Starhawk Multiplayer Review

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In 2007, Sony Computer Entertainment and Incognito Entertainment released one of the most underrated Playstation 3 titles known as Warhawk. At the time, Warhawk had one of the best multiplayer experience around. It had everything a player could ask for; a strong community, amazing gameplay, great focus on teamwork, and a huge abundance of online options such as a server list and a fully functional clan system. It was only last year that Sony finally decided to announce their new follow-up title, Starhawk. Though not a direct sequel, Starhawk offers just as much as the original did and more.

Single Player

Though there is a story this time around, the single player’s main purpose is to prepare players for the online component of the game. For anyone, I highly suggest checking this mode out before even getting started as it teaches you all the basics and gives you a well detailed explanation of how things work in multiplayer.

Controls and Gameplay

The controls follow your traditional third-person layout. Aim with the right stick, move with the left. Shoot with R1, sprint with R2. Aim from the hip with L1 and pop a grenade with L2. Like I said, traditional layout when your on foot. The overall feeling is the same as well, except with the aim that could take some time to get use to as there isn’t any kind of assist other than with the hawks. Otherwise, its easy for anyone to jump in and learn the basic gameplay mechanics in a short period of time.

Vehicle controls are just as easy, though working a hawk to do certain maneuvers and keeping on pace with a target can take time to get use to. In the air, hawks operate just as one would expect. They are fun and can prove to be quiet agile. If you remember dog fights from Warhawk, then you’ll be familiar with how things work. Find an opponent and engage them in a fast paced battle. Automatically, your Hawk is equipped with the standard machine gun and though powerful, you won’t be getting far with that alone. For hawks, the whole air space is littered with pick-ups. Flying around and collecting them can prove to be very helpful as it’s important to cause the most damage and have weapons that can lock onto other hawks. Though if you happen to find the skies empty of enemies, then you can transform your hawk into a mech, which will be able to take out most ground enemies. Things get a bit slow and clunky when in mech form, but that’s to be expected. Otherwise, for the most part, all vehicles other than the Ox Tank (will get to that later) serve as transport vehicles. This meaning that they’re designed to travel from point A to point B at a fast rate of speed.

As mentioned above, there are pick-ups in the game. However, for those who were familiar with them in Warhawk, Starhawk has completely done away with them when it comes to ground combat. Though killing an enemy will cause certain pick-ups to be dropped, the chances of actually finding a placed pick-up are very slim as they aren’t as diverse as they were in Warhawk. You will find pre-made structures that’ll have some pick-ups like the Sniper Rifle, but for the most part, you’ll be using the brand new Build and Battle system.

The Build and Battle System is obviously the biggest change to occur. This new system allows you to build set pieces such as supply bunkers (contains all your pick-ups) or a hawk station almost anywhere on the battlefield with a simple push of the triangle button. It brings the elements of an RTS game into a third-person shooter. Like any RTS game, you’ll want to set up a balance between defense and attacking. Setting things up like auto turrets, beam cannons, or a sniper posts are typically your defenses, while hawks and other vehicle stations will be used as your offense. Though, unlike an RTS title, everyone has control over the battlefield, meaning that while you build something, someone else is building another thing. The capacity for structures on each team is locked at 32. Once the cap has been reached, nothing else can be built until either you recollect a structure or one is destroyed. Though I would have liked a higher cap., one has to remember that there should be some sort of balance to this system. We wouldn’t want auto-turrets placed in every spot possible on a map. Plus, this does run on a currency system based on Rift Energy. Players can gain Rift Energy by farming them at the base, killing enemies, or blowing up rift containers. Each structure has a certain amount of rift points that is required to be used. The higher the cost, the better the build is. Overall, the Build and Battle System is an extremely innovating feature and I welcome it, though that doesn’t go without saying that it does have its flaws.

The Bad

The main issue that I found with the Build and Battle System is the way teams are using their resources. At times it can become frustrating as, often, you’ll attempt to snatch a flag only to get killed within seconds of the opposing team’s spawn area. Other times you’ll find that the team your on isn’t focusing enough on defense and when they are, no one is on the offense. It’s either camp at your base or be overrun by the opposing side. This is typically applied to objective based modes and not on your standard team deathmatches. And even in great games where everything does work properly, you’ll find that some players are purposely going around and destroying their own team structure. I don’t mind it happening to low cost items such as a bunker, but when I’ve saved up ten rift points to build a depot and some other player tears it down right away, that’s when it becomes annoying. I would love to see an option that tells me whether or not I should allow others to reclaim my structures.

Also, I was a bit disappointed with how hawks have seemed to become completely useless in this game compared to Warhawk. Perhaps it was just me, but most of the time when I was in a hawk, I would always get shot down right away by beam cannons or other hawks controlled by the opposite faction. From memory, hawks in Warhawk played a significant and important role. Now, it seems that the whole Build and Battle idea has destroyed that concept. Though, standard deathmatches can actually be played with hawks only, so not all is lost.

The Good

Customization for this game is pretty big and perhaps one of its biggest highlights. Though it’s not as deep as games like Skyrim, the option to customize all your vehicles, characters, and emblems from either faction is a pretty awesome feature considering most multiplayer games ignore this completely. Characters from either faction can be customized from head down, though you will have to unlock additional pieces as you’ll only be able to start out with just one available item. The only thing that you can’t change for a character is the accessory, which is the knife. I’m going to assume that they will offer different pieces as DLC later. As for vehicles, the customization, sadly, is only for cosmetic looks. There are a wide arrange of different paint sets though, which all do look quiet unique. Each player can also have their own unique emblem, which contains two different layers. This adds individuality to each player emblem as they can be customized with different colors and shapes.

The skill system is another huge part of character customization/development. As you level up, you’ll be rewarded with skill points. When your in a match, you’ll be able to select the skill menu and buy certain skills. Once they are bought, you don’t have to repurchase them again. One thing to note though is that skill points alone won’t unlock these skills, as an additional prerequisite will be required. All skills in the game cost 2 points, but every single one of them has a different requirement. For the skill called “Scavenger,” which increases your max ammo and increases ammo from pick ups, you’ll need to get one kill with every troop weapon in a single game. Once that has been done, you’ll be able to purchase that skill. In a sense, it’s a great way to set up multiplayer challenges, though the only downside is that you can only have one equipped at a time, but that doesn’t stop you from entering the menu during games to switch it up.

Vehicles, vehicles and vehicles. Beside the hawk, there are also three other vehicles in the game. The first one is the Razorback. This is essentially your Warthog, or jeep with a machine gun. Gather up a few players and use this vehicle to storm enemies bases. One driver and one gunner, while the rest are passengers. This is the perfect vehicle to use during Capture the flag as it serves as a fast transport vehicle for multiple players.

The next vehicle is known as the Sidewinder, or as I like to call it, The Grasshopper. This is a single manned vehicle that can reach incredible speeds. It’s most likely the fastest way of land travel available in the game. The reason why I like calling it the Grasshopper is that it bears a small resemblance to that of a Grasshopper, plus it has an incredible jump reach. Often, you’ll reach high speeds and as you jump, you’ll soar right past groups of enemies. As mentioned, it’s the fastest land vehicle available and can be quiet useful in tight situations like capture the flag.

And finally, The Ox Tank. This is probably one of my most favorite vehicles available and is the most expensive build in the entire game. Pretty much, it’s a tank, nothing really special about it other then the fact that it destroys literally everything in its path. Whether it’s at a close range or across the map, if it’s in view, then it can reach it. The only true protection against this is shield barriers, which protect specific areas with a shield. Otherwise, your free to wreak havoc across the plain field. In truth though, this is a vehicle that is a bit overpowered, but with the right set-up, it can easily be destroyed.

As for the overall menu/U.I. set-up, this was perhaps one of the most surprising things that was included in the game. Like any MP title, your constantly switching between menus and such. It’s not really much of a bother, but when playing Starhawk, little things like that really do make a big difference. Every aspect of the multiplayer can be accessed with a simple push of the start button. Whether your playing single player, or in another match, you’ll always be able to access everything for multiplayer. To explain this a bit better, imagine your playing Single Player and you decide that you want to jump into the multiplayer. Like many (if not all) titles, your going to have to quit, select multiplayer, wait for it to load your profile then join. With Starhawk as soon as you push the start button, the options to play campaign, join a MP game, view the server list, skill system, character customization, pretty much everything available in the game will be right there instantly making the overall experience seem-less. It’s fast and it’s easy. For me, this was really a huge thing as like many other title, load screens and waiting can get quiet annoying after time.

Game Modes

Starhawk comes packed with five different multiplayer game modes. The first two are your standard team death and deathmatch. The other ones are Capture the Flag, Zones, and Co-op (prospector). With Capture the Flag, your goal here is to capture the opposing enemies flag. This may prove to be a challenge though, considering that bases with the flags are never the same. With Zones (my personal favorite), you’ll be tasked with capturing areas on the map. It’s a simple game of domination, only if all areas are conquered by one team, then it’s an automatic win for them. However, that doesn’t happen so often. Co-op is essentially just a survival/hoard mode game mode where you and three other players fend off high level difficulty A.I’s from a rift reactor.

Community:

One issue with the Playstation 3’s overall community is the lack of microphones. Besides Call of Duty, gamers on the  Playstation 3, for unknown reasons, just don’t use mics as often as they should be. I’m taking a guess, since the first Warhawk title included a mic, players in Starhawk already know how crucial it is to use it. Every game that I joined had players using their mics. There is one thing that you must know though before even thinking about playing the game: It requires teamwork and lots of it. I’m a person who enjoys teamwork  and find that most games that emphasize it are my most enjoyable and most memorable titles. Anyway, expect people to be yelling at you (wich you can mute) if your not following directives or are just fooling around. This is a game to have fun in, but it should be known that many of the players are very serious with how matches run. It’s great knowing that you can find a game filled with other people who are just as serious as winning as you are.

There’s also a fully functional clan system, which is an absolute must-use feature. Pretty much, you’ll be able to either join or create your own clan with it’s own unique name and tags. However, unlike many multiplayer titles today, clans will actually have their own stats. The stats keep track of clans’ average KDR, average XP and where they stack up against others on a leaderboard. Clans can also battle each other and all this information of who won or lost is all tracked. Leaders can also assign members with different rankings so that they may help later on in the future when it comes to recruiting new members. For clan battles, Starhawk is an ideal choice of game since it supports it so well. This new system encourages players to join and participate in clan battles, which is something that many multiplayer games lack.

Graphics

For a sci-fi third person shooter, Starhawk stands pretty well in the graphic department. Although Lightbox Interactive isn’t setting any bars here, the vast worlds of Starhawk is truly something to be proud of. Every planet (maps) all look great and are all different from one another. On one planet you’ll be traveling through a bleak land of sand, while another would be filled with with lakes of acid that’ll instantly kill you. I’ll admit that for the most part the game does look a bit lacking when it comes to doing a comparison with other titles, but for what’s being presented in-game I do have to say that it’s quiet enjoyable to look at.

The Verdict

Starhawk is one of those title that you can either hate or love. For newcomers, you may find it a bit challenging, but once it begins to grow on you, you’ll be enjoying one of the best multiplayer experience available on the Playstation 3. Packed with nearly everything a multiplayer game should have, Starhawk is truly a spiritual successor of Warhawk.

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