Developer LightBox Interactive is bringing a space-bound sequel to seminal downloadable online multiplayer shooter Warhawk known as Starhawk. LightBox itself is made up of developers who worked on Warhawk, so expect a sequel in the truest sense.
As well as the series’ 32-player online battles, Starhawk now contains a single-player mode and a co-op survival mode. Both these new modes add a tower defense element to the game which ties into the main story, and also helps to bring something a little fresh to the table.
Starhawk is set in the far flung future, full of your standard dystopian future tropes. Distant off world colonies, cryptically named bad guys and events, a colony called the Frontier with future Wild West motifs -- the standard Firefly affair, if you will. The story goes that a new energy that was being mined from so-called rifts was very powerful, but also had the habit of turning the miners into crazed glowing mutants. Through some plot device, your character is able to harness the power of the rift after his body was accidentally infected by it, and becomes a gun for hire.
The game plays a lot like your standard third person shooters. As mentioned above though, there is now a tower defense mechanic thrown into the mix. Part way through the level we saw, we were able to build an extractor on the rift that was the focus of the map. Once that dropped down, count downs started to warn of incoming waves of bad guys and from what direction. This gives you time to lay a selection of fixed machine gun and rocket launcher turrets, as well as defensive walls and a launch pad for your Starhawk.
The in-game currency is blue rift energy, collected from mutants you kill. You can only carry so much at a time though, encouraging you to build as much as you can. The Starhawks in this game are now transformable bipedal mecha/aircraft, with a variety of weapons that can be used on the ground and in the air.
The most common analogy for the Starhawks would be Starscream from Transformers; however it’s much closer to the VF-1 Valkyrie from the 1982 anime SDF Macross. Known as Robotech in the West, the popular Japanese series was the originator of the transformable aircraft/mecha concept that went on to inspire Zeta Gundam and Transformers.
It all adds up to a fun-filled tactical theatre of chaos, and it seems to be the basis for the co-op mode as well. As long as it produces yet another sterling online multiplayer mode as well, Starhawk could well be one of the finer games of 2012.