Lightbox Interactive has been hard at work on their first release, Starhawk, a spiritual successor to 2007’s Warhawk. In fact Lightbox Interactive is actually made up of Dylan Jobe and some of the former members of Incognito Entertainment (the studio behind Warhawk). And with it being one of the first multiplayer-only games for the PlayStation 3, it developed a huge following and support from the community. And there is still some support to this day. With a game that has such a cult following, would Lightbox be able to make something that would appeal to both veteran players along with new ones?
One of the biggest differences between Warhawk and Starhawk is the inclusion of a single player campaign. Set in the distant future, Starhawk’s campaign tells the story of Emmett Graves and his brother Logan. They begin as prospectors and collectors of Rift Energy, which has now become the vital necessity for people. During this time, you will see characters turn on another, and your standard hero, who must face a difficult, guilt-ridden past. Ultimately, the story turns into Cowboys in Space, with Rift Energy taking the place of gold. But unfortunately the story in Starhawk falls a bit short, as it didn’t really have me caring for any of the characters.
All this happens in environments that try to resemble the Old West albeit with a sci-fi twist. And graphically, Starhawk’s environments are impressive, for the most part. You have rolling hills that seem to expand for miles, mountainous canyons and small towns with saloons, all while looking into the sky to see a nearby planet; however, there are times that environments looked a bit bland. Fortunately, you’ll be too busy fighting and shooting enemies most of the time to notice.
Combat is fast whether on land or in air. At times you have to think even faster when trying to decide what needs to be built and where. Flight battles, when done, are also impressive. Ariel dogfighting is just as fast paced and exciting as Warhawk. But this time you have the option of turning your Hawk into a giant walking mech suit. Good thing Lightbox has made sure that these are not overpowered and not key to winning. Nothing will beat good teamwork in this game.
Campaign missions will introduce you to the mechanics of the game such as learning about different weapons, how to pilot Hawks and how to set up defensive and offensive perimeters. New to Starhawk is the incorporation of real-time strategy elements, with the Rift energy from reactors and enemies becoming the resources with which to build. This makes the game feel more strategic and factors teamwork into the game more than ever. But for the most part, take the campaign as I did: a tutorial for the multiplayer portion.
Multiplayer for Starhawk is what this game is made for, as you tell that Lightbox Interactive has attempted to go above and beyond to make sure that this part shines. And here you have two different choices: cooperative and competitive. In cooperative you must defend a Rift Marker, which will supply you with more rift energy while you fight waves of enemies. Second is your completive multiplayer in which you battle in modes of up to 32 players or less depending on the type of game. Modes such as Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Zones all return, although I would have liked to have seen the Hero mode from Warhawk return also. Layouts of the maps can be done from small and large. And as I mentioned earlier, teamwork has never been more important. A squad that works together and knows what needs to be built can be the difference between winning and losing a match. Even spawning within a match, which is literally done dropping in from the sky, can help your team. Have an enemy Hawk attacking your base? You can actually drop on top of them and destroy them.
But, alas, not all is good at the moment. At the time of this writing, the menu options when selecting multiplayer from the start screen do not come up at certain times. It has been said that playing another game for a while and then returning will fix the problem. True for the most part, but it also happens at times when switching between multiplayer games. This forced me to quit the game entirely and re-start it all over again from the cross media bar. Another problem: multiplayer teams become too unbalanced. At times I entered a game to find one side with substantially fewer players than the other team. This puts the lesser team at almost a no-win situation.
Since Starhawk, in my opinion, depends greatly on the multiplayer, we will see if it can have such a dedicated following like Warhawk did. I really hope so, as much as there is concern with Starhawk, it can make for some intense and very interesting battles.
But still, no matter what Starhawk is still very fun. Once you learn and grasp the building aspect, it will open up a much deeper and strategic game than its predecessor. One that I hope will last for a long time.
Starhawk gets a 8/10