Multiplayer-focused shooters are really this generation's go-to game genre (if sales of Call of Duty are anything to go by), inspiring many me–too games in the process.
Along comes Starhawk though, a game that dares to be different with its mixture of game types and lack of quick scoping (Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 players will know what I'm talking about).
A spiritual successor to 2007's PS3-exclusive Warhawk, will Starhawk have what it takes to stand out from the crowd?
Starhawk is a third-person shooter where, besides all the usual running and gunning, you have the unique ability to build structures via orbital drops. Structures vary from fortified ammo supply bases, sniper towers to vehicle launch pads and Hawk (mech vehicle) launchpads.
As you play the game, you collect blue orbs known as Rift Energy. The amount of Rift Energy collected will determine which structures you are able to build at any given time via a radial menu. As you can imagine, using these structures strategically will definitely turn the tide of battle and it's this mechanic that separates Starhawk from the rest of the shooter crowd.
Starhawk (unlike Warhawk) does feature a story campaign that evolves around Emmett Graves, hired to protect a small town on the planet Dust from mutated creatures known as Outcasts. This takes place during a type of gold rush, where Rift Energy, a type of fuel source, has become quite valuable.
Unfortunately, exposure to Rift Energy mutates people who eventually become what is now known as the Outcasts. Emmett has also been exposed to the Rift Energy, but due to the intervention of his friend Sydney, has not mutated fully bearing the familiar Outcast scars and blue glow instead, making ordinary people fear him or treat him like he is less than human.
The premise is interesting and one wonders whether the developers were big fans of cult animated series Bravestarr, as the plot lines and settings share a lot of similarities. It's a pity then that the story doesn't remain interesting for long.
Starhawk's story, told via comic book type panels between stages, is poorly told and hinders the campaign greatly. Before long, you stop caring about the characters as they all become cardboard stereotypes.
The biggest problem with the campaign however, is that it's just a tutorial for the multiplayer, feeling like a tacked-on feature. Much like the story modes in Unreal Tournament III and Lost Planet 2, the story is basically an excuse to do the various multiplayer match types in the single player mode. The fact that they included a single player campaign this time is great, I just wish it had more substance and not just "maps" for you to play through. At least the multiplayer is great, right?
You bet it is. This is hands-down one of the greatest multiplayer experiences I have had so far and certainly the best on the Playstation 3. The experience of building a Hawk launch pad for you or your team mates to launch Hawks from or protecting your base by building Particle Beam Cannons is always fun.
How about building a hover bike launcher so that you and your buddies can ram the enemies to death with your bikes? Add the satisfying third-person gunplay and vicious melee knife attacks and you'll always have that "one more go" feeling with this game.
The best part for me though, is when the enemy is stalking you with a tank and you have nowhere to run. The solution is pretty simple - just build a wall on top of his tank (crushing him in the process) - priceless. There are so many possibilities in the multiplayer that it never gets old. You know you have something special when every multiplayer game you play is different to the last.
Capture the Flag, Team Death Match, Death Match and Zones are the modes that are available to you in the multiplayer suite and, like other games in the genre, the more you play, the more experience you gain, enabling you to unlock various upgrades. There is also a cooperative mode where you face hordes of enemies while trying to defend your base. All multiplayer modes support local two-player split screen options too.
Starhawk is almost the complete package. Decent sound and graphics, excellent multiplayer and excellent value for money really count in its favour. It's just unfortunate that most South Africans will not be able to experience the awesome online multiplayer (due to the lack of internet) and will instead be saddled with the subpar single-player campaign. If you have the internetz and are bored of Call of Duty or Gears of War, get this now. You won't be sorry.
Score: 8 out of 10