One of Starhawk’s biggest selling points is the fact that unlike 2007’s Warhawk, it features a single-player campaign. Developers Lightbox Interactive are now faced with the difficult task of providing an exciting single-player narrative to serve alongside a title that is already renowned as an online multiplayer game.
During the course of Starhawk’s single-player you will assume the role of Emmett who is a gun for hire caught up in a war for what’s known as Rift Energy. You fight alongside the Rifters as they fight off The Outcasts who aim to obtain all this newly discovered Rift Energy for themselves, whilst the Rifters aim to harvest and make money from it.
Starhawk has a very inFamous feel about it, in that the graphic novel style story telling is exactly like what we’ve seen in the inFamous series developed by Sucker Punch. It’s not just the graphic novel either, the movement of characters and the look of the enemies are also quite similar. This isn’t a bad thing, as inFamous is an amazing series itself, I just feel it’s worth pointing out the similarities between the two games.
During my preview session with the campaign I got to play three main missions in the game, which all included smaller objectives within them. The first mission had me defending a Rift Energy Generator from The Outcasts. On my way to the generator I got to ride one of the vehicles known as the Sidewinder which allowed me to speed through vast desert setting on the planet known as Dust. Pressing X allows you to jump with the Sidewinder, allowing you to pull of some meaningless stunts, as well as dodging obstacles. I was forced to hop off my Sidewinder a few times to gun down some enemies on route.
Combat is easy to get the hang of but also fun and challenging as you get swarmed by enemies. R1 is your trigger, pressing circle will lock you in or out of crouch mode, L2 lobs grenades at the enemy, and R2 allows you to sprint. Starhawk is of course a 3rd person game, but no cover system is necessary due to the nature of the battles the game provides. Things get much more complex as I quickly discovered once I made it to the generator.
You’ll have 30 seconds before the Outcast horde will approach, and during this time you’re able to build structures to aid you in your defense of the station. You must use the Rift Energy at your disposal (which is indicated via a meter in the top right of the screen) to build turrets, supply bunkers (which come with ammo), and defensive walls to fortify the area. You are still able to build after the horde has already began swarming you, provided you have enough Rift Energy and space to place structures. As you progress through the campaign you’ll find new structures that you can build to help during your mission. The amount of options at your disposal forces you to make strategic decisions about how to withstand your enemies. The result is an addictive desire to win, which will keep you engrossed.
Once you get the chance to utilise a Hawk Mech you’ll realise how dynamic Starhawk is. The ground battles are enough fun, but when hopping into a Mech you are able to transform into a star-fighter and engage in air based combat. The second part of the preview saw me flying through the space-ways above planet Dust to take out enemy hawks. If you don’t enjoy flying you can remain in Mech mode and pick off the rival Hawks from one of the platforms below, but how could that possibly be more fun than engaging in a dog-fight?
Keeping enemies within your sights can be difficult to get the hang of at first, as they are fast moving and you’ll be required to maneuver just like they do if you wish to take them out quickly. You can again shoot right R1, and picking up supply drops scattered near the various platforms will give you missiles and homing rockets. Eventually when more and more hawks joined the fray I found myself having to corkscrew and barrel-roll constantly to avoid a constant barrage of missiles. Thus it is vital that you can pick off the enemies as quick as possible when you’re out-numbered, as they’ll have you constantly on defense if given the chance. If you take too much damage you need only fly through a repair kit near one of the platforms.
Dog-fights are a lot easier to handle than they were in Warhawk. And with a campaign mode you’re able to perfect flying without having to worry about your online stats plummeting. Eventually you’ll be able to build structures that will spawn Hawk Mechs, ensuring you’ll be able to take flight in a battle whenever necessary.
The final mission in the preview basically urged me to use everything I had either learned or gained in the previous missions to capture and defend a base. It all came to an abrupt ending as the preview stopped me playing any further, but now I’m anxious more than ever to get my hands on this game.
The beta already proved that Starhawk has everything it takes to be a lasting PS3 online experience, but this preview showed me that the single-player campaign is more than just a booster to add more value to the game. It stands on it’s own as an engrossing, energetic experience. Emmett may seem like a generic action hero, but you’ll be bursting to find out more about him as the game progresses.
If you’re a fan of tower defense games, then Starhawk is easily the best experience you can get on a console.