Author: Jeff McAllister
Ever wanted to play a game where you could have a building come crashing down from the blackness of outer space, instantly construct itself right in front of your eyes, and then dispense a giant mech that allowed you to take to the skies as it transformed into a jet? Well you’re in luck because it happens in the third-person shooter/strategy PlayStation 3 Exclusive title, Starhawk from developers Lightbox and Santa Monica Studios; and it happens quite often.
Starhawk is a multiplayer focused game that allows players to build up defenses to protect their team and pilot a variety of vehicle to assault the opposing one. The online multiplayer features the run-of-the-mill modes of Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Zones –which is basically the same as the Conquest or Domination modes found in other games— but the addition of creating structures to aid your war brings a whole new level of ingenuity to the gameplay.
Fighting the opposing team while on foot is futile as poking a shark with a stick and it is ultimately an embarrassing lesson that gets learned rather quickly. The entire crux of Starhawk is the “Build and Battle” system use of your constructs–and by extension– your vehicles. You choose what to build, where you build it, and how you use it. Each team has the ability to build numerous types of buildings that both defend their base as well as go on the offense across the expansive, various desert and space themed maps.
Turrets and towers defend your base, while at the same time, constructing garages for tanks lets players roll out the heavy firepower. The crowning achievement of the structures however, are the launch pads that spawn the titular Starhawk– or Hawk as they are known in the game, which allow players to command a large two legged mech that can instantly transform into an airborne arsenal of destruction—quickly turning the game from a vicious ground war into an aerial space aged dogfight.
To build each structure, players collect Rift Energy, green balls of light that are delivered through Rift Rigs in each team’s base. The longer you are near the Rig, the more energy you collect and the better the buildings you can make. Optionally you can forego the waiting and build structures that take less energy, but make more of them. It’s a learning curve that’s all about strategy and teamwork and it’s a feature that makes Starhawk stand out from other titles.
There is also a Singleplayer campaign that can be found in Starhawk, and goes explains more of the Outcasts and Rifters roles—the two teams in multiplayer– it’s relatively short in length and basically serves as nothing more than a tutorial so you don’t get caught being totally clueless and in over your head as you begin the massive 32 player multiplayer matches.
Unlike many of the multiplayer shooters on the market these days, all players always spawn with the same load outs as each other. There are no special classes, no fancy weapons that some players get and other don’t. Instead, there are Skills that can be unlocked and used to give players individual perks. Each time a player levels by gaining XP, they will gain one skill point. Each skill takes 2 points to unlock as well as a prerequisite for each.
Some skills may require you to perform such feats as kill ten enemies a round, or be on the winning team three times in a row, but each Skill is different and they range from laughably easy to incredibly difficult. Players can equip only one of the twenty-five skills at a time and they range from giving the player the ability to constantly acquire Rift Energy, to have a stronger melee attack, or to automatically repair the vehicles they are using.
Starhawk may seem like just another shooter, but from the first time you deploy a building by dropping it from space and it rises up in front of you in a cloud of dust, it’s clear that the game is more than just running and gunning. The role of building structures in strategic placement on the ever changing battlefield becomes more pronounced and is as important as the actual combat itself. Starhawk brings something new to online multiplayer shooters and while it still retains some of the necessary elements of other online multiplayer titles, it adds so much more, making it a deeper experience than most have to offer.