Starhawk is a third-person shooter that somehow marries RTS elements and makes it work. Starhawk is the spiritual successor of the 2007 Warhawk, and its old-school roots are evident in some aspects of the gameplay. It is best experienced in the multiplayer arena, which will rope you in with the deep modes that offer more than the norm. One of the most comprehensive multiplayer experiences the PlayStation 3 has to offer.
Developer: LightBox Interactive and Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
For fans of: Shooters, Sci-Fi
Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also available on: N/A
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.0/10
Starhawk is set in a lawless frontier in space in the distant future. Two factions battle for ‘Rift Energy’, a precious resource which the game revolves around. On the one side you have a colony of humans known as the Rifters, and on the other, the Outcast who are ruthless species of humans who have mutated into psychotic monsters. You play as a hired gunslinger, Emmett Graves and get slung deep in the battle between the two factions.
What we loved
- Addictive gameplay
- Starhawk universe
- Wonderful vehicles
- Extensive online offerings
Not so much
- Didn’t completely ‘wow’ me in any department
- Lacking storyline
Gameplay and features
Starhawk is all about the addictive, fun gameplay and the game modes. You will know all you need to know about the story within half an hour. It is not the most immersive or engaging storyline, but Starhawk shines where it needs to. Another highlight is the wonderful sci-fi styled vehicles for land and air which work brilliantly and definitely entertain – from a motorbike-like hover vehicle to some outrageous tanks and spaceships.
Starhawk is a third-person shooter than implements RTS elements in both the singleplayer campaign as well as in the multiplayer modes, something I never thought could work, but indeed it does. The gameplay mechanics have a bit of an old-school feel to them– they are basic (but work) and there are certain elements that have this feel about them. Some of the modern control mechanics were left out, like there is no cover-system so you need to position yourself behind objects for cover. The mechanics are fluid though and the old-school feel does not detract from the gameplay. Everything works well and despite having a basic design – there is substance to the controls when it comes to all the actions you can perform.
The RTS system works well and actually fits into the gameplay without messing it up. When you are battling for control of areas, you have defensive and offensive capabilities which you can deploy. You can build walls and put up turrets to help defend the area, or build ammo structures to replenish ammo. Then you can create structures where you can spawn various vehicles. Since the game revolves around the precious ‘Rift Energy’, you need to build a mining device to gather up the energy in an area. To activate your RTS functions you simply hit a button and a sub-menu pops up with the activated functions which you can perform. The laid-back, almost humorous nature of the game’s design continues in this department – the structures you deploy basically drop out the sky in a comical sort of manner.
The shooter mechanics are simple in design, but work well and any shooter fan will find the controls familiar. The weapons are very sci-fi in design and an absolute highlight, feeling a little ‘meaty’ which is always welcome with shooter. There are your typical weapon types like rapid-fire or shotguns, but their designs are unique and elaborate.
The campaign was a bit shallow experience, but I did enjoy it despite this – it just never quite blew me away. Starhawk will mostly win fans that are looking for the multiplayer experience. The online code is faultless and there is plenty on offer with the various modes. There’s a host of features for players to participate with the online community. You can track leaderboards, enter tournaments, choose from the variety of quick-play modes or set up a custom lobby. You can edit your online characters and put clans together, all from the user-friendly control panel.
The multiplayer game modes themselves will be familiar to online-shooter frequents, from the ‘head-to-head’ to the ‘team-death matches’. There’s the ‘capture the flag’ mode, and while you can generate lobbies that are a hefty 32-player strong, they all work well and easy enough to get in and out of. Where Starhawk shines in the online arena is with the fact it carries the RTS elements into the multiplayer modes. Players can again, deploy the use of vehicles and build up areas to defend spots. This aspect should appeal to clans or teams who can elaborately put together strategies to oppose the team. Players can also co-op with up to four players online and offline co-operative play or split-screen. So Starhawk is not another rehashed copy of the masses of online shooters, its unique elements should find favour with many, and the fact that everything works well should keep the interest.
Sound and visuals
One of my favourite features and one of the best I’ve seen is the control-panel where you have access to all your options. This screen looks like something between a ‘Pip-boy’ and an ‘iPad’ and works wonderfully. Everything is clearly laid out on the same screen and makes for the easiest of navigation through the menus.
The Starhawk universe is a visual treat, and I was really impressed that there are no visual defects in the game even thought the game’s world covers a substantial space. The visuals depict the arid lands of the planets quite nicely and the environments look realistic within the theme. Among the textured, arid lands are the vibrant battlegrounds that are built up or broken down by the factions in an effort to gain more ‘Rift Energy’. The vehicles and characters are also well detailed and textured, kitted in futuristic looking war-torn attire. It is clear that much effort and care went into the design and composition.
The scoring was apt as were the sound effects, but this aspect never really stood out for me. Again the dialogue was forgettable, and I barely paid attention in the cut-scenes. The sound-effects again highlighted the ‘not serious’ theme of the game. Nothing was simulator-like or super-realistic, and some aspects were even a bit comical.
While Starhawk’s campaign impressed me straight off the bat by introducing me to the interesting universe, vehicles and weaponry; it didn’t seem to go anywhere or blow me away. I did still enjoy it thanks to the great gameplay, but Starhawk is geared towards the online multiplayer front and it definitely shines in this department.
You can read about our ratings here.