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Starhawk gives new life to the very generic online shooter genre by requiring careful teamwork in this Build & Battle combat system. Don't expect much from the single-player adventure, but get ready to enjoy a truly exhilarating online experience.
- Multiplayer is unique, refreshing
- Building system is fun, requires teamwork
- Vehicle combat is rewarding
- Single-player experience is generally weak
- Not the best overall presentation
- Maps feel a bit bland
Starhawk stands a chance of being the new cornerstone of Sony’s PlayStation 3 online clout. It’s not hard to imagine Sony executives talking about how their console has the strongest online community thanks to games like Starhawk. But whether that’s true will ultimately boil down to the game’s longevity, how quickly those new to the game will fit in with veterans, and what LightBox Interactive can add to keep game modes fresh in the months and years to come. The studio doesn’t need to do much as Starhawk is one of the most successful multiplayer third-person shooters we’ve ever played. There’s nothing overly unique about the shooter elements; however, the real delight comes from the RTS, vehicle combat, and cooperative play elements.
As the spiritual successor to 2007’s Warhawk, a game that sent newcomers crying to their moms, it shouldn’t be a stretch to hear that Starhawk is a beast when it comes to multiplayer. This is not a generic shooter. Don’t expect to hear many 12-year-olds questioning your sexuality as they snipe you from the same damn spawn point. Instead, expect an evil band of 12-year-olds to plot together to absolutely destroy your team’s defense as you struggle to get your companions to voice chat. In Starhawk, cooperation wins. Unlike many other online shooters, it’s extremely difficult to dominate a team just by having faster trigger fingers, or by knowing the maps, or by luck. You can, of course, truck it alone, but the game rewards you for working as a team.
Chances are that band of evil 12-year-olds learned how to play by spending some time in the single-player mode. This is something highly publicized, but unfortunately isn’t anything more than loose story-based tutorials. The brief campaign—five to six hours if you blow throw it—shows you the basics of the building system, vehicles, and combat. It interweaves a story about a family torn apart by rift energy. This space version of the Wild West is pretty much a wasteland, minus rifts, which is the game’s energy and used by some to make piles of cash. This energy is dangerous and creates Scabs, the game’s primary baddies. As the dashing, yet emotionless protagonist, Emmett’s primary job is helping to kill Scabs and establishing wells to collect the energy. The story has some very mild twists and turns, which you can experience for yourselves, but it’s hard not to feel this mode fell short of its potential. At times we see some well-thought levels that really play off the space cowboy vibe, but we can’t help but feel there could have been real potential to get some crazy heavy mutant-inspired Wild West atmosphere. Again, single-player is relatively satisfying, but if you are here just for the solo experience, it’s probably not worth your investment.
That rift energy is used to build stuff, and essential to nearly everything you do in Starhawk. This Build & Battle system is the legs of both single and multiplayer. Once you get enough of that blue energy, press the triangle button to pull up a radial menu full of building options. Low on ammo? There’s a building for that. Need some defensive walls? There’s a building for that. Need a jetbike? There’s a building for that. Need a bucket of chicken wings and a case of beer? Nope, no building for that.
Starhawk has some of the best multiplayer on PlayStation 3. Our experience was quite smooth. In 32-player multiplayer, you’ll get capture the flag, deathmatch and team deathmatch, and a capture mode called Zones. You’ll fall into battle in pods, and you can control them in free fall in the hopes of destroying an enemy. The third-person shooter mechanics work extremely well, and if you’ve played one in the recent history, you’ll feel right at home. The guns feel futuristic, grenades do plenty of damage, and you aren’t completely frail. The RTS elements of the Starhawk make the ... (continued on next page)
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