Review: Starhawk (PS3)

Starhawk tells the story of the dangers of our reliance on sustainable energy sources. Okay, maybe not.

You play Emmett Graves, gun-for-hire, in the middle of the scuffle between the humans, who wants to use a mysterious blue force known as Rift Energy as a valuable fuel source; and the Outcast, who want to stop the humans (of course) from exploiting anymore Rift Energy from The Frontier, a bunch of planets in outer space, home to massive amounts of untapped Rift Energy.

The game combines third-person shooting sequences with aerial dogfighting acrobatics. That sounds familiar, though probably not so much because Starhawk is the spiritual successor of Warhawk, but because it first sounded like Nintendo’s StarFox and I must say the aerial combat feels like it, too, although it is nothing similar to the adventures of Fox McCloud.

The various combat styles are introduced as you play the story campaign. First, the typical third-person shooter that, for some reason, assigns aiming and shooting to the L1 and R1 keys, something I discovered painfully when I lobbed a grenade attempting to aim with L2. Emmett has a set of 8 weapons he can keep in his inventory, though it is the weapons he has to find first. Once you get used to the controls and waste a few scabs (the slur used to call members of The Outcast), the game drops you in on your unique ability: the ability to spend Rift Energy collected from fallen foes and energy barrels to call in heavy machinery from above, thanks to your buddy Cutter, who floats in the safety of outer space in the good ship Albatross.

It’s a slick ability as you hold onto triangle and call in the hardware of your choice, ranging from turrets, supply bunkers and protective walls, point to where you want it dropped and it falls from the sky, deployed in seconds, making your task that much easier. Just don’t stand where your hardware can fall and crush you, or it’s game over. The game often gives you about a minute to get your defences up before the enemy comes down, so plan your Rift Energy points and build time carefully. If you get in a pickle, call in allies by dropping an outpost beacon and turn the odds in your favour. If you have enough energy points, build extra launch pads for your friends so they can fly around on your command, just don’t expect them to take care of the precious jets. they won’t bring them back for repairs.

Then comes the aerial combat, where you are introduced to the Hawks (thus Starhawk), a walking mech that can transform Michael Bay-style into a jet fighter. You have your infinite machine gun on the jet, along with another set of 8 weapons for aerial combat that the player can pick up at many convenient locations around the map. You’ll want to make friends with swarm missiles and the cluster bombs, although my personal favourite is the homing missile, capable of some serious damage. The pickups are all colour-coded as well, so the player knows to look for the hexagonal red health pickup if the jet gets in trouble. Dogfighting enthusiasts should feel at home here because Starhawk offers Emmett some pretty cool evasive manoeuvres when enemy missiles are locked on to him.

Finally, the vehicular combat portions of the game, usually when you have added help to man the minigun attached. You can choose to drive and run over enemies for a one-hit kill let the AI drive, which does so rather competently. You can still drive and point the guy to where you need to shoot at the same time if you want to do everything yourself, though.

After most of the introductory missions, the game starts to meld combinations of the combat styles together. You’ll find yourself running and gunning and then dropping a launch pad, hopping into your fancy jet and flying off to take out the incoming enemy Hawks.

Action aside, the story is rather lacklustre, but I’m sure most of you weren’t expect an award-winning script either. The graphical environments while on foot are not bad, although you can swear you can see the strings attached to orbiting ships in the outer space dogfight environments with an obvious finite starry background. I did, however, enjoy the cutscenes and transitions from cutscene to game that bring to mind how inFAMOUS did theirs.

I did not encounter any graphical or audial glitches, but there were some quirks about the game. The enemy shows signs of intelligence, but again, these aren’t chess master smarts. You can usually get onto a sniper’s watchtower (yes, you can call one down too) and take out the enemies from afar before they will even see you. During a later part of the game, I could even afford to take my sweet time building protective turrets and refilling my energy points using energy barrels that respawn before building the main turret that would trigger the continuation of the battle. Playing “smart” like that, the enemy stood no chance.

So it seems you can only die when you become reckless, like charging at the enemy with low ammo or not retreating when your Hawk is on fire, so planning and strategising are keys to succeeding in your missions. On average difficulty, however, the game isn’t so tough. Even with some levels where your success is a hit-or-miss, the story mode will run you for about 12 hours.

If you don’t want scripted and timed events, head to multiplayer, where you can get pummelled by real humans who won’t wait for you to set up your precious turrets. Multiplayer modes include Capture the Flag, defeating waves of enemies in Prospector and base-capturing Zones and Deathmatch. Of course, it would be wiser to actually pick up the game’s single-player mode before jumping into multiplayer.

Starhawk is like the grown man’s version of StarFox (not that the latter game is child’s play). A good game with plenty of action and a varied mix of combat in its single-player campaign, from where you pick up skills to go into multiplayer. The story isn’t much to look at, but if you can put that aside and enjoy the running, shooting, flying and driving, Starhawk is something to look at.

Graphics 8.0
No destroyable environments here, unless you count the ones you build. Outer space environment look like Hollywood fakery. Nice cutscene style.
Sound 8.0
Varied soundtrack on and off battle. Some repetitive quips from Cutter over the radio, but everything else is fully voiced.
Gameplay 9.0
The different combat styles bring a varied mix of action through seamless on-foot to in-the-sky transitions the player can choose to enjoy.
Lasting Appeal 8.0
Multiplayer modes can offer plenty of replay value, earning upgrades, ranks and skill. Single-player efforts do not seem to translate onto multiplayer, however.
How the RGB Scoresheet works


Starhawk is an action on-foot and aerial shooter game developed by Lightbox Interactive for Sony Computer Entertainment America exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Completed the single-player campaign on Normal difficulty.