- — 22 May, 2012 22:00
|Name||Third-person shooter: Starhawk|
|Summary:||The campaign has its moments, but it's outshined by epic multiplayer battles.|
|Games Info:||Developer: LightBox Interactive; Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment|
I press circle and take off, flying straight up into the air, then bank left and hit the boost to get as far away from the action as possible. I'm damaged, and my spaceship is on fire. I land on solid ground and my spaceship becomes a mech again, fully equipped with turrets and lasers. The piece of ground I'm on is just a hunk of rock floating in space, but that's okay. I'm only there set up a robot arm to repair my vehicle. Once I'm repaired, I take flight again, back toward the swarm of enemies that chased me off.
Later, it's as though I'm playing a different game. I'm on the ground, practically glued to it, and now I'm playing a third-person, space-western shooter, rather than a space combat simulator. I set up defenses and cower behind them, taking shots when I can, but mostly I let my turrets do all the hard work.
Starhawk is like that, though - divided into two play styles that sometimes coexist but are mostly kept completely separate. The game tells you, "This bit is designed for ground-based combat, but here you'll have to take to the air in your Hawk." And you obey, because there's not really any other way of doing things. Near the end, you get to choose whether you want to stick to the ground or the air - but at that point, enemies have become so powerful that you can't stay on the ground and fight, because the Hawks are much more resilient than flesh.
It's a shame, because fighting on the ground is much more fun than in the air. It reminds me of Gears of War - a third-person shooter where you fight aliens, yes, but more importantly, Starhawk borrows from Gears of War 3's multiplayer horde mode and inserts those game elements into a campaign. You spend resources - in this case a hot commodity called Rift Energy - on different weapons and defences, as waves of enemies descend on you. Personally, I loved the tower defense elements in Gears of War, and I love them in Starhawk, too.
But the space combat? Not so much. Often, space combat seems to slow down games significantly, and this is true of Starhawk. The enemy AI is pretty good, and the ships will weave and turn when you target them. This would be cool if the game only threw a couple of enemy Hawks at you at once, but there are swarms of these ships. They're not hard to defeat, but each one takes at least two hits even from heavy weapons, and getting a hit takes time. The game's pacing is off, and the many extended flying sequences are to blame.
There's not much of a story in Starhawk, either, although frankly it's a relief to play a sci-fi shooter where the main goal is not to save the world and/or universe. In Starhawk your protagonist, Emmett, is just a guy trying to do a job. In this universe the most valuable resource is Rift Energy, which can enable some regular people do do incredible things, and turn others into monsters. Emmett is one of those regular people who's been transformed, but rather than use his powers for good, he's just trying to earn some money.
While graphics are good, they're not stellar even by PS3 standards - not comparable to, say, Uncharted. But the sound, and the music? Those bits are fantastic. The soundtrack fits perfectly with the space-western feel, and really made the campaign's big moments pop out.
But forget the campaign for now - multiplayer gamers are in for a treat. Starhawk has a co-op mode, including splitscreen co-op, that's essentially a horde mode. More importantly, there's an epic versus multiplayer mode that ulitises all the vehicles and toys you can set up in the campaign. It's a cross between Battlefield, with its giant maps and explosive 32-person battles; Halo, with its heavy use of vehicles including the very Warthog-like Razorback; and a basic tower defense game. Again, you have to set up defenses to protect your base and set up the right devices to help you penetrate the enemy's fortifications. The only real issue with multiplayer is the horrendously overpowered Beam Turrets, which make it extremely difficult to access another team's base at all, especially by air. If three or four Beam Turrets are set up, getting in without being fried is nigh-on impossible. Still, it's one of the best, most innovative multiplayer modes I've seen in recent months.
If you're a single-player gamer, the Starhawk campaign doesn't offer enough to justify laying down the full price for it. But for a multiplayer gamer, Starhawk has a lot to offer, and the campaign can act as a nice 'how-to-play' with some bonus cutscenes tossed in. Don't get me wrong - both the campaign and the multiplayer are worth playing, but it's the multiplayer that you should pay for and it's what you're likely to stick with for months to come.