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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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