Back in 2007, Sony was hunting for a killer multiplayer exclusive to their system that could compete with other major titles and bring massive amounts of gamers flocking to the PS3 and the PlayStation Network. What they found was a title by the name of Warhawk that they hoped would bring a few more customers to their online community. Exclusively released as a launch title for the PS3 in 2007 by Incognito Entertainment, reviewers and critics alike met the game with a generally positive reception. While technically being a remake of an earlier ariel fighter game of the same name, the 2007 Warhawk bears little other resemblance to the original. Warhawk, a multiplayer third person vehicle and flight combat title, was initially intended to have both single-player and multiplayer modes. Later in the development process, it was decided that the single-player element was to be canceled due to concerns that it was inferior to the game’s multiplayer component. Minus the single-player mode, the game sold well enough and the multiplayer modes became very popular among early PS3 adopters. With the advancements in gaming technology and popularity of online multiplayer, it would only be a matter of time before the release of another Warhawk, right? Fast-forward 5 years later to present day and the call has been answered (if a call has actually been placed) as another ariel warfighter PS3 exclusive title with the word “hawk” in it hits the scene in Starhawk.
Developed by LightBox Interactive, in collaboration with SCEA Santa Monica Studio, the newly released Starhawk could most definitely be called the spiritual successor or sequel to Warhawk. Although, the one thing Starhawk is packing this time around is the one thing that was missing from Warhawk, a single-player campaign mode! That’s right. Starhawk not only includes a vastly improved multiplayer mode that can handle epic 32 player battles online, but it’s throwing in a single-player campaign mode chronicling our hero, Emmett Graves and his exploits in mining of the rare and dangerous energy source called Rift Energy. With the look, sound and feel of a space-western, we find our hero Emmett taking on hordes of savage-like mutants known as Outcasts on the dusty planets set in the lawless frontier of space. Not that Emmett will go it alone on his space adventures; we’re introduced to a couple of new gameplay features that are used at great lengths in the single-player as well.
At the beginning of the single-player campaign, we’re introduced to a new system called Build n’ Battle. This system allows players to build structures on the battlefield such as bunkers, defense structures, gun turrets, sniper stations, and armories before and during battle, giving the game a RTS (Real Time Strategy) feel about it while still remaining a third-person shooter at its core. All structures available and used during the heat of battle will cost you accumulated Rift Energy, which depending on the structure, typically eats up massive amounts of Rift Energy. Not to worry though as your Rift Energy replenishes fairly quickly as you tear through hundreds Outcast enemies at any given moment in battle and collect their leftover Rift Energy when defeated. Build n’ Battle is a technology in the story and a gameplay mechanic that works pretty well when you can plan ahead before a battle. I found numerous times where I had set my turrets and defensive walls ahead of an upcoming battle, only to have them demolished by the Outcast and frantically working to hold off oncoming enemies while I had new structures sent down and re-built. Build n’ Battle may have some subtle differences between how it operates in single-player, co-op or multiplayer modes, but dropping structures down from the sky and instantly crushing and killing any unfortunate enemy units below it when it lands is pure and instant gratification.
While the majority of the single-player campaign takes place on foot on the dusty plains of space planets, the game also includes some intense air, ground and vehicular combat via flying badass mechs called Hawks. This was by far my favorite part of the single-player campaign and multiplayer mode as I would climb in my Hawk and with a press of a button would be airborne for some exciting dogfighting in space. There’s something addicting about flying these mechanic war birds as you evade, chase and destroy multiple enemies as battles take place in, through and around massive space stations and asteroids. When you’re not up in the vacuum of space, you can take your mech to ground level and dish out major destruction on your foes with guns, rockets and my favorite, a giant foot stomp!
Even though Starhawk does include a single-player mode, you’re more than likely to find the story and majority of characters uninspiring and bland. I found it interesting that while the in-game graphics are very pretty and detailed, it’s the storytelling moments between missions that are severely lacking. Presented with 2D static graphics, these scenes are meant to give you more story, but fail miserably at what it’s trying to accomplish. These scenes severely clashed with the in-game graphics and I found myself losing interest in the characters and story faster than I had expected. I’d rather be able to skip and leave these scenes in the dust than have to watch some generic comic book-style panels. If more time had been spent developing these character building and storytelling moments, I may have found myself more invested and interested in learning about Emmett’s family struggles and journey’s, but it just got to the point to where I could care less and just wanted to get back to blasting things in my Hawk.
Long story short, the single-player campaign is fun, if not a little disappointing in the character/story development. What I found though as I got in to the multiplayer modes in Starhawk is that the single-player campaign is basically included as a sort of in-depth tutorial for using the Build n’ Battle system and training ground for learning how to navigate your Hawk for battle. It’s actually a pretty clever way to introduce a tutorial by including it as the single-player campaign as there is really no built-in tutorial in Starhwawk. This way they get you to play the single-player, you learn the ins and outs of how things control and then you jump in to the multiplayer as a seasoned pro. Alright, maybe not a seasoned pro, but you’ll have a better idea of how things work and you won’t be re-spawning every 30 seconds because you didn’t bother to play the single-player.
If you’re reading this review, then my guess is that you’re not really concerned with the single-player, but you want to know what’s up with the multiplayer. Well, I’m happy to say that the multiplayer in Starhawk pretty much flat out rocks!!! With up to 32 players and several familiar modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Zones, the online action in Starhawk is extremely solid and well balanced. The action is non-stop, and the Build n’ Battle system is extremely useful and well thought out to the point that I’d almost go as far to say that this is by far the best multiplayer experience I’ve had to date on the PS3! Not to say that the PS3 is overloaded with titles that are Halo multiplayer killers, but there are a few decent ones out there (Uncharted 2 & 3, Twisted Metal) and the more multiplayer titles, the better for the PS3 and its fan base.
Ultimately, while the single-player campaign serves as a tutorial tune-up for multiplayer and the characters and story are just not very interesting, the single-player is really not all that bad. You’re more than likely here for the multiplayer, so the single-player campaign is almost an added bonus of sorts. Give Emmett a try in the single-player, but stay around for the very addicting multiplayer and the absolute fun to be had in your very own Hawk.
A copy of Starhawk for PlayStation 3 was provided to us for this review from LightBox Interactive & SCEA Santa Monica Studio.