Starhawk is a curious game which takes the best bits from a number of genres and creates something totally unique and highly playable.
Following hard on the heels of the 2007 hit Warhawk, developers Lightbox Interactive have retained many of the original features of the first outing while introducing some note-worthy additions.
Like the earlier game, Starhawk’s main focus is on its 32 player multi-player mode. But, with more time and money to play with this time around, they have bolted on a campaign mode that was sorely missed in the game’s first outing.
The game also features a novel building mechanism that allows you to instantly create turrets and buildings pretty much in the vein of Red Faction: Armageddon. You can assist in the destruction by taking out enemies with a selection of weapons like a traditional FPS and pilot a hover bike not unlike the speeders from Star Wars.
The in-game story centres on the exploits of a mercenary-cum-energy-miner called Emmett Graves who is hired to protect colonists while they mine valuable deposits of energy called Rift Energy. It appears that mining Rift Energy is not without its hazards. More specifically, prolonged exposure has the effect of transforming colonists into savage, ugly and mindless creatures known only as the Outcasts.
The Outcasts are insanely protective of Rift Energy and attack mining sites wherever they spring up. Emmet is only too aware of the personal tragedy of this transformation as we later learn that his own brother, Logan, has succumbed to the illness. While mining Rift, the Graves farm was attacked by Outcasts. With their rig destroyed the two brothers were exposed to Rift Energy. Logan fell ill while Emmet was only saved by the quick intervention of his friend Sydney Cutter, who created a regulator to implant into Emmett’s spine to keep him from transforming into an Outcast.
Starting off relatively easily, the campaign mode gets progressively harder to a point where you will find yourself gripping the controller in your sweaty palms and gritting your teeth as you throw everything at the seemingly unending horde of Outcasts attacking your buildings. Honestly, I had to play level ten no less than 15 times before completing it.
Lightbox have, however, quite rightly treated the campaign mode as a glorified training session for the real nuts and bolts of the game: its multiplayer mode. It’s here that the game truly shines. In co-op you can play with up to three other gamers to defend a rig against the Outcast onslaught. Challenges last for six rounds and each round is tougher than a bear armed with a flick knife.
Graphically Starhawk is a real treat for the eyes. The visuals are crisp and finely rendered and the expansive desert terrain dotted with high tech buildings is highly reminiscent of Borderlands and iD’s recent FPS, Rage.
Although far from a show stopper, Starhawk is a challenging, often frustrating and always satisfying game to dive into. You’ll have lots of fun playing it by yourself but, like most things in life, the real fun begins when you play with other people. As a single player offering this is a decidedly so-so title. But as a multi-player RTS and first-person-shooter, Starhawk is a must have title. Recommended.
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