Monday, 28 May 2012

Starhawk

“A clever combination of third-person shooting and tactical construction makes Starhawk more than a generic run-and-gun game and perhaps the most enjoyable shooter on the PlayStation 3.”


I have always said and will emphasize once again that PlayStation 3 exclusives are more often than not the best home console titles. Starhawk is a third-person shooter from LightBox Interactive and spiritual successor to 2007’s Warhawk that continues this wonderful trend by bringing together exciting action with intricately woven real-time strategy mechanics. Together these two key gameplay elements ensure PlayStation owners will have a blast both in single player and online in Starhawk’s brilliant multiplayer modes.

Starhawk tells the story of a ravaged planet succumb to decay and poverty. Reminiscent of Borderlands, you take on the roll of Emmett Graves, a man who’s goal lies in the removal of all those who disturb peace and get in his way while distancing himself from the negative connotations associated with those affected by ‘Rift’. The story told in Starhawk’s campaign while short, is surprisingly engaging using beautifully animated cut-scenes that take you across a variety of beautiful environments and emotions.


More importantly however, the campaign acts like a tutorial to prepare you for Starhawk’s fantastic online multiplayer. Before you even set foot online, the campaign teaches you basic shooting mechanics, how to use the variety of different vehicles and most importantly, the engaging in-game building mechanic. What can be considered Starhawk’s trump card, the building mechanic allows players to call down building drops from barricades, to turrets to whole structures as you attempt to change the flow of battle with more than just basic weapons. The campaign does a very good job introducing you to all the different possibilities available and even puts you in situations to show off when and where to best use these drops, which comes in very handy when you do eventually make the bold move online.

This is not to say that most of your time will be spent surveying the battlefield trying to build bases like some sort of Command & Conquer game. Battles can be won with sheer brute force but a balance is certainly required. Those of you who prefer to grab a machine gun, strap a rocket launcher to your back and jump into a Starhawk are more than welcome to use that approach. The Starhawks are another fun novelty as these metallic birds jet through the sky and with the press of a button can transform into lethal mech-walkers descimating all that stands in your way on the ground. If these aerial beasts aren’t for you, then jumping on a hover-bike or maybe grabbing a jet pack is your preferred mode of transport? Ultimately it is very clear that LightBox Interactive wanted to make sure there’s variety available for players who would like to tackle Starhawk in a variety of different ways.

You’ll be done with the campaign in a mere 6-hours or so but that’s not a problem considering we know it was designed as a warm-up for Starhawk’s online endeavor. When you first set foot into a global game you will be surprised at how fast and frantic the combat can get. Resembling M.A.G. large maps can accommodate for many players and lots of destruction, especially considering every player has the ability to construct mid-game. It will quickly become apparent that the campaign mode perhaps didn’t provide as much preparation as required, but what better way to learn than to jump straight into the deep end? It is true, you will have to adapt quickly to survive and perhaps reevaluate the strength of certain gameplay styles you have adapted throughout your time with the campaign mode, but this is by no means a deterrent with Starhawk proving to be a whole load of fun online.

For a game that so obviously relies on teamwork and communication, it’s a real shame to see that other than voice chat, there’s really no way to rally your troops and issue commands online. Being able to work together effectively is the essence of victory in Starhawk and a group of mindless players running around doing their own thing will pretty much always lead to failure of your particular objective. So those of you looking for an engaging and cooperative online experience, make sure to pick up a headset if you don’t have one already.



Fortunately once you pass that immediate awkward stage of getting blown to smithereens for the first few games, you will find Starhawk to be one of the PlayStation 3’s most enjoyable and exciting multiplayer experiences. The variety in maps impress both from design to visuals, gameplay is quick, fast-paced and can change in a heart beat while the genius building mechanic intertwines the whole package together to keep everyone busy and on their toes. This is clearly a game that emphasizes tactics and teamwork over big guns and with that in mind, it deserves serious recognition.

To change the pace again slightly, Starhawk also offers split-screen gameplay and a cooperative horde mode. Playing online with a buddy sitting next to you means at the very least you two can communicate with each other and horde mode lets you get offline and just enjoy some casual, yet challenging gameplay against increasingly different AI opponents.

Starhawk impresses on numerous levels and that’s why it’s so easy to recommend to gamers. This PlayStation 3 exclusive builds upon 2007’s thoroughly enjoyable Warhawk by providing great and unique gameplay alongside well-designed terrains to do battle on. Starhawk’s brilliant pacing and savvy in-game building mechanics make it much more than your basic shooter and that is what sets it aside from other run-of-the-mill gun games. If you’re looking for something that little bit deeper, that little bit harder and that little bit more technically efficient, then look no further PlayStation 3 owners, because you’re on to a winner here.

9.0 | Gameplay |
Starhawk’s gameplay is absolutely fantastic. The basic campaign introduces you to all the ideals required to enjoy and participate in Starhawk’s terrific online experience. Once you get online you then truly appreciate the balance between combat and in-game construction, which can very easily be the foundation to a solid victory. Variety is certainly a key word to describe your potential involvement with Starhawk as there are numerous ways to tackle situations here from offense to tactical defence, but ultimately a balance is required to ensure victory.

6.0 | Presentation |
Starhawk’s story and environments deserve particular praise. The beautifully woven animated cut-scenes are pleasing to look at and the varied locations you do battle in are absolutely stunning. The same can’t be said for character models and due to the Western and industrial tone of the game, the bland and rusty colours makes Starhawk quite dull and depressing to look at. I will emphasize however that this is a game where graphics hold no real significant meaning and will absolutely not take away from this fun experience.

9.0 | Replay Value |
The game only really begins when you venture online and once you’ve played through your first few games and taken those training wheels off, you will find yourself immersed in a deep, expansive and thoroughly addictive multiplayer experience that clearly has a lot more to offer than your generic shooter. This is the kind of game you can find yourself invested in for a long time and Starhawk will continue to thrive as long as the community sticks with it.

8.0 | Final Thoughts |
I keep saying it over and over but I never seem to be proven wrong, PlayStation 3 exclusives are always bloody awesome. Starhawk is a breath of fresh air amidst a whole bunch of Call of Duty-like games – taking the first to the third-person perspective and adding a genius gameplay mechanic makes this sci-fi shooter already stand out as an engaging alternative. Add in a whole host of weapons, vehicles and tactical capabilities and you have yourself what I can only describe as a genius blend of Borderlands, Command & Conquer and M.A.G. I highly recommend PlayStation 3 owners to seriously consider Starhawk as a viable contender to at the very least, keep you amused until the next Call of Duty comes out in Q4.

Igor Kharin.


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