow emanating from his eyes. Emmett and Cutter are gunslingers for hire, helping desperate miners eradicate the Outcast threat. One day Emmett and Cutter get a call from the mayor of their former home planet, requesting help with a particularly well-organised group of Outcasts. Itís a job Emmett canít refuse, but one that will have him facing the demons of his past.

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Starhawk has a large multiplayer focus.
Starhawk is a third-person shooter, with a healthy dose of real time strategy (RTS) thanks to the Build and Battle system. The third-person shooting controls are immediately intuitive and you can aim, shoot, switch weapons, sprint, jump and crouch with the push of a button. You have a wide variety of weapons at your disposal including a pistol, rifle, rocket-launcher and shotgun. Youíve also got access to grenades and melee attacks for when the fight gets up close and personal.

The campaign is about five hours long, and spends much of its time familiarizing you with the Build and Battle system which allows you to call in various structures from an orbiting drop ship. You can call in all manner of structure depending on the circumstances youíre facing. Every structure you build comes with a Rift Energy cost, so one of the first things youíll build is a rift extractor that harvests this energy for you. Building is as easy as holding triangle, selecting the structure you want and then releasing the triangle button. The final step is choosing a location for the structure, and with that done youíll hear a whistling sound, and within a second or two have the requested structure land right before your very eyes.

You can build all manner of things, both defensive and attacking. If youíre under siege you may want to build walls or turrets to aid in your defence, or maybe a supply bunker that resupplies your heavy weapon ammunition. You can also build a sniper tower, or outpost, the latter of which will bring NPC allies down to assist you. If you want to take the attack to your opponent you can build one of the many garages that house different vehicles from the light and mobile sidewinder to the heavy duty oxy tanks, or maybe a launch pad that allows you to build the titular Hawks Ė mech vehicles that can get involved in air combat, or land and take out ground troops.

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Taking to the skies for some dogfighting!
For much of the campaign your hand is held with regards to which structure you should build, so your choices are somewhat limited. The upside to this is you learn when each structure is most beneficial as well as how they all work. The downside is you donít get to experiment much, so when you launch into the ultra-competitive multiplayer modes you might find yourself out of your depth initially. In fact thatís one downside to the single-player campaign Ė despite the fact it feels like an extended tutorial, it doesnít do a great of preparing you for the multiplayer game.

Speaking of multiplayer there are four different game modes to play, all of which were present in Warhawk. Thereís capture the flag, zones, deathmatch and team deathmatch. Although these modes are nothing new, the Build and Battle system does add some excitement to proceedings. Itís pretty cool to engage in 32-player battles, taking place both on land and in the sky simultaneously, all while being able to dynamically change the battlefield by calling down whatever structure you like.

As a result of the ever-changing landscape Starhawk, perhaps more so than other multiplayer games, really benefits players that communicate via headsets. A coordinated team that attacks or defends as a unit has a marked advantage over a team of individuals. While you can still conquer a control point alone in Zones, the odds of a single player storming an enemy base to capture a flag are nigh on zero Ė brute force attacks by a large number of players have a much greater chance of success.

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Starhawk is a visually impressive title on PS3.
As well as these multiplayer modes there is also co-op play, both local (via split-screen) and online. In co-op you and your friends have to defend your land from waves of ever-tougher enemies. The first few waves of co-op arenít too taxing, but the difficulty increases sharply Ė especially if you run out of Rift Energy and donít have appropriate defences already in place. If you can find some willing friends co-op is an entertaining diversion from the other multiplayer modes.

Starhawk is a game that is high on ambition, but struggles a little bit in its execution. As a single-player game it is a major disappointment, feeling more like an extended tutorial than a game in its own right. Donít get me wrong, the single-player campaign is enjoyable, but it doesnít have great depth or replayablity, and at just five hours long youíre not getting great value.

Multiplayer can be a lot of fun, but it too is hampered by a few issues. First off there arenít many modes (four all up), and while they are all fun, thereís no doubt that more variety would have been appreciated. All four modes have been present in multiplayer games for years, and even with the dynamic Build and Battle system, they start to feel stale sooner than you might like.

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Even during intense battles the game holds up well graphically.
It also felt like none of the modes were especially suited to the game, with the possible exception of Zones. In both deathmatch modes and capture the flag I found that teams were more focused on building up an impenetrable base than they were on killing opponents or capturing flags. This means that many battles drag on, and are wars of attrition rather than fast-paced fights full of daring raids or cunning gunplay. Zones was the exception to this because it features many hotly disputed areas that constantly change hands, resulting in open warfare rather than having to storm a well-defended fortress.

One last issue worth mentioning is that the game can occasionally freeze, forcing you to turn the PS3 off at the power. When this happens the system has to do a hard-drive check, and while both times this happened to my machine there were no lasting issues, itís still a worrying situation.

Viusally Starhawk impresses throughout, with a great range of environments; from desolate desert planets to sinister metallic bases out in deep space. Environments are also large, enough to accommodate vehicular travel and airborne dogfights in the Hawks. Lighting is used exceptionally well, and when you consider that every time you call a new structure down from space the game has to dynamically create new shadows and lighting effects, it really is impressive. There is always a lot going on, particularly in multiplayer where up to 32-people can be flying around laying waste to all and sundry, but for the most part the game runs well, with little to no slowdown or screen-tearing. Rage set the benchmark in visuals for a shooter, but Starhawk isnít too far behind.

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Starhawk - a PS3 exclusive.
The sound is excellent across the board, with fantastic music, superb effects and solid voice-acting. The music has a space-cowboy feel, akin to what you might find in the TV series Firefly, and it suits the game wonderfully. The sound effects, whether it is the rapid fire sound of your rifle, the booming of your rocket-launcher, or the sounds of the vehicle youíre currently using, are all top-notch. The voice-acting is, as stated earlier, solid, with Emmett sounding a lot like James Heller from Prototype 2. The rest of the cast do their job well, though the script doesnít give anyone a great opportunity to shine.

Starhawk is a game that builds on the foundations of Warhawk, and introduces the innovative and interesting Build and Battle system. While the system itself works well, you canít help but think it doesnít get great support from the game around it. The single-player campaign is nothing special, feeling more like an extended tutorial, while none of the multiplayer game modes (except maybe Zones) use the Build and Battle system LightBox have created to great effect. Being able to fight on land or in the air at a momentís notice is fun, and the game looks and sounds fantastic, but the fun wears thin a little too quickly to heartily recommend the game.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSStarhawk impresses throughout, with great-looking and sizeable environments as well as a ton of action taking place at any given moment, particularly online.
SOUNDWonderful music, superb effects and decent voice-acting make this another area of success.
GAMEPLAYThe campaign is uninspired, while multiplayer games become a war of attrition too often for my taste. The Build and Battle system is unique and interesting though.
VALUEAs a single player game you get five hours with little reason to play again. The multiplayer modes lost their allure much faster than expected too.
OVERALLStarhawk definitely favours multiplayer, and at times its great fun. Unfortunately the fun is short-lived and few game modes make entertaining use of the innovative Build and Battle system.

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