Starhawk suffers from something akin to an identity crisis. It can’t decide if it wants to be a vehicle based third person shooter or a real time strategy game with heavy tower defence elements. However, when the parts work together in unison, Starhawk is one of the finer online experiences i’ve had. Its only when those parts jam together uncomfortably that the game starts to come apart at the seams.
Trailers for Starhawk would have you believe that it has a deep, emotionally engaging campaign to play through at its core. Some of that sentence is indeed correct, Starhawk does have a single player campaign, but it feels more like an extended tutorial than something worth paying the retail price to play. Filled with stylish, but ultimately soulless cutscenes, the story feels more like window dressing than anything substantial. You’re Emmet, your brother is evil, and there’s going to be a whole lot of fighting between you and him. While the story is nothing special, the dialogue is at least delivered with conviction, and the music is outstanding. Starhawk has a main theme that worms its way in to your brain, and the game knows this all to well. It’ll play throughout the campaign, and by the end of the game you’ll be whistling it during the credits. The missions in the campaign itself feel somewhat like tower defence scenarios at times, with Emmet tasked with defending a waypoint against waves of enemies, with turrets and reinforcements ready to be used to the player’s full advantage. If there’s one thing satisfying about Starhawk, its laying down a few turrets and watching wave upon wave of enemy fall to them.
If there’s another thing Starhawk does well, its the hawks themselves. Nimble, powerful and above all fun, they steal the show every time you have the opportunity to drive one. Swooping down towards a horde of enemies and blowing them to kingdom come with a well placed missile is satisfying every time you do it, and the game makes sure you have plenty of opportunities to. However, in the multiplayer this it turned around somewhat. Hawks become less powerful, and more pests than predators. In Warhawk, the Hawks felt like killing machines, something to avoid and destroy when their backs are turned. In Starhawk, they feel like something to just sway out of the way. In fact, a lot of Starhawk’s vehicles feel underpowered in comparison to the player’s extensive arsenal. Balance changes have mitigated this feeling some, but it still feels strange to have your ride destroyed by a single well placed missile.
Multiplayer is undoubtedly the reason to come to Starhawk. The game also has a co-op mode, which is fun for a spell, but it doesn’t feel particularly interesting for long stretches of time. Where Starhawk thrives is in expansive 32 player battles, where you and your teammates build up your base defences through the game’s ‘build and battle’ system. Setting up walls, turrets and building vehicle spawn points feels natural and looks incredible, with structures plummeting towards the surface from the sky and building themselves before you. Of course, you can drop these buildings on other players, leading to some utterly hilarious moments. In fact, I felt like I wanted to drop buildings on my teammates a little too often. When your team in Starhawk is working well, then the game feels absolutely incredible. Building up your base, hopping in a vehicle together and taking down an enemy encampment is absolutely wonderful, but when the entirety of your team is building hawk launch pads, then it quickly becomes frustrating. If you’re going to play lone wolf, then don’t come to Starhawk for that, as you’re only going to hurt your team’s chances of winning. It isn’t just Deathmatch and CTF either, modes like Zones mix up the formula by getting you to capture points and hold them to accumulate points. Its all fast and fun, and I get the feeling I’m going to be playing these modes for quite some time.
Starhawk is a wonderful multiplayer experience wrapped up in a disappointing single player campaign. If you’re after multiplayer, then I can’t recommend it enough. However, if you’re only interested in the single player, then Starhawk isn’t going to be worth the cash. Its a game well worth experiencing with friends, but as a solo affair I’m afraid this bird’s wings have been severely clipped.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Top of the class multiplayer
- Smooth graphics with a great space western visual design
- Excellent soundtrack
What I Dislike:
- Single player feels like an afterthought
- The game's co-op mode feels repetitive
- Hawk health differing between single player and multiplayer