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!