The shooter market is getting bogged down with third-person and first-person shooters that all make use of the same game mechanics: regenerating health, killstreaks, horde modes, etc. As more games are released, creativity is found in very short supply. And that’s where Starhawk gets the upper hand on the competition. Starhawk takes the third-person shooter genre and does something new and unique with it; it dares to go out and take risks on original ideas, and because of this Starhawk shines.
But what is it that sets Starhawk apart from other shooters? None other than its main draw: the “Build and Battle” system. As you play, you will acquire rift energy, be it by either by killing enemies or getting a steady supply from your base. Rift energy is your currency, and with it you are able to call in orbital deployments and build different structures. Say you’re playing a ‘Capture the Flag’ match. To protect your flag from being taken, you have many options, like building a set of walls around it and mounting them with lasers, putting up a shield so that enemy attacks and vehicles can’t get through, setting up laser turrets to take down incoming Hawks, and more.
Starhawk is all about teamwork. During each online bout, you are limited to placing 32 structures, so it’s imperative that your team communicates to see what each of you will build, so as to avoid repeating structures and wasting rift energy. As mentioned before, you can create a fortress with walls and turrets, anti-aircraft lasers, vehicle deployment platforms (hawks, tanks and bikes), and much more. This changes the way you’ll play a standard team-death match game, or a round of capture the flag. Starhawk manages to breath fresh air into the stagnating genre of shooters. It is a chaotic experience though, and it’s recommended you take the single player campaign for a spin before delving into multiplayer.
I say this because the single player campaign is basically a glorified tutorial for the multiplayer. Throughout it you will take control of Emmett Graves, a man trying to defend the lands from being overtaken by Scabs, humans mutated by the rift energy. Emmett is also infected by rift energy, but with the help of Cutter, his partner in the sky, he manages to hold the mutation back, with only a few blue scars to show for it. The story tries to set up this interesting tale of Emmett being accepted into the community, even though he’s infected, and helping the rest of the humans defend their homes from the Scabs and their leader, Logan, Emmett’s brother back from the grave. This could’ve lead to an interesting tale, but it never does. The story dances around the problems and situations, mentioning them but never really dealing with them, and the characters aren’t really developed well. We never have a reason to believe or understand why Logan fights against his brother, and Emmett is never anything more than a greedy, disinterested jerk. The game’s story is told through animated comics, and here you can see traces of them trying to give these characters meaning but it never goes deep enough.
Even though the game fails at telling an interesting tale, it’s the perfect tutorial for those that want to jump into the multiplayer. Throughout the campaign you will use all the structures and learn how best to use them. The multiplayer is robust and can be confusing for newcomers, which is why single player should be tackled first.
Despite it’s weak story, Starhawk excels at everything else it sets out to achieve. It provides a unique, robust multiplayer component, filled with original ideas and unique gameplay. This game has the legs to last in the over-saturated multiplayer market, and those out there who pick it up will not be disappointed.