Game Review: ‘Starhawk’ welcomes you to the new frontier

By Eric R. Miller | | @Eric_R_Miller

The online shooter gaming scene is a very crowded one. With juggernauts like Call of Duty and Battlefield gaining the most playtime, it can be very difficult and daunting for a new IP to launch. Starhawk, from Austin-based developer Lightbox Interactive, looks to break into the scene by mixing in elements of tower defense and third-person shooting. It’s a strange yet fulfilling mix that creates one the best multiplayer experiences available on consoles.

Though multiplayer is the main focus, there is a single-player campaign. You take on the role of Emmet Graves, a freelance mercenary who never turns down a job. Excluded from society after being partially infected from rift energy, he must prove his worth. Rift energy is the main resource of this world, providing fuel and electricity to civilizations across the galaxy. The whole idea of staking claims in unforeseen lands exudes a good rush theme, and this game feels like a space western. Even with this rich universe, the single-player campaign falls flat, with little character development and a convoluted story. The campaign never shakes the feeling that it’s one extended tutorial for the multiplayer.

In the end, that’s OK, because the majority of playtime will take place in the multiplayer sweet, offering a full array of co-op, clan and match support. The multiplayer component of Starhawk is as deep as any other game. The gameplay of Starhawk is extremely rewarding due to the build-and-battle system. As you defeat enemies, capture flags and control zones, you earn rift energy. At any time during a match, you can cash in that rift energy for a base structure, whether it be a wall, turret or jet pad. This unique feature allows the player to evolve the battlefield to fit his or her needs, and it ensures that no two battles are ever played the same.

The build-and-battle system creates a sort of controlled chaos for the players. At any moment, walls and buildings can come crashing from the sky, providing new opportunities for the player to strategize. If the players are skilled enough, they can even call buildings down on enemies, killing them almost instantly. There’s almost no greater feeling than that.

The build-and-battle system also allows for many different play styles to emerge. Not good with shooting? No prob. Stay back in the base and help build up the defense. Love flying? Great. Build a hawk pad and take to the skies. You can still be a team player and earn experience without even firing your gun a single time. This system allows everyone to have a fair shot at feeling like they’re important to the team.

This is a game that requires teamwork to succeed. Unlike Call of Duty, players can’t run off and be a lone wolf. Some of the best moments in the game come from strategizing. You may send three teammates ahead in tanks to take down the enemy’s base so another two people can swing in on speeder bikes to grab the flag. Nothing is more exhilarating than working together with your team.
Overall, the fun and beauty of Starhawk is something that can’t really be put into words. The thrill of the flag capture, the terror of being bombed at the base, the tenseness of running down an opponent — all come from the feeling of teamwork. The build-and battle-system allows players to control their own destiny on the battlefield, and it creates a unique system that makes this game feel fresher than any per game in a long time. In the end, Starhawk is an excellent game that all PlayStation 3 owners should play. Though the single player is short, the multiplayer will keep you coming back for weeks and months to come.



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