StarHawk

Score

Sections

Pros

  • Effective use of RTS base-building elements
  • Thrilling multi-player battles

Cons

  • Generic looks
  • Short and repetitive single-player campaign

Key Features

  • Review Price: £37.85

Available on PS3
Tired of over-hyped, underwhelming shooters

that don’t have two ideas to rub together? StarHawk might just be the

antidote. On the one hand, nobody could accuse it of being over-hyped.

Few of us would have put it on our 2012 gaming wish list, and it’s the

sequel to a game – WarHawk – that could best be described as a cult

online hit in the early days of PS3.

On the other hand, StarHawk is a

game that exceeds expectations. It’s not the most visually dazzling,

richly atmospheric or thrilling shooter around, but it has a fresh take

on old genres and a clutch of good ideas, and it’s all been executed

with a high degree of polish. We doubt this quote will make the box, but

StarHawk is surprisingly good.

StarHawk

A mish-mash of ideas
It’s

not that the ideas or concepts are particularly new. StarHawk is a

hybrid of shooter and RTS genres, with elements of Gears of War,

Starsiege: Tribes, MechWarrior, Red Faction and Battlefield, but with

streamlined aspects of Command and Conquer, Dark Reign and StarCraft.

This isn’t revolutionary – Battlezone was doing the same thing back in

1998, and Section 8 has similar ideas at work three years ago – but it’s

probably the best implementation we’ve seen. StarHawk has just enough

strategy to make it more interesting, but not enough to detract from the

blasting at its core.

The plot and setting take the same magpie

approach, and it’s not hard to see chunks of Joss Whedon’s Firefly,

James Cameron’s Avatar and Robotech/Battlemech in StarHawk’s sci-fi

western premise. In the future, mankind has colonised the planets and

thousands of pioneers have laid claim to mysterious energy sources known

as rifts. However, rifts can have a corrupting influence, transforming

some prospectors into outlaw mutants who will go to any length to get

more rift energy.

StarHawk

StarHawk’s single-player hero Emmett Gray is

himself half-mutant, able to absorb rift energy but still in touch with

his human side. Acting as a kind of gun-for-hire, it’s his job to make

sure that energy is collected and safely transported, fending off

attacks from the ‘outcasts’ when needs be.

In practice, this

means blasting away at the outcasts then using the collected energy to

build whatever resources Emmett needs. StarHawk is played out in

third-person, but it’s not a cover-based shooter in the mould of Gears

of War. Instead, it’s all about hitting objectives hard and fast, then

building whatever you need to defend or assault the next one. During the

course of the campaign, most facilities you can think of will be

deployed to assist, ranging from simple defensive turrets to sniper

watchtowers and supply bunkers, each giving Emmett access to more

weapons.

StarHawk

Take to the skies

More importantly, garages,

corrals and hangers give Emmett and his allies access to vehicles,

ranging from speeder bikes to warthog-style jeeps and – most excitingly –

the Hawks. Basically mechs that transform into fighter jets, the Hawks

enable Emmett to take the fight into the air, or even into space.

There’s

a lot going on here, but the surprise is how well it all fits together.

The building interface is instantly accessible and very easy to use,

and whether you’re on foot, on wheels or in flight the movement controls

are intuitive and responsive, with excellent handling and a versatile

set of weapons.

The levels also have an interesting structure.

You’re not starting off at one point in a level and working your way

through to the end, but moving between objectives across open maps,

establishing a beachhead, moving out to attack key objectives, then

defending them from waves of outcast attacks. The single-player game has

enough sense to throw in checkpoints and give you room to breathe and

prepare for the next assault, and the game scales up nicely to give you

new equipment and new enemies, so that there’s always something new to

get to grips with.

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