Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Starhawk

Review: Starhawk

2:00 PM on 08.10.2012 // Darren Nakamura
  @Dexter345

When Starhawk was announced as the follow-up to 2007's PlayStation 3 exclusive Warhawk, cynical gamers wondered if it would be nothing more than Warhawk in space. Going into this completely cold, I was expecting another generic space marine story. Fortunately for Starhawk, it bucks both of those expectations.

After finishing the single-player campaign, I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, and was eager to check out the multiplayer, expecting it to be an excellent tactical experience.

Unfortunately, that's when Starhawk deviated from my expectations for a second time.

Starhawk (PlayStation 3)
Developer: Lightbox Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Released: May 8, 2012
MSRP: $59.99

From the outset, Starhawk lets the player know that it isn't going to be just like all the other science fiction-themed third-person shooters. Set in a galaxy where small human colonies were set up to harvest a powerful energy source called rift, Starhawk takes on a space western genre not unlike that seen in Firefly. Players control Emmet, a mercenary of sorts, who is hired to protect the rift-mining colonies from raids by the Outcasts, a group of former humans who have endured so much rift exposure that they've become mutated.

The space western setting is exploited to its fullest, complete with hoverbikes in place of horses, barren desert planets, and even a space train robbery. The music is an especially nice touch, with sweeping woodwind melodies that accompany vehicular movement and combat, and more understated background music while traveling on foot.

Vehicular combat is central to Starhawk, as it was in Warhawk. In addition to the aforementioned hoverbikes, there are also trucks (complete with a mounted machine gun, of course), tanks, and the eponymous Hawks. Hawks are like small fighter jets that can transform into bipedal mechs, which is every bit as cool as it sounds. There are a handful of missions that require the use of Hawks, but many are open ended, letting the player choose how to deal with the threat.

The really surprising gameplay addition that helps to make Starhawk especially unique is the Build-and-Battle system. At the cost of some rift, Emmet can call his partner Cutter, who is constantly orbiting the current area, ready to drop supplies down for Emmet's use.

It starts off fairly simple, with things like walls and turrets, which call to mind a very Iron Brigade feeling, but it expands from there to include customly placed bunkers, sniper towers, jetpacks, reinforcement areas, garages, and even Hawk landing pads. The substantial amount of freedom given is a huge plus; for instance, a player can be defensive with walls and turrets, or instead put up a landing pad in order to take control of a Hawk and go on the offensive.

With the Build-and-Battle system, Starhawk does a decent job at keeping missions feeling fresh. There are frequently multiple possible solutions to a particular problem, though on some levels your capability is limited in order to encourage variety. As one who never became entirely comfortable flying a Hawk, I can appreciate the levels that require it, but I can appreciate even more the levels that allow it as an option alongside other equally viable and completely different paths to victory.

While the gameplay and setting are interesting, the story itself falls a little flat. A lot of it is told via graphic novel-esque cutscenes. While the cutscenes look great, the backstory is not particularly well conveyed. At one point, there is a big reveal of the evil mastermind behind all of the raids, and it's clear that Emmet is emotionally affected by it, but it isn't explained to the player why that is until later, and by then, the moment has passed. Near the end, there is another scene that is clearly meant to be emotionally heavy, but with a disconnect between characters Emmet cares about and characters the player cares about, it seems melodramatic at best. It is not the worst videogame story ever, and it certainly gets points for being relatively unique, but Starhawk won't be winning any awards for its narrative.

Of course, when it comes to shooters, many can overlook mediocre storytelling if the main focus of the game is in the multiplayer. Herein is my biggest disappointment with Starhawk. After enjoying the campaign immensely, I expected the multiplayer to be a deeply tactical, team-based affair. And it certainly tries to be that, but few small issues compound to keep it from being truly great.

The most noticeable problem with the multiplayer is the lag. It is a strange breed of lag, where the player's own movements and actions are never delayed, but the consequences of those actions are, and by significant fractions of a second. For instance, when playing offline, a few shots from the default assault rifle will explode a barrel of rift. The same number of shots will do that online, but the explosion won't occur immediately, causing the player to waste several shots.

More frustrating is the PvP combat, where a rocket can detonate near an enemy infantryman, but far enough that there may be doubt about whether it would be a kill, causing the player to wait until the explosion presumably registers on the other end before the kill is counted. Most annoying is melee combat, which frequently devolves into both combatants circle-strafing and slashing at thin air until one teleports onto the other and delivers a deathblow. While the lag does not make Starhawk unplayable, it definitely creates some irritating situations.

Once the player becomes accustomed to the strange lag, the balance issues begin to pop up. The game is titled Starhawk, so it is not surprising that the Hawks play a central role in the multiplayer, but they are really a dominating force. If one team has more skilled pilots than the other, it is almost an automatic win. The Hawks are faster than any of the land vehicles, and they are equipped with enough countermeasures that they are incredibly difficult to take down from anywhere other than another Hawk. Naturally, given their speed, maneuverability, and strength against infantry, they are a perfect spawn-camping weapon. A particularly unsportsmanlike Hawk pilot can camp an enemy's spawn in mech form, stomp on any infantry that get near, fire a huge assortment of weapons, and quickly convert to fighter form to make a getaway if things get too heated.

The relative power of the Hawks is pretty well known, and a game mode exists that specifically excludes Hawks from being buildable. Unsurprisingly, these are some of the most popular game modes online.

Past the Hawks, each player can also earn one Skill to equip. Many of these are small bonuses, and not unlike Perks seen in the recent Call of Duty games. Some of these include extra ammunition, always spawning with a particular weapon, or the ability to survive a vehicle explosion. One Skill in particular seems overwhelmingly powerful, and as a result, most players who have it use it. It allows you to destroy enemy buildings and vehicles with melee attacks, which is something that can normally only be done with grenades, rockets, or vehicles.

Grenades and rockets are not infinite, so unless a bunker is nearby, they aren't a viable option for building destruction. Vehicles are expensive, and prone to destruction themselves. Melee attacks are infinite and quick. There is simply nothing more disheartening than saving up rift for half a game to spend it on one of the most expensive buildings only to have one lone enemy ride in on a cheap bike and madly slash at it for a few seconds to topple it.

Another thing that makes multiplayer less enjoyable than I had expected it to be is actually not the fault of Lightbox at all. For a game that requires as much coordination as Starhawk, there are disconcertingly few people playing it with headsets. It is a pretty common tactic to begin a match and immediately spawn a hoverbike corral, then hop on the bike and rush the enemy before they can put up significant defenses. It is not an awful tactic to employ, but it becomes increasingly less useful the more teammates do it. The total number of buildings per team is limited, and having a half dozen corrals wastes rift as well as slots for buildings. A well-organized team will have some players in charge of defense and others in charge of offense, but such a team is an impossibility if nobody communicates.

Lastly, Starhawk features no mid-game team balancing. If a player drops out and nobody new joins, his team is at a disadvantage, causing a cascade of poor performance leading to more dropouts. While being switched to a losing team can be annoying for the one person who is switched, not having any functionality for it is annoying for the entire team that is put at a disadvantage.

Otherwise, there are some cool ideas to be found in the multiplayer. In addition to the usual team deathmatch and capture the flag modes, there is also a mode called Zones, which tasks players with holding points on the map. As one team's influence increases around one of these points, the zone around it grows, providing a bigger area for teammates to spawn. Spawning itself is pretty well done, where the player designates his drop zone and careens toward the ground with a little bit of control over the pod. Landing on an enemy kills him, so spawn campers who are not paying enough attention can get some retribution, but most skilled players can easily avoid a falling pod.

All in all, the multiplayer portion of Starhawk is not bad. The disappointment stems from the notion that it could have been truly great, but a few design decisions and strange lag keep it from achieving that. As a single-player experience, Starhawk exceeds expectations, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it for those who prefer to play alone, if only to try out the undeniably cool Build-and-Battle system.



THE VERDICT

7

Starhawk - Reviewed by Darren Nakamura
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Darren Nakamura, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Dexter345 Tips
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Starhawk


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Video Gaming Bits -- Rampage: Total Destruction

Roses are black, PS4 lights are blue; This is a game, and it has valkyries too?

Cblogs of 02/10/16 and WONDER-isms

Modern face of survival horror

Discussion Discussion on Games

PStoid Episode 38: Doomed from the Box Art

Cblogs of 2/9/16 - Only Slightly Late Edition

Narrative Mistakes: Mass Effect's Reapers As Primary Villains

Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
So, SMT IV: Final looks like it'll make fans of the older games happy. Especially fans of SMT 2.
Flegma avatarFlegma
Do games go in cycles like style? I mean, I think I can just as well play my 1993 Space Hulk (PC CD) instead of getting the moderately new Space Hulk instead.
Occams avatarOccams
Naruto 4 installs on my PS4 and it updates. Game says it can't run story mode during installation. Nothing's installing though. Restarted PS4. Reinstalled. Nothing. Fucking dumb.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
This plays in my head every time I tell myself to stay determined.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Tonight, I learned what Flanx and MrNovember sound like in discord, listened to the best idea for a movie ever, and learned a little more about the depths of human depravity. A night well spent. Fuck us all.
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
So, the artist that they used for Street Fighter 5's story mode(the arcade one) is kinda...not good. Go look up Laura's CGs. Colors are pale, and proportions sometimes end up kinda bonkers. Like, "extreme hourglass figure" level of bonkers.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Justin Timberlake blasts Kuma in the ass and dies.
ooktar avatarooktar
I'm loving these fighting game elitists trying to give me shit because I criticized Street Fighters Fight Money business model.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Thanks to Dtoid I now have this gif in my life, and I can't stop laughing. I seriously can't get over it.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Finished SOMA today , was able to do a second run without enemies with the "Wuss" mod, found it actually more frightening has you get more time to think about what is really going instead of doing hide-and-seek with the AI (Alien Isolation I miss you)
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
I stayed up late last Saturday writing a Dead Space 4 proposal outline. Solved every plot hole, had plenty of badass moments. This is the state I live in, people.
Torchman avatarTorchman
WHY DO THEY GET SOUNDS BUT PIKACHU AND CHARIZARD CAN'T. WTF
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Finished my Storge set and 4/5ths of that was on the clock today o_O I also got a dragonlord eyepatch, which is totally practical covering the right eye when Cyndel's hair covers up the left eye.
Lawman avatarLawman
So Zack Furniss told me I should play Dying Light on Hard. Guess who's never listening to Zack Furniss again? :-/
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Deadpool spoilers: He gets cancer.
beargreasey avatarbeargreasey
So Kanye just announced his new game, Only Once. It looks beautiful and personal. It's just a shame that I still have no idea what it is.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I dunno why people are getting so huffy about Windows Store / XbOne Quantum Break crossbuy. It means double the gamerscore for me, and AW and AW:AN are rereleasing on the One so I'll have owned them 3 times over. Great games.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
I once considered pitching an idea for a Dtoid Australia podcast, but then I realised it'd probably just be Zyk and I getting drunk on Foster's and complaining about Atlus for half an hour each week while incessantly calling each other cunts.
Parismio avatarParismio
New Splatfest is Pokemon Red vs Pokemon Blue. Im Blue Team bitches!
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Been sick but these pills are fixing me right up. [img]http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-don-t-call-it-a-comeback-i-ve-been-here-for-years-ll-cool-j-63-60-01.jpg[/img]
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -