The Latest

Starhawk Review

Track the trajectory of most console-based, competitive shooters and you’ll discover more evolution than revolution. Mercifully, that’s not the case with LightBox Interactive’s Starhawk. Although born from the fundamental design philosophies which propelled Warhawk past its fly-and-frag peers, the near-faultless integration of a construction component allows the title to feel remarkably unique. In an era when many comparable games have turned their gaze inward, offering amenities such as Battlelog or Call of Duty: Elite to peer into the minutiae of matches, Skyhawk has fixed its sights on a higher echelon, delivering enjoyably mutable, consistently engaging online battles.

Trading the oft-tedious resource gathering and micromanagement of real-time strategy game for an emphasis on vehicular, aerial and infantry-based conflicts, Skyhawk strikes a solid balance between tactical and trigger-happy. In lieu of sending drones out to mine material, the title’s resource- Rift energy is acquired via the execution of foes or the destruction of respawning barrels. As players collect the commodity, they are able to call up orbital drops, which offer up goodies ranging from defensive walls, turrets, weapon depots, and even stations which dispense fearsome mechs.

Starhawk’s five-hour single player campaign teaches the fundamentals of the title’s “Build and Battle” system as well as demonstrates the abilities and weaknesses of each weapon and vehicle. It’s here that the balance of the game is conveyed as gamers use their mechanized Hawks to raze flying foes one moment, before becoming obliterated by a single soldier with a rocket launcher. Currently, the game’s equilibrium seems fair, but improbable-with rifles taking a dozen blasts to down foes and mechs transformed into scrap by a few hastily thrown hand grenades.

Although it’s clear the solo component is supposed to serve as a tutorial, the mode’s stress-free pacing does little to prepare players from frenzied multiplayer matches. In a battlefield filled with thirty-two human combatants, Starhawk is a radically different and every fluctuating whirlwind. Predictably, human competitors are hellbent on reducing your construction efforts into rubble and don’t arrive with the telltale indicator of the single-player game. As such, jumping from Starhawk’s off-line campaign into the competitive realm can be a jarring experience. Ideally, the game would have offered customizable skirmishes which more closely simulate the bedlam of multiplayer battles.

However, once players acclimate to the pace and patterns of online conflicts, the title truly shines. Traveling with a trio of players aboard the off-road ready Razorbacks endows Starhawk with a sense of camaraderie, with driver and passenger barking out enemies locations to the machine gunners mounted atop. Vulture jet packs convey a pleasing sensation of flight, with soldiers shifting between using their limited fuel supply for momentum and euphoric glides over expanses of the battlefield. Naturally, the Hawks serve as the game’s showpiece, and when their rousing theme music begins, players can feel invulnerable. Between the missile lock-on and discharge countermeasure in aerial battles and the ability to summon up infantry-flinging stomps, controlling these transforming machines feels sufficiently exhilarating.

As pleasing as the game’s vehicles are, Starhawk’s greatest virtual is the variability of battles. With thirty-two participants all buzzing about the title organically offers up a bevy of objectives.  From sabotaging emerging enemy installations, keeping the skies clear of adversarial hawks, or working cooperatively to build a force field capable of repelling enemy fire, Starhawk never has to pull up a checklist of assignments. If fact, such an agenda would be quickly rendered obsolete by the shifting tides of warfare, as domination is delightfully (and deliberately) unstable. The sole exception can we witnessed when one team has an excess of vehicles, capable of overshadowing the other squad’s respawns.

Visually, Starhawk’s environments are all well textured and ingeniously crafted, with the engine exhibiting extended draw distances across its locales. This graphical competence becomes especially noticeable when contrasted against the game’s single-player cutscenes, which employ a bland, comic-book like aesthetic. In execution, this means Starhawk is the rare game whose in-game rendering outshine its cinematics. The game’s storyline seems similarly underdeveloped, using much of the same space western tropes we have seen in titles such as Red Faction: Armageddon.

Starhawk’s single-player element aside, the title offers some of the most engrossing combat found on the PlayStation 3. Innately there’s a diminutive sense of investment as players build bases. As opponents come to annihilate your structure, a sense of retribution impassions players, unearthing an impetus that is absence from most frag-for-frag bouts. As long as LightBox Interactive keeps the community engaged with free DLC content and regular tweaks to get the combat balanced, Starhawk has the potential to accompany Sony’s console to the end of its lifecycle.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

29 comments

  1. When I see the word “Rift” I think of another game. 😉

    Good review. I’m glad to talked about the the SP game.

  2. I just noticed that the size of comments box could be changed when you write in it cool.

    Also cool, this review. From what I played from the beta, I really liked the game. Glad you covered the good and bad

  3. I loved Warhawk, so I’ll be grabbing this. Hopefully, a sale will happen in the next few weeks.

  4. Good review, Deagle.

    Can you play with more than 2 teams like 4, 8 player teams?

    • Nope, only two teams. That would be a cool option. Maybe Lightbox will put it in later.

  5. I really hope this does well. Great game. Agree- construction adds so much to the game.

  6. It’s too bad the single player game wasn’t better. Still I hear the MP is great.

  7. I’m loving StarHawk so far. Been Playing it all weekend. I really haven’t seen the spawn camping you talked about.

  8. Good write up Deagle. Always liked Warhawk and I’m sure I’d like this even more.

    So glad you don’t have to pay to play online.

  9. How come you didn’t mention the coop game which is pretty cool. Feels very different from the other modes.

  10. I remember SeanNOLA talking about the game months ago. He seemed to really like it.

  11. Kickass review, Deagle. I saw you started a small war of your own on N4G. hehe.

    I wish they offered a downloadable version for cheaper like they did with Warhawk.

  12. MightyBombJake

    “But Starhawk feels half-there, like its pieces don’t quite fit together, and it can’t keep pace with other, better multiplayer titles out there.”

    Much better review at the Verge: http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2012/5/7/3004193/starhawk-review where they aren’t all Sony fanboys.

    • For such an amazing amount of industry people, I’m underwhelmed so far. Maybe it was inevitable.

      The Starhawk review was ok, but it didn’t give me a sense of why the game doesn’t fit together. Also, that’s the case with many games. The SP and MP modes of Mass Effect don’t really fit, but why not call that game out.

      Anyway, I guess I’m most disappointed at the troll defense force. Brian Crecente and other feel the need to defend the review. Justin McElroy trades INSULTS with readers. REALLY? Your really need to act above that, otherwise you’ll never win.

      • Justin McElroy can be funny but the guys a total forum douche, telling everyone who disagrees with him to get lost.

        But maybe it’s a technique to get more page views and the guys a total genius. Who knows.

        • Total way to get page-hits. You notice how they don’t get rid of any of the inflammatory homophobic language?

          Real classy, Polygon.

      • Yeah, making fun of people even if they fully deserve it seems a little low. I’d rather read their reviews that see them trade insults with trolls. Justin did that at Joystiq too.

      • I’m sure once Verge/Polygon gets going it will get better. They really haven’t even launched yet.

  13. Glad to hear this got a good score. The beta was really good.

  14. Who wants to bet that we’ll see a similar Xbox game in the next two years or so? A game that uses the building idea.

  15. How many different vehicles are there? Does the combat feel anything feel like Halo at all?

  16. Always good to hear about a asskicking PS3 exclusive.Makes me happy about my purchase.

    Any idea what kind of DLC they wll offer?

  17. Any word on the exclusive Gamestop stuff that came out? Was that the free DLC that everyone will get?

  18. Hows the lag when all 32 people are playing?

  19. This game was recommended to me and after reading this review, I might go ahead and just get it. Great review!

  20. Great review, you Sony fanboys. 😉

    I guess people can’t like a game without being a console zealot anymore.

  21. I tried the demo and it just felt like more Warhawk to me. The buildings were cool and all but there was too much of a limited on how many you could build. Same problem as Dungeon Defenders.