- Publisher: Sony
- Developer: LightBox Interactive
- ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
- Genre: Sci-fi Action
- Pros: Combination of Strategy & Hand-Eye Coordination, Gorgeous Graphics, Incredibly Deep Multiplayer Options
- Cons: Lackluster Storytelling, Some Repetitive Combat
"Starhawk" is a unique shooter in that it melds real-time strategy techniques with what players have come to expect from a run-and-gun. You will aim-and-shoot a lot but the game also requires strategy through the Build & Battle system, one that allows you to drop in offensive and defensive structures right into the field of play. With four multiplayer modes and a campaign that really serves as a tutorial in how to use all of the many tools at your disposal in multiplayer combat, "Starhawk" is a deep game that plays to a wide variety of players. It is therefore truly disappointing that these tools weren't used to provide a deeper experience in terms of storytelling but it doesn't mean that the tools are any less fun to play around with online or on your own.
It's difficult to describe "Starhawk" without making it sound overly complex. I'll admit that I was nervous about a game that seemed to require omniscient strategy techniques and on-the-ground action. How could the developers accomplish both? Play "Starhawk" and find out since the fluid, seamless combination of gaming styles that are typically separate is the game's greatest accomplishment.
Basic run-and-gun combat earns the player Rift Energy, which can then be spent to call in offensive and defensive support from the drop ships above you. Such support includes walls to protect you, supply bunkers of weaponry, watchtowers for sniper vantage points, the truly-indispensable auto turrets (I basically dropped two or three before every fight), and even garages of Razorback combat vehicles, Sidewinders, and Mechs. As the game goes on, players develop different strategies depending on the situation. You often have a warning when something like a "Pod Storm" (a dropped fleet of enemies) is headed your way. Build a bunker. Drop a turret. Get ready to fight. And get ready to fly. A large portion of "Starhawk" doesn't even take place on the ground as you'll have to master flight and aerial combat in your well-equipped Hawk suit.
The incredible variety of combat gameplay often in one fight is the greatest strength of "Starhawk" and it makes it a natural fit for multiplayer. 32 players can go head-to-head in four modes that will be familiar to all fans of modern shooters -- Capture the Flag, Zones (which is like Conquest in "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" or Domination in "Call of Duty"), Team Deathmatch, and Deathmatch. Players can also play through the game in Co-op mode. The online component of "Starhawk" is clearly the game's focus. Tournaments, leader boards, events calendars, clan creation -- it's all here and waiting for fans of online play. You can even keep tabs on your friends playing "Starhawk" with an Android app. The game is designed almost entirely for the online player. A warning: The multiplayer is difficult and intense enough that it would be ill-advised to jump in without some serious training.
And that's where the single-player campaign comes in. The campaign essentially serves as a long tutorial or training ground for what you'll be able to do in the multiplayer arena. There is a story involving your character named Emmett Graves and his close relation to the Rift Energy that has become the coveted resource of this violent future but I stopped caring about it early on. It's not an engaging world dramatically and that's really all that significantly holds back "Starhawk" from living up to its potential. There is also a bit of a repetitive feeling to the 50th time you drop a homing missile on an enemy Outcast Hawk but that's a minor complaint.