E3: Starhawk


Starhawk expands on the third-person shooter by adding the aspect of building your own structures.

**Lightbox Interactive provided two separate demos of Starhawk’s multiplayer and single-player modes**


Starhawk is one of the more interesting multiplayer games (which also has a single-player mode) that Sony made playable at its E3 press conference, primarily because of its “Build & Battle” mechanic. Players get to choose what their home base eventually looks like, which vehicles they want to deploy, and what kind of defenses they want to mount.

Build & Battle allows players to bring up a build menu that is sparse at first, but expands as you collect enough materials from downing enemies. When you first spawn, you might be able to create a building that houses an ATV, a sniper tower, or a simple wall. When you have enough material, you can build an auto turret, a giant laser for taking down flying foes, and more.

So that’s building, but what’s the rest of the game? The Starhawk multiplayer demo dropped me on a desert wasteland with lightning constantly striking in the distant background. Not the happiest place. The game mode was capture-the-flag. Simple enough.

Building is not only pretty cool, with the building literally dropping down from space right at your feet, but it’s necessary to survive. You’ll need walls, ATVs, and flying vehicles that double as ground mechs. I had no clue how to build this flying vehicle, but the opposing team sure did. They were a bit better than our side.

Spawning can occur at varied points on the map you choose, with players having to wait if they don’t want to spawn in a designated area. Like buildings, you drop down in a containment pod from space, and then emerge from it. After spawning quite a few times, I decided to initiate some teamwork. I built an ATV and drove it over to my teammates. I took the driver’s seat while my teammate took the gunner’s seat. With my expert driving, only crashing into walls and rocks two or three times, we took down a flying mech, an enemy ATV, splattered a foe that was on foot, and moved in on the flag. The opposing team blew up my ATV, so getting back to my base with the flag and my life intact was impossible. Still, a worthy effort.

Building adds an entire new element and a variation to battle that hasn’t been seen in many other titles. One player might just want to sit back and build walls. Another might build a sniper tower and hang out there all day. It’s a fun addition that will keep multiplayer fresh and have you guessing what kind of base the other team is assembling.

With just 20 seconds left, I took on one of those flying mechs on foot. Would this be my moment of victory right at the end? No. Those things are tough. I should have built a laser turret instead.


Building is also what sets Starhawk‘s single player mode apart from other third-person shooters, but the storyline sounds like it’s going to be full of grit and tough moments too. Players take on the role of Emmett Graves, a Rift miner in the distant sci-fi, frontier-like future. Graves and his brother once carved out a claim on Rift, a futuristic energy source that mutates anyone infected by it into the violent Outcast race. When the Outcast attack the Graves claim, Graves’ brother is turned into an Outcast, but Graves only half-so due to a rescue from his partner Sydney Cutter and his powerful spinal inhibitors. Unfortunately, Graves’ brother actually becomes a significant Outcast leader. The Outcast are an intelligent race despite their infection and brutal tactics. Graves might have been saved, but he’ll constantly struggle with his partial infection, which affects his outward appearance, and the fact that he’s going up against his brother.

I dropped down on a Rift claim that Outcast had taken over with the goal to place an extractor on a source of Rift and defend it from Outcast attackers. The Outcast were there worshiping a giant green geyser of Rift. I disturbed them with a grenade. They spread out and used tactics to get behind me, while others sniped at me from above. Using an assault rifle, I eventually took down the Outcast and built an extractor on the Rift source. This was only the beginning.

Red overlays appeared on the ground, meaning that Outcast were about to drop down from the sky just like my buildings to take back the Rift. Cutter taught me how to build walls, a supply bunker, and auto-turrets. Because I could see where enemies were landing, I could strategize about what to build. I put a wall blocking the extractor and auto-turrets around the sides. Another building spawns friendly squad mates that help kill Outcast and climb up on walls to fire down from above. After you create vehicles, like the flying mech, these squadmates can even jump into those.

Enemy mechs and jets were flying about, but from the supply bunker I built I acquired a rocket launcher. After a few shots at each, the jets were down. This was only the first level, but I had learned how to play while also having a ton of hectic fun, unlike most tutorial levels that can be a drag. Starhawk is one to keep an eye out for if you own a PS3 and enjoy single-player and multiplayer shooters.

Starhawk is scheduled for release on the PS3 in 2012.

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