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12:00 AM on 05.03.2012

Starhawk Offerings (part Three of Three)

Alright, so I've went through infantry and Build and Battle gameplay to a pretty good degree, now here's what I have on the vehicles.

The lightest and fastest vehicle in the game is the Jetbike. Beta testers finally got a taste of it about two months ago, and boy was it fun. Imagine it as the motorcycle (...of the future!) where you can speed past all other ground vehicles and use a jump ability- there's plenty of fun to be had in the Explore or (coming soon) Homeworld mode with this vehicle. For those looking for a very nimble vehicle, there's a Jetbike for that. Drivers will need to watch their surroundings, though- one rocket, grenade, or mine, and you're toast.

The Razorback is the next ground vehicle to cover. It offers more protection from enemies compared to the Jetbike at a slight cost of speed. This vehicle is very tough to roll over compared once again to the Jetbike or even the Jeep in Warhawk. It holds up to three people- the driver, the gunner, and the passenger. The driver gets to have similar controls to most racing games nowadays with the shoulder buttons covering most of the functions. The gunner stands on a turret emplacement in the back to not only protect the vehicle against any enemy that they'll drive by, but they can also shoot down passing by Rift barrels to gain extra Rift. The passenger can shoot out of the car in a limited angle- he won't be able to shoot across the driver, nor will he be able to cover the driver's right blind spot...

I'm going to toss in the Jetpack as a vehicle here. Why? It helps tremendously with maneuverability, and on maps like the Space - small map, it's needed for some of the map's vertical elements. Players jump in the air and then hit R2 to deploy the Jetpack. Boost is activated by hitting X or Circle to go up or down, respectively. Players can also get into a hover mode by holding the L1 button.

The Hawk was obviously the staple for Warhawk, and was probably the biggest point of discussion in the Starhawk beta. So many people wanted Normal Flight from Warhawk back, in which they decided to bring it back under the name Classic Arcade Flight. I've experienced all three flights: Normal, Advanced, and CAF, my preference being Advanced with full control of rolling and pitching. For Air to Air combat, I do find it more enjoyable with a few qualms. Dogfights last longer since Hawk weapons don't deal as much damage. You need to use a LOT of Swarm Laser missiles to take someone down; Homing missiles in the beta were far too slow to be effective in air combat, but in my opinion were far too easy to get air-to-ground kills with (the speed and damage of Homing missiles has been increased in the final release, so I expect my favorite Hawk weapon to be effective in the right area once again;) Air mines are deployed in packs of four, and as they magnetize and attach to planes rather than explode upon impact, they can be shaken off; Flak shells are very strong with limited ammo- it can take about 3 shells to destroy a Hawk with an ammo capacity of 6 shells. The last weapon I got to try was the Torpedo, which was incredibly powerful but fair to go up against- players need to charge the Torpedo before they can deploy it, and it cannot be guided remotely. The weapons/abilities I didn't get to try out were the Cluster bombs, the Cloak, and electromagnetic shields, but I did get a chance to see 'em in play, and they'll be fun to use not only in the air, but on the ground as well, aiding in protecting assets.

Last but not least is the Ox Heavy Tank. It's got a lot of firepower, yet taking the right approach at it will destroy it in a few blows. The tank seats two people as before in Warhawk, but the driver gets a nice addition to the 2-shot Tank Cannon- an Artillery Cannon that is devastating against enemy infantry, ground vehicles, and buildings. It's very slow, and it had a few aiming issues on uneven terrain in the beta, but I expect that to be fixed when the game is released.

All in all, every portion in this game is very effective in its own way; it's up to the player to decide what to use and how to use it. If you want more information on each aspect of the game, check out my clan's Starhawk 101 section at this link: . Until then, I'll see you in the Frontier!   read

3:08 PM on 04.20.2012

Starhawk Offerings (part Two of Three)

As my previous post went into detail on the Build and Battle System, today, I want to talk about the Ground Combat. There are a few things to address- aiming and movement, weapons and pickups, the jetpack, how it stacks against vehicles, and how it compares overall to other games.

So players get an off-center camera that controls like most third person shooters released over the past three years- the L1 button brings the camera closer to an 'over-the-shoulder' position, and released brings the viewpoint back; on the Railgun, pressing in the Right stick alters the scope magnification. The X button allows the player to jump, Square to reload a weapon, Circle to crouch, and Triangle to bring up the Build and Battle menu. Weapon pickups are assigned to the D-pad- Left is for the Kinetic Rifle, Up for the Rocket Launcher, Down for the Union Shotgun, Right for the Railgun, Left & Down for the Welding Torch, and Down and Right for the Proximity Mines. The controls feel very fluid at default sensitivity, and aiming down the sight feels intuitive. Oh, I should also mention that there is no 'sticky aim' assist on the rifle like there was on Warhawk. Finally, R2 is used to sprint- if you're not firing at someone, you should be using it to get around quickly.

As for infantry weapons, there were only five primary weapons of seven implemented in the beta (I'm not including the Welding Torch on the list.) Weapon damage is lower than what most people expect, as it's to reward those who can keep their aim steady, not necessarily who can shoot first- after all, latency causes plenty of arguments. When you're using the Kinetic Rifle, since you have a magazine of 48 bullets, it takes about 6-8 bullets to kill an enemy with continuous fire; it takes 3-4 if you use semi-auto fire at the enemy's head. It has the range from 0-250 feet against infantry, and then further back against vehicles- after all, it's easier to find and hit a larger target. The MAW Rocket Launcher is the de-facto anti-vehicle weapon- it takes two shots to destroy a Razorback or Hawk, three on an Ox Tank, and one against a Jetbike or a player in a Jetpack. Players can take down a ground troop with a direct hit on the torso, but oftentimes people are just aiming for feet- that will take two hits to kill, then. As for the Union Shotgun, the damage rate is erratic- I find that rushing in and getting a point blank shot will land 1-2 hit kills, and then other times it'll take 3-4 shots to take 'em down. The Railgun is perhaps my favorite sniper rifle in a multiplayer game, due to the fact it takes two shots that land on the body to kill the enemy, and one for a headshot kill; enemies will see a laser fade in when you're aiming at them, so you need to be quick at the trigger to be effective, and effective I am. Finally, the R-sec Proximity mines are particularly effective against enemies attacking your base, but enemy vehicles as well- if you stick the mines on the ground, they'll reattach to enemy vehicles driving by. You can also throw them on your own vehicle and drive by an enemy vehicle to allow them to swap to their vehicle; be careful, though, if they're triggered by a ground troop, they won't leave your vehicle, and they explode when they're shot!

All players not only spawn with the Kinetic Rifle, but the knife and a pair of grenades as well. Use your viewing angle and then hit L2 to toss a grenade- they explode half a second after touching the ground, so try and guide them into the enemy. As for the knife, hitting the right stick in will perform a quick slash. If you're right next to an enemy, tap the right stick in to perform a 'drama kill'- which is just slow enough for a teammate to save you, if you're the victim in this case. You can also use the knife on enemy auto-turrets- if you press in the right stick when prompted to, your character jumps on top of the turret, pulls out the knife, then stabs the optical sensor to disable it.

For those who want to gain even more maneuverability, the Vulture jetpack is your answer! If a Hawk is harassing your base by a series of 'fly by and fire a ton of missiles," grab one of these and a rocket launcher to get that kill. It also helps against any obstacles the enemy might make to prevent ground troops from getting into their base. They only have so much energy before you have to land and let the battery charge up again, so watch where you're going to land! To use the jetpack, jump into the air, then hold R2 to activate it. Boosting is possible with it by using X to fly upwards or Circle to fly downwards. Players can hover by holding L1 then releasing R2- it still drains energy, so watch the energy meter on it.

So, there's the infantry abilities. Although it's incredibly easy to run people over in the middle of the road with a Razorback, it becomes very tough to run someone over when they're in a building or have other sort of cover to use. Taking down vehicles is very doable when combining firepower with planning and situational awareness. Grab those rocket launchers, proximity mines, shotguns, and even rifles to finish off those pesky jeeps and tanks (yes, I've taken down a handful of tanks by finishing them off with the basic rifle, obviously because I ran out of ammo on other things.)

So, how does the infantry stack to other games? Well, my first thought to the new camera was that it was very reminiscent of Uncharted, but I had heard comparisons to Red Faction: Guerrilla, and that's the closest depiction that I can think of, other than people are to build and destroy than to destroy alone. Also, Starhawk's controls don't feel as jerky as that game's.

All in all, it's very well presented, the controls are smooth and pretty easy to pick up, yet it will take a little while to utilize all that you're given to conquer the battlefield.

Join me next time as I conclude this little series. 'Till then, stay classy!   read

10:10 AM on 04.16.2012

Starhawk Offerings (part One of Three)

Welcome back. (Or, if you're new here, take a few minutes and read my two previous posts.) I'm going to continue my thoughts on what Starhawk (or at least the public beta) has had to offer. I will be posting a three-part piece on what this game has to offer in multiplayer, this first part being a comprehensive look on the Build and Battle System.

The surprising element to the game's announcement was the "RTS-Light" system called Build and Battle. I know that a few of my clanmembers from the Rebel Alliance had been following rumors of the game for two years, yet absolutely no one saw this coming! Games like Killzone 3 and MAG have felt stale after underwhelming spawn systems and other battle management, not to mention 2-4 bullet kills. With Starhawk, I have envisioned a game that I can build my base and outposts EXACTLY how I see fit.

At the beginning of the beta and at multiple media previews, there were no pre-set structures- players had to get their base and garages up before the action could begin. Players gain Rift Energy by either standing in their base or Outpost (putting an Outpost in a base or two Outposts next to each other won't increase the speed at which you gain rift,) or by blowing up Rift Barrels set in specific areas of the map. At the 1.3 update, hosts can specify whether or not there could be pre-built bases, cutting down time trying to set up a base. However, it is my opinion that the B&B system allows players to hop into a vehicle just as quick (if not more quickly) than the pre-built bases in Warhawk. 1)When the vehicle is destroyed, you can either get to a preexisting garage and build a new vehicle, or create a new garage and take off; 2) If you end up in the middle of nowhere, you can immediately create a garage, rather than wander towards the nearest base.

As this is a multiplayer game we're dealing with, you have to work with what you have in teammates to accomplish your goals. Early in the beta, players couldn't reclaim other teammate's structures, but after seeing the multiple 'Wall of China"s, Starhawk developer Lighbox Interactive threw in a hotfix that would allow teammates to reclaim anyone's walls as a way to manage resources; better yet, it gives a portion of the energy put into the structure back to the original builder, so no harm done.

Building a base has become quite easy on the "non-building" loadouts, since it appears that players gain rift more quickly than blowing up Rift Barrels. It probably contributes to the reason why in the 1.3 beta, people were refraining from getting out of their base. As the system gives a lot of freedom to players, there are servers where both teams 'turtle' their way to a stalemate on a Capture the Flag game. I have given feedback on how to reduce that, and one of the ways is to cut down the amount of resources that can be set in a base at 16 structures.

Onto offensive capabilities: the system not only provides a pretty easy way to call upon vehicles, but the most important tools of the trade- weapons! If vehicular manslaughter isn't your idea of fun, then either set down a Watchtower (sniper tower) or Supply Bunker- those will contain all of the goodies you'll need as a bonafide ground pounder. There were also two bots that players could expand their fighting capabilities with- machinegun and particle beam turrets. Placing three or more of these turrets next to each other essentially defend the area by the bots themselves, and I do see a slight issue with that if players can claim rift quickly. If there are five machinegun turrets surrounding the enemy flag, it's going to be a while before all of them are destroyed. The three best ways to go after them are with two hits from a rocket launcher, a single shot on the optical sensor from the sniper rifle, or a single stab at the sensor from the knife; the problem with this is that doing so consumes quite a bit of ammo, and if one or more defenders are nearby, expect them to spam more turrets then pursue you.

That brings me to my final piece to talk about- the Outposts. The structures are fairly weak, but not only do they get your team closer to the enemy base, they also get players out of harms way when the enemy is surrounding your own base. It takes some people longer than others to realize how they should and shouldn't be used- for example, putting one in the base does absolutely nothing but spend energy on the building and reduce the team's building abilities by one structure. Throwing one in the enemy's base is to either begin sabotaging their base or ask one of the opponents to gain a little extra rift by blowing it up with all of what they have. When it's placed in the right area on the map, close to resources yet is difficult for the enemy to reach, your team will have that area neatly locked down. I consider these structures as a mix and then a final improvement between what Killzone 2 and 3 offer for the Tactician class; in KZ2, you can spawn wherever you want to throw the spawn grenade, and in KZ3, you can continuously spawn from the Tactical Spawn Point as long as your faction has possession of the point- the major difference is that players don't spawn from an entity point on the map, they use the Drop Pod to jet down from the Dropship away from enemy activity (or even crush an enemy with the Pod, giving you a kill and a nice in-game medal.)

All in all, there's a lot of flexibility in this system. While servers full of random people unable to communicate with each other tended to show that they play like a chicken with its head cut off, a rather evolutionary stage is set up when players coordinate their offense and defense. If the suggestions are implemented by the Day 1 patch, you can bet that clan games will be incredibly fun to participate in and even watch.

Next time, I will discuss how I have approached the ground game on the beta. Until then... stay classy, Frontier!   read

4:15 PM on 04.10.2012

Starhawk - From a First Glimpse

After seventeen weeks of beta testing, Starhawk has been analyzed over and over again by its community through various forms of media- Facebook, Twitter, its own beta forums and other corners of the Internet has had discussions on which mechanics need to stay, and which need to be improved upon.

This is not the story for that.

Rather, I'd like to recall my first times having my go at the game. I had been able to attend PAX Prime 2011 (in which you will see the shirt I had received there in my profile pic.) I had been admitted to the Closed Beta phase on November 22nd of last year. My first time playing was actually quite abysmal to where my knowledge of the gameplay stands now, but then again, who couldn't blame me after drooling over the shiny new successor to one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time?

It was late August, and I had gotten off work on an early shift and was hastily making my way into downtown Seattle to not only get into PAX, but also meet with a few buddies and get to the PS Booth. Once those objectives were completed, I managed to find my way to the Starhawk section, where there were 10 stations set up for some Capture the Flag on the Space map.

It took about 15 minutes to get into a match (not too bad,) and from there, it was time to experiment! First thing on my list to do was to spawn in anywhere in the base- (Sweet, I don't have to spawn in backwards like in some situations in Killzone 3!) That lead to me experimenting with the Drop Pod, in which I remembered a discussion that game studio Lightbox Interactive's president, Dylan Jobe, mentioned that anything that falls off the platform will continue to fall and be pulled into the planet's gravity and thus dissolve into a death- my experimentation lead me to that death while still in the Drop Pod. I ran through other experiments, where I built a garage for a Razorback (I immediately loved it) and ran over a few enemies with it before getting blown up somehow; I later set up a Launch Pad to fly a few laps around before getting shot down (needless to say, Flight is incredibly different.) Before the demo ended, I ran over to the enemy's base and set up a Sniper Tower (now called the Watchtower,) and proceeded to destroy two machinegun turrets and kill a few enemies before time expired.

Afterwards, a buddy and I proceeded to have a 'filmed discussion' on our thoughts on Starhawk. He had no prior experience with Warhawk, but I did, so we had an interesting dynamic going on about how the game translates between those familiar with the series and those who don't. Unfortunately, all of which I had mentioned about Warhawk was cut out- we were given two appearances in the Starhawk Reaction Trailer at 0:30 and 2:20 on the video.

Fast forward to November- I had received my invite for the Closed Beta, and after a 1.3 gigabyte install, it was time to see how things played once again. After getting a full understanding of the size and routes on the Space map, attacking the opposition became much easier. I figured out soon enough that players need to gain rift as frequently as possible to not only build up the base, but also get the tools needed to get into the enemy's base, take their flag, then capture it. Hell, the first night, I discovered the Welding Torch and used it on an enemy base that had ~10 walls around the flag, plus various machinegun- and beam-turrets. My team was down by one flag with two minutes left in the match, and I managed to capture two flags in 90 seconds.

That night was so enjoyable, it felt like Christmas in November. Well, I know that most retailers want to make you believe it already is then, but I digress. I've participated in twelve betas, and the Starhawk is as memorable, if not moreso, than the Killzone 2 beta.   read

4:12 AM on 03.24.2012

Letter of Intent!

For those who have stumbled upon this small corner, I hope I can keep five minutes of your time.

The name's warezIbanez, (it's pronounced as 'where is E bahn yez'.) I'm currently an officer for the Rebel Alliance Clan, its site is right here. I had led the group for a bit, and since relinquishing command, the group has grown to twice the size since.

If I didn't have to worry about cleanliness, I'd wear that Starhawk shirt 24/7. As part of *RA*, I had been involved in Warhawk outside of the group, but am now a part of the leadership for it. Other games we get into are Killzone 3, Uncharted 3, some Twisted Metal, Killzone 2, Burnout Paradise, and various other titles that aren't coming to mind at this time.

I hope to carry news on Starhawk in which DTOID is clearly lacking for the past month while most other gaming sites have been on the case! You'll find my own impressions on each aspect of it here. Oh, and of course I'll probably go into a couple ramblings on why Killzone 3 was such a disappointment from a true Killzone fan.

It's late here, so I think I'll just stagger away from my desk... where's the throat spray?   read

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