|Dev: LightBox Interactive|
|Release: May 8, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Language, Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
I first got my hands on Starhawk back at E3 last year. It was still in an early stage, but what I found was a fairly interesting new spin on the third-person shooter in which players could call down various types of structures from a drop ship. This element added a very tower-defense-style gameplay mechanic, making for an experience that was a lot more based on strategy than the typical competitive shooter.
Fast forward almost a year, and the game's been through several iterations of private and public beta. Beta was a fairly lengthy affair, and I'm convinced this was a particularly good call on Sony's part. I remember finding a few things in the E3 build that felt a little off, and I'm sure there were a lot of tiny inaccuracies that I didn't even catch during my short E3 play session. With this extended beta period, the developers have had a wealth of player feedback and plenty of time to tweak anything that feels off. This makes me pretty optimistic about the final product.
Though this beta has since ended, I spent my fair share of time with it while it was still in progress. One of the things that I really enjoyed about Starhawk is that it's set up so players can hone their own strategies with its "Build and Battle" system. Essentially, as the game goes on, players will collect Rift Energy, either by killing enemy players or by hanging out at their home base and collecting it naturally. This Rift Energy can be spent on various structures that get called down from a drop ship. There are several types of structures that can be built, including sniper towers, supply depots, and turrets.
My personal strategy is to call down a supply depot first, which provides players with various weapon spawns, and pick up the rocket launcher as soon as possible. This comes in handy in the beginning stages of any match, as I've noticed the very first thing the opposing team will generally spawn is a garage, which gives them access to jeep-like Razorbacks. (Think Halo's Warthogs.) Instead of letting them get an early lead by wiping out my teammates with an onslaught of Razorback-bound terror, having a rocket launcher allows me to actually stand a chance during this first assault. My next move is usually to call down a jetpack dispenser. There are very few things that feel as satisfying at raining down rockets on unsuspecting foes while hovering far overhead with a Vulture Jetpack.
This is just my own personal strategy. Part of the beauty of Starhawk is that players are provided with enough tools to devise any number of strategies of their own. Prefer sniping from afar? You might be best served by calling down an early sniper tower. You want to fly around in a Hawk, a type of mech that can transform into a jet? Well, save your resources and perhaps you'll be the first player in the round to be piloting one. For capture-the-flag matches, you'd be wise to consider building some fortified walls around your flag. There are so many various ways you can combine these tools to custom-build a strategy that fits the way you want to play. I imagine that when the game finally goes live next month, there will be an evolving meta-game, as players continually develop new strategies with the provided tools.
One other interesting aspect of the game, which I feel I've probably made mention of before, is that instead of spawning on the map like in most shooters, players are sent hurtling down in a pod from a drop ship. These pods are falling pretty fast, but the player has a little bit of control over their descent. A well-steered pod can actually land on top of an unsuspecting enemy and take them out. There's an element of strategy here too, as you might have to choose between landing in a tactically advantageous location or landing somewhere that will give you less of an advantage in order to crush an enemy player.
Splitscreen features have recently been announced for Starhawk, and they look rather interesting. The four-player splitscreen of Warhawk has been trimmed down to a two-player version, but that's not a bad thing when you see how the screen space is managed. Now, with most splitscreen games on widescreen televisions, each player's area of the screen doesn't utilize the entire width of the screen. Starhawk changes this, giving each player a generously sized overhead map on the edge of their strip of the screen. It's a feature I'm pretty sure will come in handy, as it keeps a map prominently displayed without cluttering the H.U.D.
Starhawk will also have a single-player component, which is said to have a Western-meets-sci-fi vibe to it. It tells the story of Emmett Graves, who has been exposed to the dangerous effects of Rift Energy and has since become a gunslinger-for-hire. The campaign is said to last somewhere between five and eight hours, but the "Build and Battle" features mean that players will be able to creatively solve their problems in a vast assortment of different ways, making the replay value fairly high.
Starhawk is scheduled to land on the PS3 on May 8. Check back for a full review next month.
Editor / News Director
Date: April 10, 2012