Releasing in 2007, Warhawk was the first PlayStation 3 game that truly won my heart. The online experience was exactly what I needed in order to believe that online gaming on consoles could be just as in-depth as gaming on a PC. Being called a spiritual successor to both the PS1 classic and the PS3 title, Starhawk ups the ante and provides the single best multiplayer experience of the year and if supported correctly this could be one of the best experiences of the generation.
New to the experience is the ability to allow you to instantly call down offensive and defensive structures from the orbiting drop ship. All of this happens in real-time mind you. The single player campaign, which takes you across 10 story driven missions, plays out like a drawn out tutorial for the online multiplayer. Set in the distant future, you battle for the rare resource known as Rift Energy. Known as Rifters, these frontier-style people try to make an honest living mining out the energy, but the opposing faction, the Outcast, are mutants due to exposure to the Rift Energy and they are set to stand in the Rifters’ way.
As Emmett Graves, you are sent back to your home settlement of White Sands on the Planet Dust (you will never guess what the planet is like) to face a mysterious outlaw. Emmett is somewhat of a recluse due to his exposure to Rift energy. As the story progresses you learn that his family is involved with the battle against the Outcast and he must make a choice between his job and his family. The story never digs as deep as I would have liked into his past, but covers just enough to keep things flowing along. In a game where the campaign is nothing more than a tutorial, there is more than enough there to keep you playing, until you finish it at least. I should mention that the comic book style cut scenes between the missions are a great addition.
It would be hard to not mention that the singe player feels a lot like it would fit in theFirefly universe. From the moment I first laid eyes on the sci-fi western setting, I was waiting for the Firefly title screen to appear or at least have Mel provide a single line of dialog. There is also a co-op horde mode for up to four players that can be played either online or offline. The ten missions won’t last very long and while engaging, it is not the main reason to own Starhawk. The online competitive multiplayer is and always will be the main focus of this franchise. It is here I expect just about every person buying the game is looking forward to playing.
Developer LightBox Interactive has taken the action-packed run and gun gameplay from the previous title and has somehow managed to make the game feel even more intense. The Build & Battle system that is utilized in both the offline and online modes has givenStarhawk a legacy of its own. 32-player battles have never felt more intense than in some of the matches I have experienced while playing the game. As you gain Rift energy you can call in structures from the orbit that could alter the flow of the match. Unlike the single player campaign where you are the only one dropping down structures, in an online match you will have 31 other players that all are able to bring down structures. There are plenty of different structures to purchase, but for defense you will want to build walls to surround your base, place turrets on top of those same walls and build a bunker to gain access to heavy weapons such as the lock-on rocket launcher. Matches cannot be won by defense alone however, so you will want to build launch pads for building Hawks as well as other vehicles.
Hawks are the latest upgrade to the Warhawks since we last saw them. Although still fast and agile, these deadly air vehicles are now able to transform into a bipedal walker that can easily take ground troops and structures. As you gain experience and level up, you are able to customize the look of your character. There are plenty of options, so creating a unique character will be no problem.
The game modes are nothing that you haven’t seen before with Zones, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag filling out the game lists online. With all of the structures being built by the players, no base with be defended exactly the same. You never know how someone is going to defend a flag, which will keep you on your toes every match. With plenty of different options on getting in and out of the opposing base, you can adjust your approach to work best with how the defense is laid out. For those Warhawk vets, you will be surprised to know that if you plan on capturing the flag in your Hawk, you will be transformed into the walking mode when you pick up the flag. There will be no more flying in and out for a quick and easy capture. That is, if the server has it turned off.
Starhawk is the sequel that I wanted it to be. It builds on the groundwork that its predecessors have set and explodes through the stars with it. There is something so satisfying about building a structure and landing it square on an incoming Hawk. As a multiplayer title, Starhawk will have to rely on building a strong online community, which I don’t doubt will be an issue. Beating everyone to the punch, the developers have already announced that every DLC map will be free.
If you were a fan of Warhawk or a fan of online games, Starhawk would be a safe bet for anyone looking to get addicted and spend countless hours online. With so many community features built in the game such as player hosted tournaments, leaderboards and clan support, and even an Android app that will keep track of friends, clan mates and stats, players can always be connected to the Starhawk universe.
Note: The Starhawk review was written based on the PS3 version of the game provided by the publisher.