Starhawk is the follow-up to a PS One title, Warhawk (and its subsequent PS3 remake). In the original game we played part in a war between the Eucadian and Chernovan armies. Now in the follow up we take the role of Emmet Graves a bounty hunter and gunslinger of sorts who has been hired to help protect a planet and its resources from The Scabs, a group of various alien races who have been gathered together by The Outlaw.
With an old west, cowboy feel taken into the future technology wise the game mixes two distinct game styles, third person shooter and RTS to try and give us something a little different to the norm. Have Lightbox Interactive been able to merge both together successfully or is it a marriage destined for disaster?
Starhawk begins with a stylish introduction video which sets the scene for this particular gameplay universe. Essentially the universe is filled with mining colonies and battles for the resources are common. As Graves we have been hired to resolve a problem on or home word, somewhere we have not been for some time and can see that our main character with his glowing blue eyes and enhanced body isn't the average human.
As the game proper begins we are presented with our first vehicle, a hover bike, there will be no running for ages on between locations in this barren wasteland, and sent off to find a waypoint marked on screen. While we head there we are in radio contact with other members of our team, those who are providing support and others who will be on the ground with us as NPCs.
Upon arrival at our first destination we are then immediately thrown into combat and from there learn the basics of that task. Like movement on foot and by vehicle (left stick move, right look, thumb button to jump/interact) we find combat is set out normally with the shoulder buttons used to fire, zoom and throw grenades. From this pretty standard first few minutes things start to expand quickly. We learn that collecting power cells is important and that our characters air support is quite different to the norm and this is where the RTS elements kick in (also played in first person). By holding the triangle button we get access to a wheel, initially almost empty, which allows us to call down various structures and items to assist us in our quest. These items range from walls, bunkers and supply depots to remote gun turrets and the like. As with most RTS games we get a ghost image of the item after selection and must find an appropriate space in our location to build. Vehicles can also be selected from our wheel and so always at hand, more than just the average shooter style options, are a wide range of game changing aspects.
In addition to the single player campaign Lightbox have also built a multiplayer mode into Starhawk and it takes the form of standard game modes including deathmatch and capture the flag as well as a co-op. Like the single player campaign though each mode, whether solo or team based, is focused very much on the RTS style aspects as well as third person shooter. It is also worth noting that vehicle (air and land) combat also appears here as we build structures and then grab our devices from there before taking on the enemy in a blue vs. red battle.
Finally, as an added bonus, registering for the online modes also gives us a free download of the original Warhawk (PS One) which is a nice bonus.
Graphics and Audio
For anyone who has played the big FPS titles of recent years it will be obvious from the moment gameplay begins that Starhawk has a lot in common with RAGE. The setting and even style of graphics are very similar but in this game there are none of the huge issues which plagued RAGE at launch. The draw distance is good, the environment detailed and overall the game looks great. Our cut scenes are also nicely styled and keep us interested as events unfold. If anything the only graphical issue of note is that the in-game menu that Lightbox have implemented feels cluttered and really is counter intuitive.
On the audio front we have a soundtrack which suits the game setting with music which will immediately evoke memories of cowboy movies and this is backed up by plenty of decent weapon and environmental sounds. Voice acting is also decent but the characters are stereotyped which is a shame... our main character could be any tough guy from any FPS as one example.
Due to being given a hover bike style vehicle right from the start of the game we immediately find that this is an open world game where we can take whatever route to the objective that we want. Sure it is possible to follow dirt tracks to get places but it is also far quicker, and a little more entertaining, to try and go near vertical up the side of a small mountain to get across the other side.When on foot and in combat the action is reasonably well paced as each action set piece progresses and we always have something to do. The presence of a group of players does often help as they take out our foes should we be otherwise engaged. This seems to be the number one reason for our team mates being included, it enables us to spend time on the RTS aspects of the game. Someone has to be there to cover us as we build walls, structures and items or the gameplay would be too manic, regardless of how quick it is to build something... and it is quick.
In multiplayer battles (which are reminiscent of Section 8 Prejudice) arenas are split into various large and small maps and can be a reasonable length with 32 players competing over twenty minute stints. XP is awarded for competing well, whether that be for kills or building important structures and trophies are on hand too when we complete key tasks. Load times can be a little long and at first the action tends to be slow paced as we build and fortify our base with the rest of the team but once both sides begin moving out to attack the opposition the game really kicks off. Frantic land and air battles take place and overall it is a lot of fun.
Starhawk is a fun, entertaining shooter worthy of a play through the campaign. The RTS elements offer a nice twist on the style and multiplayer is strong, something well worth coming back for.