“Starhawk” is another in a long line of first person shooters trying to make its mark on the video game world. Best described as a Western in space, “SH” is mostly your run-of-the-mill shooter. It does, however, manage to surprise with some new and innovative additions that make it a solid player in an already overcrowded market.
In the game, set in the distant future, players are taken into the far reaches of the galaxy, where humans have started to mine a dangerous new resource called rift energy. As valuable a commodity as the rift energy is, it can also cause freakish mutations in the human body. Out on this new frontier you will find two groups of people: Rifters, humans who’ve colonized deep space in order to seek riches obtained by the energy, and the Outcast, a new species of humans who have been mutated by the very same energy.
When rift claims are threatened by the Outcast, hired guns are called in to take care of the problem. Players take control of Emmett Graves, a mercenary on the job. Emmett, who has been exposed to the rift energy himself, is half human and half mutation, but manages to keep his humanity intact. When Emmett’s home settlement is threatened by emboldened Outcast warriors, he’s called in to make the smackdown, only to find that there are forces at work that he never thought possible.
The story isn’t half bad compared to other shooters, but at times the characters within the story need to be fleshed out a little more. Sometimes I found myself engrossed in the environment, but wanting to skip past the dialogue. There are a few twists and turns in the plot, and enough to keep one’s attention for about six hours or so.
The most impressive aspect of the game is the incorporation of the so-called Build & Battle system. Players have the option to build walls, bunkers, turrets, and vehicles, all in real time, to aid them in battle. If a mission calls for you to guard an energy station, just build a few walls and turrets around it and let the fun begin.
Emmett has the ability to collect the rift energy left behind after he’s killed his enemies, something similar in vein to the “Devil May Cry” series. The energy is used in conjunction with the Build & Battle elements of the game. The more rift energy players collect, the more battlements they can build and vehicles they can summon.
There are many vehicles at your disposal, the coolest of which has to be the Hawk. Think “MechWarrior” meets “Star Fox,” where you can maneuver on the ground or fly through space with the touch of a button. Use the Build & Battle feature to summon a Hawk platform, and then go to town on surrounding enemies. Emmett can create deadly ground quakes with the Hawk’s giant feet, causing Outcast warriors to fall in an instant. Or, if you quickly hit the O button you can transform the Hawk into a powerful jet.
Speaking of the Hawk, there are countless missions in which the player must fly around in space defending this or that in lengthy dogfights. At first it’s fun, but soon it gets repetitive. After a bit, you really want it to end.
The same can be said for the whole game. Most of the missions seem to be Emmett guarding either a rift well or some piece of tech as it’s bombarded by waves of Outcast warriors. No matter how many different weapons you have or variations of destruction you can cause, after a while it’s all a touch monotonous.
The multiplayer features in the game will please some and annoy others. Players get a couple of different deathmatch options, but very little else past that. Players can play co-op in single player and multiplayer, and that adds more excitement at times, but I wish there were more. Nowadays, I feel gamers are spoiled by the likes of “Modern Warfare” and its billion online modes.
Fans of real-time strategy games will actually love playing multiplayer co-op. Think how awesome it would be to have a shooter, and have the ability to build walls, bunkers and turrets to defend your position. In a regular first-person shooter, one must rely on what’s already there, but here, you get to customize your base. It’s this functionality that I feel makes up for the lack of other multiplayer elements.
“Starhawk” is not the most original game on the block, but with its Build & Battle mode, players get enough innovation to be pleased. The missions get a little repetitive after a while, and some seem to last forever, but they’re still enjoyable nonetheless. In terms of the characters, all I’ll say is Emmett Graves may not be Mal Reynolds (true nerds will get that), but he can still kick butt and take names.