Starhawk Soars at E3 - Hands-on

By Ryan Winslett in Hands-on, Previews/Impressions
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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Here comes the backup
After some 8-on-8 multiplayer action at this year's E3, I have a feeling Lightbox's 2012 release, Starhawk, is going to scratch an itch console fans have had ever since the release of its 2007 spiritual successor, Warhawk.

 

While I'm a bit skeptical about how some of the changes will play out once the game actually launches, my 10 minutes of hands-on time left me hopeful. While Lightbox is hesitant to refer to the game as a sequel to Warhawk, there's no mistaking that Starhawk has the original's blood coursing through its neon blue veins.

 

I got in a round of capture the flag on a desert map full of high mountains, low valleys and all sorts of winding trails. While the game is visually lightyears ahead of Warhawk, the controls are pages ripped from the same book.

 

The round saw my mutant team (The Outcasts) squaring off with the humanoid Rifters. Once the game started, the first thing I noticed is that, unlike in Warhawk, you don't spawn in giant bases full of wonderful vehicles for you to control. You don't spawn normally at all, actually. Instead, you're given a zone on the map in which to pick where your pod will crash into the planet, unleashing you onto the battlefield. The pod can be controlled a bit in flight and, yes, you can use it to kill the enemy if they aren't quick enough to get out of your way.

 

But back to the lack of buildings. It appears as though all the structures in Starhawk are built on the fly. We already knew that the "build and battle" system would be in play, but I figured that would be for areas away from your home base rather than "build it or it doesn't exist."

 

Basically you kill bad guys to earn points that allow your team to drop in structures like sniping perches, Hawk depots, armored walls, etc. It happens instantly and, yes, it's all really cool to watch, but something about relying entirely on constructed structures felt a bit lacking.

 

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Maybe this is a matter of the game mode I was playing or even the map I was on, but I loved the amount of detail put into the Warhawk maps. You had access to vehicles from the onset and the way the world was put together made it feel like people actually lived in what has now become a warzone. In Starhawk, the match felt pretty baron for a couple minutes. Even after structures started popping up, a lack of coordination by the team meant that everything was random and unreliable.

 

Then again, this was a one-shot experience with a bunch of other people who had never played the game before. Maybe things will work out beautifully once everyone wraps their minds around the system, for now I have my reservations.

 

Aside from my case of Warhawk nostalgia, everything else about the game was pretty fantastic. The controls were smooth, flying the new Hawks and turning them into a mech at the push of a button was awesome, and the action was intense. (Intense seems like a fitting word when the bullets are flying, grenades are being lobbed and entire structures are crashing all around me.)

 

If you enjoyed Warhawk, or simply want to experience a shooter that's unlike the vast majority of what you've been playing, then you definitely want to keep your eyes on Starhawk. Gripes aside, my brief experience with the game was a blast from start to finish.

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