Mechs, Rifts & Waiting Twelve Months: Hands On With Starhawk

…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.

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Starhawk has transforming Hawks.

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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.

Want. Now.

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73 Comments

  1. This game is all kinds of awesome. The transformers (Starhawks), being able to build vehicles and buildings but also a single player campaign :O Dylan Jobe and the rest are Lightbox Interactive are dream workers :P. Very interested to see more news trickle out at E3 as he posted on Twitter that the game will be playable there.

  2. Can not wait, seriously I’m bursting with anticipation.

    Quite a departure from the original which is to be expected after 4 years, hopefully everything is just as balanced as warhawk, where all the strengths & weaknesses of everything are perfectly matched & the RTS slots in well, which I have confidence it will.

    Of course I’d have been more than happy with a map-pack for warhawk, but all this…. wow

    • Yes Wow, this sounds fantastic, roll on E3 for more, and it’s probably the first time ever that I can detect happiness in your words cc_star !!

      • I really don’t like the look of this game. The art style isn’t great imo, preferred the cartoony look of Warhawk. This game bears no resemblance to warhawk so why have ‘hawk’ in it at all? I loved Warhawk because of the flying mechanics and [email protected] completely trashed those core ideas. There’s no variation of planes and they’ve just copied transformers with those stupid mechs. all the innovations like the drop-ships made warhawk special. Starhawk looks so generic and all the quirkyness has been lost. Afraid i’ll be giving Starhawk a pass, might even go buy warhawk back.

      • I expect dropships along with every other vehicle will return.

      • A dropship is mentioned on the trailer.

        What I liked about the Dropship… and the APC was that they added so much to the game when they launched as DLC with the new map, so hopefully something meaningful is kept back for DLC to keep things fresh, rather than laying all their cards on the table to start with

  3. “Sometime in 2012”.. at least give me a quarter to look forward to!
    This looks amazing, the transforming hawks sounds interesting too.

    • Ok. Just for you it’s last quarter 2012. If they happen to release it before then you’re allowed to wait.

  4. Other than Burnout, Warhawk is the only competitive multiplayer I’ve really enjoyed on the PS3. Like Chris I’d have been happy with new maps and a graphical update. 2012 has its first entry on my must-buy list.

    • They were also my most played PS3 games. I can feel a nostalgia trip coming on, once the PSN is back up that is.

  5. Sometime in 2012? What happened to Dylan not wanting to show the game until it was nearly ready?

    Nothing like what I was expecting (which to be honest was just Warhawk in space), and the transforming Hawks sound amazing!

    Is it 2012 yet?

  6. “Sounds like a game set in the Firefly universe – cool!” – that is all I could want and more! Those transforming hawks sound ridiculously awesome

    • Exactly what I thought!

      I started to read this and smiled. By the end of it I had a big fat grin on my face! I’m liking everything here.

      The character isn’t generic and looks pretty cool. Enemy AI is clever. It’s set in space! AND TRANSFORMING HAWKS!!! That’s AWESOME!

      Thanks TSA! :D

      • I third this, it sounds awesome. This might be the game that actually succeeds in getting me playing online more than sporadically.

  7. So, do you pick up weapons spread over the map like Warhawk or are there crappy loadouts?

    And can you select a server from a list, like Warhawk, or is it matchmaking or nothing?

    (Not sure if you can answer but figured i’d ask)

    • For me Warhawk was great because of the weapons spread out. It meant it was an even battle unlike COD etc where you get better weapons over time thus disadvantaging the newer players.

      • Yup, same. One of the best things about Warhawk and i’ll be incredibly disappointed if they CODified it :(

    • Weaopons can be picked up across the map and also from your barracks. There was only one server which auto selected so cant answer your second question.

      • Awesome, thanks mate

      • Thank goodness, not a fan of class-based picking your loadout, much prefer to adapt via pick-ups

  8. So it’s coming out just in time for the PSN going back online :)

  9. This is what I have been waiting for,
    “Sounds like a game set in the Firefly universe – cool” just makes me want it more.

    The only problem I can see is that everyone will be building whatever buildings give them the most points, and defence will be just a few people desperately trying to play the game whilst the rest of their team just run around trying to get their kills up.

    I so hope I am wrong….

    • Once people’s ability grows it means capturing the flag will surely take teamwork, imaging grabbing the flag and trying to get out of there only to find a defensive player has built a wall blocking your escape… you’re going to need some team mates with heavy artillery to help you out.

      • great, this sounds the nuts, teamwork wohoo

    • They could get help from a Decepticon..er a mean a Hawk, I wonder what the mechs will be like since I play Armoured Core. Mech vs Mech battles would be so awesome

      • Private servers with agreed mech v mech deathmatch/team deathmatch between friends? Yes!

  10. And how we too play this if psn foot come back on?

    • PSN foot? Sounds like some kind of fetish

      • If the psn isn’t back by 2012 I’ll have much bigger worries than just playing starhawk

    • If PSN hasn’t come on by 2012 then I don’t imagine Sony would have many customers left to play Starhawk anyway!

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