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Review

Starhawk Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3
Aaron Sampson on Google+

If you can handle some turbulence, getting the hang of Starhawk's bustling battlefields is an exciting pursuit.

Life on the frontier is all about routine, until one day, it isn't. You work your claim, taking things step-by-step and steadily surmounting the daily obstacles that life presents. Then suddenly, a gang of gun-toting outlaws rides into town, and everything changes. So it is with Starhawk, a new third-person shooter from LightBox Interactive that teaches you how to shoot, fly, and build structures as part of its novel brand of warmongering. Armed with this knowledge, you venture into online competitive or cooperative multiplayer, only to find that most of what you learned no longer applies. Disarmed and disoriented, you must struggle to get a handle on the action, but once you figure out the way things really work, Starhawk provides a lot of frantic fun with an intriguing constructive twist.

The short single-player campaign stars a gruff mercenary who returns to his old stomping grounds for a contract gig. Emmett Graves is the likable, well-voiced protagonist, and the simple story is laid out with stylish animated cutscenes that contrast nicely with the rich, colorful environments. From dusty earthbound outposts to clanking orbital platforms, Starhawk creates the strong sense that you are in an industrial backwater of civilization. Pipelines and mechanical detritus scar the barren landscapes, and the big, beautiful skies imbue the game with a great frontier feel.

As Emmett gets to work clearing out the mutated humans that plague the local industry, you learn the basics of combat. You run and gun with vigor, zipping around at a sprint that sets a fast pace for combat. Though your enemies can move quickly too, there's no real sense of urgency on the default difficulty. Your partner in the sky keeps you well apprised of the enemies you are facing, and you frequently have timed indicators that show you which enemies to expect and where they will come from. This methodical pacing gives you plenty of time to employ Starhawk's most novel feature: the ability to bring prefabricated buildings crashing down from low orbit.

With a press of the triangle button, you call up a radial menu of available assets, make your choice, and release the button to summon your structure (provided you can afford it). Walls and turrets can stand alone to form a rudimentary defense, but with a little care, you can create one long linked wall studded with elevated turrets--a much more formidable barrier. Supply depots and watchtowers bring new weapons and cover positions, while shields and repair arms help fortify your position. Seeing enemy waves crash against your fortifications and be thrown back is a pleasing reward for your efforts, and it's also fun to take the fight to them.

Sometimes the simplest tool is the most effective.

The best way to do this is in vehicles, which spawn from buildings that you call down from the sky. The swift hoverbikes are mainly for mobility, though a good roadkill is definitely possible. The three-man jeep comes with a handy turret, and the heavy tank has a traditional shell and an arcing artillery shot that can both deal serious damage. A jetpack grants you limited flight capabilities, but the skies belong to the titular hawks. Flying these nimble jets is easy and exciting, and the array of weapons available for midair pickup can make them very deadly. You can also transform into a lumbering assault mech with the push of a button, and then bring stomping melee attacks and your full aerial arsenal to bear on the ground.

The five-hour campaign lets you play around with all of these things, though basic structures like turrets and supply depots are much more heavily featured than more advanced buildings. In each level, your loadout is tailored to the task at hand. This means that your decisions lie in choosing where to position things rather than deciding what combination of things is effective. With one notable exception in which resource farming and lengthy building prep are all but required, you coast through the campaign believing that you have a great grasp on how to counter threats using your available arsenal. Then you jump into the online multiplayer and find out how little you actually know.

It's not just that the action is faster and the enemies are tougher; it is and they are, but this is par for the course with many online multiplayer modes. The real disconnect lies in the fact that the assets you've been trained to use don't have the same utility. Walls are easily demolished or circumnavigated, turrets aren't nearly as effective, and hawks are either much more vulnerable or much more deadly than you expect, depending on the situation. It feels like all of your campaign experience is actually misleading you--the instincts you developed can't be trusted, and it's an unpleasantly disorienting feeling.

Team communication can help alleviate this issue, provided you and some friendly allies have headsets (or you've got a savvy friend playing split-screen with you). There's no way to set a team waypoint or issue a quick command--you must rely solely on voice chat for coordination. Without a helpful teammate, you're left to unlearn the nontransferable campaign knowledge, test out new tactics, and work out the unexplained elements all by yourself. It's certainly doable, but it can create a lot of unnecessary frustration.

But once you settle in, it's a different story. These battlegrounds are bustling with activity, and new fronts are constantly springing up as players try new tactics to best their foes. The push and pull of attack and defend is richer and more complex than in many competitive shooters, thanks to the myriad methods available to control, infiltrate, and disrupt areas of the map. An entrenched outpost can change hands with one concerted push, and this unpredictability makes every moment count. There is great potential for engaging combat here, as buildings and bullets come in fast and furiously.

In addition to competitive multiplayer matches, you can team up for some co-op and fend off increasingly difficult hordes of enemy AI. Again, this mode requires a distinct tactical adjustment from the other two modes, and the transition is jarring. You are likely to suffer swift defeat before you get your repair arms and resource management properly planned, and learning legitimate defensive strategies is just as important as working out helpful exploits if you hope to overcome the stiff challenge offered here.

Bombing runs can decimate enemy defenses.

Figuring out these tactics and tricks makes Starhawk a lot of fun to play, but it's a shame that the transitions between modes are so rocky. Learning harsh lessons and recalibrating your approach isn't a pleasant process, but it's well worth pushing through. These online battlefields are unlike any others, and wielding weapons, soaring through the sky, and creating fortifications on the fly all add up to exciting action. Starhawk is a bold new frontier with a bounty of competitive and cooperative riches for those intrepid enough to seek them out.

The Good
Novel building mechanic creates diverse combat
Lively blend of ground and airborne vehicles
Attractive visuals
Challenging cooperative play
The Bad
Jarring transition between different modes
Some multiplayer elements are poorly explained
7.5
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

276 comments
ProjectPat187
ProjectPat187

@daviz88 multiplayer is the only thing i like about games these days,  i dont even buy a game if it does not have a multiplayer option, i never did like playing against stupid computer AI, but hey everyone is different

daviz88
daviz88

i hate games that put more focus on mutiplayer .i am not saying they shouldn't perfect there mutiplayer campaign  but also but some attention to the offline single player campaign.

CaIypzo
CaIypzo

Is the game 30$ worth if you only play with a friend (offline multiplayer)?

xolivierx
xolivierx

bad game, I would sell it but it's now at 29,99$ in stores LOL

firekatana2216
firekatana2216

hey does anyone know if the starhawk BETA is still up or not cause i really fancy this game.

Ps3winzGS
Ps3winzGS

Love the multiplayer, but I don't like how you need to empty 2 full clips to kill an enemy.

ispeakfact
ispeakfact

This is by far one of the best mp games this gen. If you own a ps3, you would be doing yourself a disservice to not try it out. The games a blast.

CyberLips
CyberLips

I played the BETA and i really liked it , i will definitely get this :)

Wensea10
Wensea10

Decent review here but within Wensea10's opinion, its a excellent score [nine].

xolivierx
xolivierx

if the game didn't come up at the same time as diablo and max payne, and was on 360, there would be so many comments here lol

shimya
shimya

it takes a bit of time to get a hang of things but the multiplayer is a blast from the get go. The hawk sky battles are always loads of fun. Did i mention the lovely sniper rifle :D 32 player battles on the ps3 have never been better.

xolivierx
xolivierx

I love the game even though I haven't tried the multiplayer yet. So far the solo campaign is top notch. Transition is not hard as mentionned in the review. Graphics are great. Gameplay is terrific, the only flaw so far is when you fly the Hawk, gas = R2 and fire = R1 ; it should be the opposite. Enemi AI is ok. The fact you have many vehicules and you can create many structures is awesome. It reminds me of those games on pc mixed with the action you get in shooters. It feels like a Starcraft / Mass effect / Halo. It is very good and addictive. I will post a full review once I've had time to really get a good fell of the multiplayer as well. =) it is def worth buying

raziel2kain
raziel2kain

I think if the game was an x360 exclusive, at least they would give it 8.0.

sometimes friends ideas are more reliable than review scores.

Cbordi
Cbordi

What a sh*t review!

This game is at least a 9.0 (if you look away from the boring single player campaign)...

Great gameplay.

Great multiplayer.

Great graphics

 

With the element of building tactical structures anywhere on the map, you never know what might hit you in the face.

Seriously, maybe the best competitive multiplayer game of this generation!

GinobilusPrime
GinobilusPrime

Was thinking of getting this instead of Ghost Recon, but want both.

LingeringRegime
LingeringRegime

I still find it funny that the only game emblem this game got was "Strong Competitive Multiplayer."  Don't even mention innovation, by blending 3PS and RTS games.  Reviewers always complain about lack of innovation, but when something truly innovative comes along it is overlooked.  

ElegantAccent
ElegantAccent

The Bad:  No tutorial for Beast mode.  Look familiar, that was the complaint about Gears 3.  It was the stupidist thing I ever read when I was looking to pick it up.  Guess what, thats basically the same complaint about StarHawks modes, but it didn't impact Gears' review because of the pedigree of the series (They did the same with ME3, and other games their staff wants to like)...  

 

So... it looks like the reviewers at GameSpot are far from consistent and unbiased.  

 

My suggestion is, stop using scores to criticize a game, go out rent it/buy it/ or play the trial and see for yourself.  A reviewer can't tell you if you'll like a game, or get your money's worth.  What they can do is try to placate you by giving games they like high scores, and even if you don't like the game, you feel good because it has a big number on it... This is the game we all play when we read these pointless reviews.  Call me old fashioned, but I still rely more on the box art and friends, then these reviews, when picking a game.  Plus, I do my best to ignore any number score; giving a game a score of 10 is like trying to score a priceless painting, you just can't.

 

malezz
malezz

is it worth buying ?

 

 

Mr_Noddy
Mr_Noddy

When did a 7.5 become a bad review? I really like the look of this game and will probably pick it up when I get paid again. I still believe that when a game has online multi-player there should be two scores given, one for campaign and one for multi-player with the average making up the final score.

LingeringRegime
LingeringRegime

7.5 is a fair score for the single player.  The multiplayer is easily a 9, if not higher.  If you enjoy online shooters and have a PS3 it is a must have.  

AVM1986
AVM1986

Hm, doubt about buying this game.

Think i'm gonna keep my money for Diablo 3, Max Payne 3 and Future Soldier.

Boubou
Boubou

@grognard what would you give the game?

grognard
grognard

Why does every PS3 exclusive game with a score under 8.5 result in a desperate, pathetic outcry from PS3 fanboys?  Buy all the systems to broaden your outlook within the gaming industry and you'll realize these middling scores are well-earned within the context of the entire industry - not just compared to other PS3 games.

Kastigador
Kastigador

The range of reviews on this game across the internet is interesting. Clearly some people find it amazing, while others find it barely above average. Either way, everyone going off on the reviewer needs to chill out. Even people that rely on reviews purely to make decisions on buying new releases will take note that this game is widely acclaimed by other reviews on the internet. No need to take it THAT personally if you're a fan of the innovative gameplay and sick of the mainstream derivative FPS. We get it, geesh.

awheaten
awheaten

I will admit,I have not read the review but I have read the summery. And my hasty opinion is that if u give one of the most animated games of the year a 7.5 for poor modes and poor explanation of gameplay, either the reviewer has a problem genre or he's just a poor reviewer. It's just bad taste. I grow tired of fake a$$ reviews.

indzman
indzman

Is the game worth full price or better to purchase it when price drops?

NINEINCH-Tool
NINEINCH-Tool

Just imagine a time when they'll take COD into space...I mean just brace yourself for a 9.5 review.  They'll be frothing at the mouth for a game that's probably so adherent to the pay-for-play formula that it will probably feature virtual atm's you can run to while being shot up by the enemy.

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

Still looking for people to join my clan R8pE and ReLOAD. Send a friend request to Gay4Pandas. Little advice if you want to enjoy this game. Dont bother playing zones or capture the flag until you find a team to play with. If you are just starting out stick with deathmatch. It is the only mode that is still fun without teamwork. Its nothing like call of duty death match. Even though every shooter has a standard death match this one is still a lot different since there are so many differnt ways to play, no 2 matches are the same.

ElegantAccent
ElegantAccent

 @malezz It's new, fun, nothing like the cookie cutter shooters, and worth every penny.  However, bare in mind the game is young, and the community is still fresh and building.  The fact that this game requires more team work than Battlefield means those who normally play CoD/KZ style games will find the learning curve steep, and it can be even steeper if no one is talking.

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

 @malezz Honestly I wish I waited for a price drop. right now the community is kind of poor. the game has great potential but right now most people do not work together and a lot people dont even where mics. The games is pointless without communication.

raziel2kain
raziel2kain

 @Mr_Noddy Very nice idea. single and multi player are NOT the same, never was, never would be. a simple fact reviewers don't care about.

ElegantAccent
ElegantAccent

 @Mr_Noddy Agreed.  7.5 isn't bad, though I find it silly that his main problem was the rough transition between Campaign and Multiplayer.  The IGN review presented much better.  While IGN gave it a 9, I suggest you look at IGN breakdown of the score and not the overall one.

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

 @Kastigador Thats not exactly true. Many people trust certain sites and will look at gamespots review to decide if the game is worth purchasing. Normally I do not get mad at reviews because it is someones opinion, but when the score gets 2.5 points taken off without a legitimate reason then this reviewer is not doing his job. It does not make any since considering many games reviewed on this site with actual problems listed get higher scores.

ElegantAccent
ElegantAccent

 @indzman If you looking for multi-player, it's more than worth it.  1) It actually has new ideas, and strays outside of the mold CoD has created (though it is third person).

2) Buying it now supports the developer more, leading to more and better games later.

 

As for single player, the campaign is good but short, so I'd wait if thats all you care for.  

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

 @ElegantAccent I am hoping it wont take to long for a strong community and for people to realize you need a mic to play the game. Most games I join right now only 1 or 2 other players may have mics. I am trying to find a clan to join or build up my own so I can party up with enough players to work together in a game.

GeneralTrouble
GeneralTrouble

 @gay4pandas Each to their own but you don't need a headset. You only have to see what others are doing to form a strategy. It's not that difficult. If you see a person with a flag and you're in a jeep then you pick them up or defend them. What's good about this game is that you can be a lone wolf to sneak behind enemy lines to cause havoc or set up a spawn point near to the enemy base.

Don't be a sheep be a shepherd. ;-)

LingeringRegime
LingeringRegime

 @gay4pandas Meh.  I don't play with a mic, but I still look at the battlefield to see what needs to be built.  Mics help, but if you have a brain they are not a necessity.  

 

malezz, it is worth buying if you play online, one of the better games this generation. 

LingeringRegime
LingeringRegime

 I enjoy it without a headset, yes.  I just mute people when I hear them talking.  Problem solved.  

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

 @DenverNick it depends on you. for me I cant imagine playing games like battlfield without using a headset. to me it just takes the purpose out of playing. unless its a free for all death match why would you want to play a team based game and not make friends you can party up with and play together. you are so limited to what you can do by yourself but with a team working together you can completely dominate the map. 

DenverNick
DenverNick

 @LingeringRegime I picked up this game, but have yet to open it because of what I am hearing about this. I rarely use a mic when playing games. This one looked fun so I bought it, but then started reading that you needed to communicate with others a lot. Meh, not interested in listening to crap. So, you're saying it's fun, even without communication?

LingeringRegime
LingeringRegime

 @gay4pandas I suppose if you are playing with friends it would be great.  I play with randoms usually so they just use mics to be dickheads.  

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

 @LingeringRegime Well you can get a mic for under 10 dollars on ebay. You are cheating yourself out of enjoying the full experience if you dont think communication is necessary for team based games. You think you could win a football game if you and your team were not allowed to huddle up and talk about what play to run against a team that is planning out every play? Yeah its possible but the team that is talking is going to have the advantage.

Starhawk More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PlayStation 3
    Starhawk is a third-person shooter with busy battlefields populated by infantry soldiers, ground vehicles, airborne fighters, and player-created buildings.
    8
    Average User RatingOut of 298 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Starhawk
    Developed by:
    LightBox Interactive
    Published by:
    SCEI, SCEA, SCEE
    Genres:
    3D, Shooter, Third-Person, Action, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Language, Violence