You know what would be awesome? Warhawk, only in space. And we can name it after one of the most notable figures of the Neopagan movement! I can just imagine the game reviews now.
Starhawk the game (some would say unfortunately) has nothing to do with Neopaganism or ecofeminism. Instead, it’s about a bunch of people getting together in space, building strategic space defences and waging space war. I guess on a fundamental level it’s pretty much the same thing.
The assembled video game reviewers of the internet decided to focus on the merits of Starhawk as interactive entertainment instead of its significance of “The Spiral Dance” in modern Pagan culture. Otherwise the scores would have been uniformly higher. Let’s take a look.
Plenty of recent games have proven that the third-person-combined-with-tower-defense genre can be successful. Given the right room to breathe, these games provide a layer of interesting and even fun strategic possibilities not present in standard third-person games. Unfortunately, many decisions in Starhawk feel like they hinder the potential depth of these mechanics. Starhawk could be a masterful game but reveals itself to be middling at best.
Starhawk tumbles almost right away, with a campaign that falls prey to the cliches of the “bot scenario as ‘level’.” While Starhawk gestures in the direction of a story, moments of exposition feel more like the trailer for a story than actual plot. Main character Emmett is a jerk with baggage, but Lightbox does little to develop him outside of some broad strokes regarding family, revenge, and, well, quotas, or something.
The world is never fleshed out beyond its basic premise: on the interstellar frontier, everyone harvests “rift energy.” Rift energy is worth a fortune, but has an unfortunate side effect: it sometimes turns people into mutant “Outcasts.” The gold-rush-styled Rifters are determined to stake their rift energy claims and defend themselves against outcasts, and the Cowboys-and-Indians (meaning Native Americans) motif is complete.
Most levels require a healthy mix of on-foot shootouts, land and air-based vehicular combat, and strategy-oriented base building. I was impressed by how easy it is to switch between these gameplay styles; you might gun down a squad of enemies, build a few auto turrets and walls for defence, and then jump into a Starhawk for an impromptu dogfight all in a matter of minutes. While I had fun creating choke points and mowing down rows of mindless foes with auto turrets, some missions drag on far too long (including the final, ridiculously drawn-out boss battle), and I ran into a few frustrating checkpoints. Throw in some cheaply made animated cutscenes, forgettable characters, and dumb AI, and I was happy to move onto multiplayer by the time the credits rolled.
Capture the flag, deathmatch, team deathmatch, and Zones (which has teams capture points on the map to build their team score) make up Stahawk’s multiplayer modes. The added RTS gameplay mechanics make multiplayer much deeper than it was in Warhawk. Rather than find weapons, ammo, and vehicles scattered around the map, players will have to build structures that spawn these upgrades. Defensive walls and turrets can also be constructed, which comes in handy for protecting the team flag and creating choke points. This also makes teamwork all the more important when going up against a well organised opposing team. Communication and strategy is almost essential to getting a win, since plenty of time and resources can be wasted if everyone on a team ends up building the same structures. Killing enemies and performing accolades like landing a drop pod on an enemy’s head earn experience points, which can be used to unlock character skins and passive skills.
Starhawk has some of the best multiplayer on PlayStation 3. Our experience was quite smooth. In 32-player multiplayer, you’ll get capture the flag, deathmatch and team deathmatch, and a capture mode called Zones. You’ll fall into battle in pods, and you can control them in free fall in the hopes of destroying an enemy. The third-person shooter mechanics work extremely well, and if you’ve played one in the recent history, you’ll feel right at home. The guns feel futuristic, grenades do plenty of damage, and you aren’t completely frail. The RTS elements of the Starhawk make the game something worth obsessing over.
Like its protagonist, Starhawk is a half-breed, something out of the ordinary and against tradition. It picks up the narrative slack on the battlefield, where a simple strategy system is an inspiring spin on the third-person shooter. This hybrid form of thinking and shooting has a layered depth that comes completely to life in multiplayer, where building a fortress to protect a flag is as fun as flying headlong into the enemy’s HQ. Combining these gameplay elements seems so obvious that, in hindsight, it’s a wonder it’s taken this long to take off. The defining factors of Starhawk will, in all likelihood, garner a strong community to support it for years. Deservedly so: This is multiplayer at its finest, and it’s among the best you’ll find on any platform.
Well it’s certainly the shiniest hawk I’ve ever seen.