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Starhawk Review (PS3)

We welcome back firm3d as he takes to the stars!

Warhawk came at the right time for me: I was working as a multiplayer games tester where, for a time, the day-shift/night-shift divide was also a division between Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. We were looking for something we could play for fun out of work, and Warhawk was released. Good thing too because without a good core of people to play with, it was kind of short on long-term appeal (for most people). Not least because there was no single player.

Five years and an appreciable amount of DLC later and we’ve finally got a sequel: Starhawk. Just the name felt like an affirmation of Warhawk fans’ wet dreams. It seems like “Starhawk” has been a term bandied about for all of Warhawk’s existence. Regardless of whether it was LightBox or the community that came with the name, LightBox have certainly come up with the goods. The sequel has a meaty single-player campaign, in which you play as Emmett Graves, set in the far-flung future where humanity is consumed by its search for Riff Energy. Unfortunately, this resource causes mutation after prolonged exposure, which makes our two main factions in the game the Rift Energy Miners, Rifters, and the mutants, Outcasts.

At the time of writing, playing a new copy starts with two updates, an install, entering an online pass code and another update. This painfully slow beginning means you’ll probably not be starting the game in a good mood. It all works out okay though, because the single player campaign for the game is a nicely paced cross between a traditional single player story and a tutorial for multiplayer.

My main criticism is that the game is guilty of one of the cardinal sins of gaming; checkpoints that aren’t save-points. While that’s not such a huge issue once you realise this, it’s always annoying when a game doesn’t let you stop playing when you want without losing progress. On the topic of issues, I also noticed that the audio stuttered during cut-scenes, falling out of sync with the visuals. That’s because cut-scenes are played to mask load-times, so it’s forgivable… Partly.
As for how it plays, I’m likely not the first one to say this, but the name isn’t only thing that’s half StarCraft and half Warhawk. During gameplay, you’ll be harvesting resources that are in turn used to build things. The immediacy of having buildings quickly drop and build in front of you never gets old; you simply select what you want to build by holding Triangle for a radial menu and then you choose where you want it to thump down. It’s so intuitive that you’ll be building during intense fighting without batting an eye.

In the multiplayer modes, like Capture The Flag and the even more territorial Zones, you’ll get bonus resources for achieving objectives, making it a hard game to play defensively. Which is good, because how boring is it when you’re playing multiplayer and too many stay at their own base?

The controls are mostly identical to those in Warhawk, except for one or two little improvements. The greatest triumph in both games is how the controls feel good regardless of whether you’re on foot, flying or driving. The changes are simple things that make a big difference, like not having to press a button to get on a ladder or having L1 be an aim button for most weapons, as it is in most other shooters these days.

If the game has any missed opportunities, it’s the shortness of the single player portion of the game. That makes this a rental for playing alone and only worth buying if you can see yourself getting heavily into the multiplayer.

8 starry-eyed hawks out of 10

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