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Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, the campaign is not the reason to play Starhawk. Which is interesting, since the addition of a campaign, something Warhawk did not have, has been something the developers have been pushing prior to release. That’s not to say the campaign is bad by any means, but it just didn’t really do much for me. The biggest problem with the campaign is the story and the means by which the story is told. You play as Emmett, a man who has been partially infected with “rift energy”, a new energy source. Emmett and his partner are basically mercenaries, but the good kind who take jobs to protect rift energy shipments or defend small towns from “scabs”. Scabs are the enemy faction, and they are basically humans who have been infected with rift energy to a point where they lose their identity. If you’re wondering why Emmett isn’t a scab despite his rift energy infection, join the club, as the game never explains this.
The biggest problem with the story is that it is all over the place, and simply not told very well. Most of the cutscenes are very stylized 2D animation, and they look decent enough, but this makes the story feel disconnected from the gameplay, even more so than games that use pre-rendered CG cutscenes. There are many instances where something big is about to happen, and the game cuts away from the real time gameplay to show an animated cutscene, and it can kill the flow. It doesn’t help that the world isn’t very fleshed out. The game has a “space western” thing going on, but there is no indication of why people decided to build saloons and general stores when they colonized other planets. It feels to me like the developers really like Firefly (and honestly, who doesn’t?), so they wanted to do something like that. However, where as the universe in Firefly feels like it could really be a direction society might go given the proper circumstances, the world of Starhawk doesn’t. These failing could be forgiven if the core narrative were interesting, but it is unfortunately not. Even at only 6 hours, I had a hard time keeping myself interested or even paying attention enough to follow the thread toward the end of the game.
Despite the poor story, the campaign is still worth playing due to the strong gameplay and interesting blend of strategy and action elements. From a core gameplay perspective, Starhawk is very similar to Warhawk, in that it is a third person shooter with a strong focus on both land based and air based vehicles. Where Starhawk differs is the addition of real time strategy elements, namely base building. When you’re on the ground in either single player or multiplayer, you can build structures like walls, sniper towers, vehicles bays for several types of vehicles, turrets, and armories. You simply pull up a radial menu with all the available structures on it, select one you can afford (currency in earned by killing enemies or completing objectives), select the spot you want to call it down (pretty much anywhere with open terrain is fair game), and the structure is dropped from orbit and immediately assembles itself. This feature changes everything, and so many concepts and ideas you get used to in shooters go right out the window. While the campaign isn’t very compelling from a story standpoint, it is excellent at introducing all the different structures and vehicles to you and showing you how to use them. If you look at the campaign as a primer for the multiplayer, it is a great way to learn the game before you take it online.
Given the connection to Warhawk, it is of little surprise that Starhawk is best played online. The game boasts 32 player servers, with 10 multiplayer maps across 4 game modes. The modes aren’t really anything too unique, with standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and a territories type mode. Even though the modes are standard fare, the combination of huge maps, all the vehicles, and the strategy element makes Starhawk feel unique when compared to pretty much any other online shooter. For one, anyone that has found themselves sitting on a runway waiting for a jet to spawn in Battlefield or camping the sniper spawn in Halo will certainly find the way the Starhawk handles these things a great change of pace. If you want to fly, just build a launchpad, if you want to snipe, build a sniper tower, and so on. This means you can really play the game however you want, though I definitely found myself in games where there were like 10+ Hawks in the air at a time, which can make things a bit hectic. From a pure gameplay point of view, Starhawk is quite good. Whether you’re on foot, in a vehicle, or flying through space, the game controls great. The weapons feel nice and vehicles have a great sense of speed.
I must say though, if you don’t have a team of players communicating, things can devolve very quickly. There were many times when I was playing where everyone was flying and no one is even bothering with objectives. This game is certainly not Call of Duty, and playing as a lone wolf will yield nothing but poor results. There is obviously the free-for-all mode, but this game is definitely at it’s best when you have a group of several people you know communicating with each other. There is also a cooperative mode, though it is your typical wave based survival mode. However, the base building mechanics add an extra layer to this mode, almost playing like a tower defense game.
On the presentation side of things, Starhawk is a bit of a mixed bag. Visually, the game doesn’t do much to stand out. The texture work is below average and the character models are unimpressive. The 2D animation does looks nice and overall the game has a nice art style. I didn’t encounter any performance issues either, with the game always playing very smoothly. However, the best aspect of the presentation is without a doubt the music. The game has a nice mix of very Firefly inspired western sounding music to go along with some big sweeping scores when the moment called for it.
I can say with certainty that fans of Warhawk will absolutely love Starhawk. For everyone else, I can recommend it with a lot of caveats. If you’re looking for a solid campaign and aren’t particularly interesting in multiplayer, Starhawk is not for you. Even if you are looking for a fun muliplayer shooter, you should consider other factors before picking up Starhawk. This is a very team focused game, and if you don’t have a group of friends planning on getting the game as well, I don’t quite know how much you are going to get out of it. However, if you and your group of PSN friends have been awaiting the next great mulitplayer game for you all to get, Starhawk is an excellent choice.
Graphics Audio Gameplay Creativity Execution Offset 7.9 How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
- Fantastic Multiplayer
- Solid Gameplay
- Excellent Music
- Base Building Adds A Welcome Layer of Strategy
- Poor Campaign
- Uninteresting Story
- Solo Players Will Not Have A Great Time