…As I built my last strategically placed automatic turret the first enemy Hawk appears on the horizon and dives down to attack. I line up my sights on the flying menace and then my inner fanboy explodes with joy – as the Hawk reaches the ground something happens. The wings fold up, the body twist round, jet engines are silenced and with an almighty thump the Hawk lands, not as a flying machine but as a massive robot.
Starhawk has transforming Hawks.
I shall say that again.
Starhawk has transforming Hawks![advert]Panic erupts as my AI team and I try to take down the mech but I notice something out the corner of my eye, one of my team is running away. Coward! Where is he off to?
I watch as the AI character climbs the ladder up to Hawk pad I had built, jumps in to the stationary Hawk, transforms in to flight mode, zooms over to the enemy mech and fires off a salvo before transforming back in to robot form and laying into the enemy. Did I mention how good the AI was?
The fight is over and Cutter informs me one last wave is on the way, this time a whole battalion of enemy Hawks. A new building is available, a Beam Tower. These fire off massive energy beams at enemy Hawks and if you combine these with auto turrets I imagine you could play Starhawk more as a massive tower defence game.
The mission is over, the base has been defended and it’s time to try out the multiplayer, a Capture The Flag game using the ‘Acid Sea’ level. Everything that is available in the single player game is available in multi player, every player can harvest Rift energy and every player can place buildings. You have to work as team play, strategically, as each base can only support 16 buildings: you could be defensive with towers and auto turrets or offensive and build Hawk pads and newly available garages which contain a rather fantastic Jeep type vehicle.
Gameplay is as fast and frenetic as Warhawk and I have a satisfied smirk on my face when I nip past the enemy in my Jeep, steal their flag and zoom back home before they notice what has happened. The second time I try the move they have wisened up and have placed walls across the main routes in their base. These walls – like every other building – can be destroyed but it takes some serious fire-power.[drop2]If you die, the new respawn sequence is a clever invention. Traditional shooters have you spawning from a certain location leading to the enemy spawncamping and taking you as soon as you arrive. In Starhawk you are presented with a map of your base and you can spawn at any point. Select your location and the view cuts to your pod as it plummets to the ground.
I did notice that you have some limited control of the pod during its two second descent so if the enemy are in your base you may be able to land on them and squash them to jelly. That’s only a theory though, I did not manage to test my idea!
Multiplayer will support up to 32 players and features voice chat, game invites, a party system, a calender (this was not explained fully), automatic matching and clans. Further features will be revealed over the coming months including the Android app that will allow you to stay in constant touch with the Starhawk universe whilst you are away from your PS3.
The graphics are a nice step up from Warhawk, it’s not quite Uncharted levels of detail but the game does have that extra ‘polish’ that PlayStation exclusive titles have over multi platform games. Explosions are noticeably more impressive and the lighting deserves a mention with some excellent flare effects if you look towards the Sun. Emmett and Cutter make a nice break from generic space marines and Lightbox must be congratulated on the design of the Outcast – it’s very hard these days to make a humanoid alien look unique but they’ve done a good job.
The user interface is similar to Warhawk, weapons are selected using the d-pad and pressing triangle brings up a simple wheel menu to select buildings.
Warhawk had a strong military theme and the palette reflected this – greens, greys and browns. With the new sci-fi twist Starhawk features vibrant colouring and when things get hectic and beam towers slash across the sky the game starts to resemble an outdoor rave.
The sound has been improved as well, guns are Killzone 3 loud and the single player campaign has full voice acting. I could not hear much of the music due to environment I was playing in but the main theme has a certain “Western” feel to it – indeed the whole game has a slight twang of days gone by, my first thoughts as Dylan Jobe explained the new Starhawk story were “Sounds like a game set in the Firefly universe – cool!”
Starhawk has been in development for four years and it’s now obvious why Sony and Lightbox have been so secretive, it’s not a sequel it’s a brand new experience packed full of unique ideas and I can only find one fault with the game – the release date. ‘Sometime in 2012’ was the best I could get from Sony.