Starhawk Review

Developer: LightBox Interactive / Publisher: SCEA / Played On: PlayStation 3 / ESRB: Teen

Plenty of recent games have proven that the third-person-combined-with-tower-defense genre can be successful. Given the right room to breathe, these games provide a layer of interesting and even fun strategic possibilities not present in standard third-person games. Unfortunately, many decisions in Starhawk feel like they hinder the potential depth of these mechanics. Starhawk could be a masterful game but reveals itself to be middling at best.

Story

Starhawk’s storytelling is clumsy. The vague, poorly written, poorly voice-acted cutscenes between missions stumble through a narrative around a glorified space miner named Emmitt Graves on the Rift energy frontier. It’s the equivalent of the San Francisco Gold Rush, but in space. The twist is that this Rift Energy source has the ability to corrupt men, turning them into literal monsters known as Outcasts. The story is so flimsy that it ends up being entirely inconsequential, failing to add weight or context. Even the one remotely interesting thread about Graves’ past and how he became a half-Outcast is fleeting and ends up going nowhere.

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Gameplay

Whether you’re playing through the solo campaign or attempting one of Starhawk’s multiplayer modes, the basics of its third-person shooter gameplay revolve around gathering energy that acts as a currency to purchase various structures that aid in defending or assaulting your objectives. These structures include self-guided turrets, energy shields, supply/ammo bunkers, and vehicles, to name a few. It’s a solid enough premise but a majority of the time Starhawk fails to provide mechanically interesting situations to justify their existence.

Starhawk’s loosely tied together single-player scenarios supply a basic understanding of each structure and vehicles use but beyond that a lack of thoughtful design sells Starhawk’s systems far too short. When the only challenge variety comes from increasing or decreasing the number of enemies attacking you at a time, there is very little reason–strategic or otherwise–to overly concern yourself with structure placement. It never appears that picking the beam laser over the sniper tower generates a meaningful advantage. This results in an experience that’s disturbingly flat. And the overly abundant (and with some easy-to-find exploits, infinite) quantity of energy available during these scenarios means there’s very little resource management. So without a need for restraint, there’s no reason to not just put as much shit as possible on the battlefield.

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Multiplayer

Starhawk occasionally finds its footing in multiplayer, making for exciting moments here and there, even if it is flawed. One look at the vehicles, huge maps, and game modes like CTF and Zones (a control point variant) and it’s clear that Starhawk’s emergent gameplay shares a lot of similar DNA with Battlefield. It’s awesome watching jets battle overhead or seeing an opponent’s Razorback get blown up mere feet from you. And Starhawk’s structures occasionally introduce an interesting facet not found in other shooters. I felt like a clever bastard sneaking over to the opposition’s base, placing a turret, and watching them get unexpectedly picked off.

But even through all these awesome moments, Starhawk’s flaws burn bright in its multiplayer. Team cooperation is imperative to victory. You need to be all on the same page to know not to double up on structures and to make sure you’re assaulting or defending in a synchronized manner. Without this, playing Starhawk becomes an exercise in banging your head against a brick wall. It fails to accommodate lone wolf players. So without a cooperative team by your side, there’s very little you’re able to accomplish on your own.

Where Starhawk shows its greatest potential is in its co-op mode. Lightbox’s take on wave-based survival keeps you on your toes by throwing different combinations of enemies at you. It’s the rock-paper-scissors executed in a way that’s missing from competitive multiplayer and the single-player. Because you’re holding up in one spot for as long as possible, thoughtful decisions are required about which player should build which structures to focus on which enemies.

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Presentation

Red Faction and StarCraft may have already monopolized the space cowboy aesthetic but there’s still some mileage if Starhawk has anything to say about it. On the surface, the twangy guitar riffs and old Western vibe really help to establish a fun identity for Starhawk. And I don’t want to speak too early here, but Starhawk is my current frontrunner for our coveted Skyboxes of the Year award in 2012. The gorgeous nebulae and crazy-looking star clusters act as a constant reminder you’re totally in space. You know, in case you forgot.

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Bottom Line

Starhawk is definitely a game that was made; I just don’t know if it was a game that was designed. Its scope seems at odds with its mechanics. There’s nothing inherently broken about Starhawk, it’s just painfully straightforward, as if the question of “why” was never asked. And it’s one I continued to ponder as I played the game and don’t think I ever really came up with a satisfying answer.

6/10

 

  1. This review was very flat and flawed. I could be wrong but I saw no mention of the last game in this franchise. The hawk franchise is based around large scale, team based multiplayer with vehicles and you only spent 2 paragraphs even mentioning the multiplayer. You didn’t delve into what makes the multiplayer good or bad, or how the interesting mechanics ENTIRELY unique to starhawk influence how the game goes. Then you made a cardinal sin. You spent an entire paragraph saying that two biggest flaws in Starhawk are that 1. it is heavily team based, and 2. it doesn’t support lone wolf gameplay very well. BEEP BEEP BEEP, Call of Duty generation corridor shooting braindead deathmatch player alert. It wasn’t very long ago when teamwork focus was considered not a flaw but the best part about multiplayer shooters. You are knocking the game for what most other reviewers are praising it for. Teamwork is something sorely lacking in FPS games today and is only found in tribes, TF2, and BF3. This reviewer is overall obviously extremely biased toward CoD/coridor shooters and lonewolf mindless typical mainstream FPS shooter gameplay. I suggest not following this site anymore.

    • This is just one mans opinion and its what he gets paid to do. so if your review is different feel free to cease living in your mothers basement and get a job as a reviewer. A lot of men died for freedom of speech so let this man have his and go do something constructive worm child. Well done Billy.

      • @deelan – a review of a product is to be as objective as possible, the reviewer can indeed put in side comments of what he liked and what he didn’t but overall they are supposed to compare it to its sequels and to discuss the different aspects of the product and how the product as a whole functions, there is no distinction between products like lawnmowers and media like books, video games, and movies. This is the job of a professional reviewer is to go through the product as open minded and objective as possible, this review did not do that regardless of getting paid or not, in fact if your getting paid to do this then someone is expecting quality work(supposed to be the case), unfortunately as time has progressed objectivity has been largely destroyed due to many corporations funding said reviewers or threatening said reviewers, and corporation and political agendas being forced into the schools and colleges from which many of our news reporters and reviewers come from. This is a trend that is going to continue until the above things are fixed, but to stereo type the first commenter because he disagrees with the way the reviewer portrays the game does not aid in matters, I hope you stop and take a moment to read someone else’s post with an open mind and not insult them because they disagree with someone else’s opinion.

    • I have logged about 40hrs in StarHawk. The game looks great, as far as art and design is concerned, but that’s about it. It plays terrible. It truly misses the core aspects of what made Warhawk such a good game. Team work is a fun element to all multiplayer games but I shouldn’t have to rely so heavily on it to make my experience enjoyable. I have played on well-organized teams that dominated the other side and that was no fun and I’ve been on the all “noob” tour as well… pointless. This game is not balanced well at all unless everyone is on the same page. I have made this comment on other Blog postings as well, hopping Lightbox will listen. All they had to do was give Warhawk a facelift. Fresh new maps and weapons/vehicles would have been perfect.
      My Starhawk will soon be back on the shelves with so many other bad games I have returned. And I will continue logging in so many fantastic hrs. on the greatest of ALL games…WarHawk.

  2. Hmm. I was looking forward to this being good. However, with the combined fact that I don’t know many people that play PS3, and the fact that no one I know would buy a game just to play with me, it wouldn’t be a very good investment apparently. I really wish this game was on PC. Maybe then I would just by it regardless.

    • Read the comments here (including mine below), and other reviews, before deciding based off this extremely maverick and shallow review. The reviewer doesn’t like team games, and apparently cheated his way through SP. His opinion therefore seems of very low value.

      Should you buy it even if you don’t know any players? I’d say yes. It’s been hugely fun, and you will meet people online. I played Warhawk knowing no one (initially) but had a great time.

    • I can tell you right now as a Beta Tester of this game.. Multi-Player was VERY insane, and was really good. It does need teamwork ( a very good thing might i add ) so you will have no trouble in finding people online too play with you.

      Don’t let this shallow review ( reviewer ) put you off a VERY good game.

  3. The reviewer hasn’t played the game, and if he has, he just don’t like a NEW IP.
    .
    This review is sponsored by Microsoft !!

    • And now as an added bonus from Sony when you buy Starhawk, and enter the online pass you will be given the Warhawk game for FREE to download from PS Store.

    • @ asd….WELL POSTED.
      .
      Free map-packs, Two games for the price of one new game ( Online usage code,) and a game that brings new life yet again too gaming in general, and this reviewer gives it 6/10? WOW.

      Wonder what game he played to have given a review like this.

      EXAMPLE would be about structures ” majority of the time Starhawk fails to provide mechanically interesting situations to justify their existence ” ROFLMAO!!

      STRUCTURES Mr reviewer ARE in fact what’s making this game awesome, and putting it above other standard 3rd person shooters like Gears Of War as an example. Now placing an AMMO Bunker is justified for existence to ALL TEAM PLAYERS as otherwise everyone would run out? The good players can help out the not so good players, with these justified structures. LOL.

      I mean what the hell is this about ” Starhawk is definitely a game that was made; I just don’t know if it was a game that was designed ” PMSL!! What ever makes the reviewer sleep at night.

  4. This qualifies as a review?!? Competitive multiplayer is the centerpiece of this game, and the sum of his 2 paragraphs is “team games are bad”. Wow. Deep. Really deep. Especially considering that Warhawk and Starhawk are among the deepest MP shooters ever made.

    Rock-paper-scissors? That’s the essence of the competitive MP. Did you even play it? Or only long enough to realize that “team games are bad”?

    So he found no trade-offs/challenge in the SP? And, was he playing on easy? Or was he busy using infinite energy exploits to avoid challenge?

    The voice acting is bad? It sounds GREAT in the trailers. Other sites are praising it. I’m wondering if there’s some extreme subjective bias here.

    I played the MP beta. It could get pretty insane. Yes, it required teamwork. Yes, Starhawk has a long learning curve. This review just seemed extremely shallow and lame.

    BOTTOM LINE

    This is definitely a reivew that was written; I just don’t know if it was a review that was thought about, or a reviewer that even played the game. Its shallow scope seems at odds with the reason for a review…to actually evaluate a game in depth. There’s nothing inherently broken about this review, it’s just painfully shallow, as if the question of “should I play this game before reviewing it” was never asked. And it’s a question I continued to wonder about as I read the review, and don’t think the reviewer ever really played the game much.

  5. Joe 6 trillion pack

    This review was sponsored by Microsoft.

    Seriousl, I have to wonder if this is even a legitimate gaming site with such a horrible and lacking review, either tha, or this reviewer actually is on Micrsofts paycheck.

    Plus with the click through to Machinima’s Youtube channel, you can tell this site is just pure class HAHAHAHAHA!!!

    All i can say to the reviewer is keep chewin on dem ritalin tablets!

  6. @Hunter I whole-heartedly disagree with you my friend. I agree that it would have been nice to hear more about multiplayer, seeing as its really the only reason people are interested, and I agree that teamwork CAN make a fun shooter, BUT YOU my friend made the cardinal sin – I am soooo sick of people calling anyone that has a slightly different view of what a game should be automatically a CoD fanboy. This guy might not even like CoD. The real mistake he pointed out, which appatently both you and this game made, is assuming that evetryone who plays a game either has a large group of friends to play with or wants to be super chatty with a group of possible 12 year olds. His point was actually that the game required gameplay but didnt facilitate it in any way, making for a frustrating experience for anyone joining a server alone. That is a serious flaw in a game indeed.

    • @Dallin – I don’t think you have the right idea of how I view people’s opinions of games. That said, I wrote my post really quickly and did not articulate myself well. First off, like I said, Starhawk is primarily a large scale multiplayer game based around teamwork, like battlefield 3 and Tribes. Seeing that this game is primarily about MP, just like BF3, it is unnacceptable that a profesisonal reviewer would only give about 2 paragraphs of coverage on the MP. He spends 1 of those 2 paragraphs not only complaining about the teamwork based gameplay, but flat out says that it being based on teamwork is its NUMBER ONE flaw. The fact that he would review a TEAM BASED MP online game and give it a bad score BECAUSE it has a teamwork emphasis without even touching much on the game mechanics themselves is what makes me think he is one of those people that you hate being called. No, I don’t automatically group people into categories such as “CoD fanboy” because they disagree with my views on things. I also would not review CoD poorly because it has corridor shooting, because the game is ABOUT corridor shooting. I may not like corridor shooters as much, but I wouldn’t give it a lower score because I dislike corridor shooters. That would be hypocritical and unprofessional. Imagine if this reviewer did a review on a football game. It might be a really great overall game, but he spends most of the review talking about how he hates games that involve throwing balls long distances and then gives it a crappy score. It is just bad reviewing. I don’t think everyone who disagrees with me is a CoD fanboy. I actually can enjoy CoD for what it is from time to time. However, bashing on a game for excelling and emphasizing for what it SETS out to do, is bad. Also, I dont play team based games with tons of friends and voice chat. If you get on good enough servers (Warhawk 1 had a server browser…which is another issue with this review. Doesn’t mention anything about connection qualities and the server browser/matchmaking), you can easily succeed without friends or voice chat because people actually play smartly, as the game encourages them to use their brains (unlike CoD).

  7. Meant to say requires teamwork, not gameplay. Sorry, typing on a phone and hard to proof read.

  8. http://www.officialplaystationmagazine.co.uk/review/starhawk-psn-review/2/ here is a more indept, more honest review of the game, just for a second opinion for anyone who like me was looking forward to a great game

    • Why didn’t i think of reading the review of a ps3 exclusive from a completely non-bias source such as PlayStation magazine. Its genius!

      Just in case moron, that was sarcasm, and as previously mentioned you are a moron. ohh can you go ask Michael bay what he thought of Transformers for me? Thanks your a real dear.

      • I think it’s fairly well known at this point that the game is good, everyone else seems to be giving it 8/10 and 9/10 . . . don’t get why billy hated it so much but whatever.

  9. Governance of Owners

    A lone wolf game mode would be multiplayer deathmatch mode…. which you completely fail to mention in this “review”. did… did you even know there was a deathmatch mode ? lol

    You directly contradict yourself by providing an example of fun you had being a “lone wolf” and sneaking into an enemy base to plant turrets and rack up some kills, but then continue on to say the game fails to provide that lone wolf gameplay… the very same gameplay you JUST finished describing. Contradicting yourself within the same review doesn’t bode well for credibility.

  10. Your Review is Bad and you should feel Bad

  11. Machinama = Xbox favorite
    Gamespot = COD favorite

  12. Pingback: Starhawk Reviewers Wisely Avoid Neopaganism, Focus On Shooting People | Kotaku Australia

  13. Multiplayer is amazing and there a different modes to accommodate anyone’s taste.

    They also announced that future map packs will be FREE!!
    What a bargain!

  14. >>It’s a solid enough premise but a majority of the time Starhawk fails to provide mechanically interesting situations to justify their existence.

    If you’re not on a vehicle (which are summoned by buildings) you can get run over by a vehicle (like the ridiculously fast bike) for an instant kill. Also rocket launchers and sniper rifles and such are spawned by buildings and hell BUILDING SHIT IS THE ENTIRE GAME.

    Did this retard even play it?

    >>It never appears that picking the beam laser over the sniper tower generates a meaningful advantage.
    The laser tower is an automatic anti-air turret, the sniper tower is a tall platform that spawns sniper rifles for you to pick up. How the hell can you even compare them?

    >>And the overly abundant (and with some easy-to-find exploits, infinite) quantity of energy available during these scenarios
    You don’t need any exploits to get infinite energy, but there’s a pretty low cap on the max amount and so you can’t spam buildings. And actually charging up takes ages. The fastest way to charge up is to kill enemies but if you’re killed yourself you lose your entire charge. If you have too much energy, that means you’re facing a lot of enemies.

    >>Team cooperation is imperative to victory. You need to blah blah
    THIS GAME SUCKS BECAUSE TEAMS NEED TO WORK AS TEAMS

    Fucking moron.

  15. ??? …and how did Fable Heros (6.5) score better than Starhawk???

  16. one of the worst reviews i’ve read in a while. You make no sense and don’t know a thing about online mutiplayer. Go back to call of duty.

  17. All over the comments all i see is self important blogs

  18. Terrible review, completely misses the point. But I suppose this reviewer thinks Gears of War 3 is better. Pathetic!

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