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This is the fringe, the frontier of space, where people make a living in a futuristic gold rush on the periphery of civilisation and just out of the reaches of authority. If this reminds you of Firefly, you are on the right track. Get ready to meet some cowboys in space!

Massive colony ships were launched to hunt down rift energy, something akin to the gold and oil rushes here on Earth. But harnessing this energy isn’t the safest job: sometimes the energy whips out and changes a man, turning a Rifter into an Outcast, making it hard to get the precious cargo offworld to make profit. That is where you, Emmett Graves, come in.

You are a loner, a freak, a gunslinger. An incident occurred when you were trying to get rich off an untapped Rift geyser. The energy lashed out, changing you. You are half-freak, thanks to the spinal contraption your friend, Sydney Cutter, installed. For now, it has stopped the transformation into an Outcast. But you are still shunned by most Rifters, who begrudgingly offer you work.

You and Sydney have returned home to White Sands on the planet Dust, for a lucrative mission. But only for the mission, you tell yourself. Turning a profit is easy on the fringe. The Outcasts keep trying to reclaim the Rift wells, as if drawn to them. Luckily they are unorganised, for now…

Shoot. Drive. Fly. Build!

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The true joy of this 3rd-person shooter is the seamless way in which you explore and interact with the world. By making use of rift energy, you can order buildings from your space ship and have them dropped to you from orbit. Yep, buildings plummeting down from orbit. Ranging from bunkers and sniper towers to automated defences and vehicle hangers, you can equip yourself to suit the situation. Or just drop buildings down on your enemies’ heads. Drop a hanger and get a buggy, speeder or a tank. If you have enough energy, drop a Hawk hanger and take the fight to the enemy in the air or on foot. Because that is what the game is all about: Warhawks. These nifty mechanised walkers can turn into a fighter jet and fly into the sun at the press of a button, allowing you to pilot one of the most adaptable and deadly machines known to man.

Man in the machine

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Spiritual successor to 2007’s Warhawk, Starhawk spends a lot of time focussing on this marvellous mercurial machine. In fact, the single player campaign seems to rush past the other vehicles as quickly as possible to reach the transforming mech. As Emmet says when you first transform from a mech to a fighter jet, the animation and feeling never gets old. Your first foray with the Warhawk is in space, allowing for great freedom to learn the controls and pick from one of three very different flight schemes.

Warhawk in Space

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Much like Warhawk, the meat of Starhawk is in the multiplayer. Instead of being mulitplayer only, Starhawk’s single player allows players to learn about vehicles, weapon pickups, building and how to fly properly. The game does spend a bit too much time based on the multiplayer, meaning some of the cooler aspects of the game are not available in the single player. The multiplayer features a swath of levelling elements, including perks and special abilities, such as cloaking Warhawks. There is nothing more terrifying than having a Warhawk disappear, then hearing a rumbling behind you.

The levelling mechanic continues in the two player co-op mode, which is more akin to a Horde mode than anything story related.

Like a Boss

Hit on Debra (like a boss) Get rejected (like a boss)

The game has beautiful graphics and short load times, without any installation, something which has become a staple in the PS3 house. If only more game companies could follow in the footsteps of Lightbox Interactive and bring us titles that load during cinematics, that don’t require mammoth installs to showcase muscles and graphics of this calibre. Sadly the story is forgettable, with lacklustre characters, thanks to a complete lack of introductions. Santa Monica Studios continues to impress with its illustrated cutscenes, which are a boon and curse for Starhawk. The flavour and setting of the cutscenes are spot on, but there are several sequences that would look amazing in the in-game engine, like a massive spaceship exploding, which end up illustrated instead. I must say, I felt a bit cheated.

Whether you are a long in the tooth Warhawk fan or new to the franchise, Starhawk is a game that most PS3 owners should add to their collections. Who can say no to mechs that turn into jets, or killing people with buildings, really?

Scoring:

Design and Presentation: 9/10.

Crisp graphics and absolutely massive levels, all done without filling your hard drive or long load times? Sign me up! The building and world exploration are seamless and are something I hope to see in other titles in the future. Why yes, give me some RTS in the middle of my third person shooter. Some games manage to make flying jets feel like a chore, even when that is the entire game. Starhawk delivers in every facet.

Gameplay: 8/10.

With design and gameplay so intrinsic in this title, I am not going to repeat the above. You will feel comfortable and in control while running, driving, shooting or building.

Value: 9/10.

The single player mode feels a tad short and doesn’t warrant another playthrough. However, if you love multiplayer and you are looking for something more futuristic than the current fare, you can’t go wrong with Starhawk. The mulitplayer is addictive, despite several steep learning curves. If you don’t mind being vaporised and learning from the experience, you will be memorising maps and weapon locations before you know it.

Overall: 8/10 (not an average).

An intriguing tale of a man on the run from himself and his past, who manages to blunder straight into the things he is trying to run from. Starhawk arrived in the midst of several behemoth games. Don’t miss out on this gem.

[Starhawk is a PS3 exclusive. Finished on Normal difficulty.]

Last Updated: June 27, 2012

StarHawk
Summary
8.0

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