One of the most common forms of casual game, from flash games to iOS-style apps, is that of the Tower Defence. Beginning even in the days of custom maps for games such as Warcraft III, this genre focused on constructing specific buildings in order to combat waves of enemies. Starhawk revolutionizes this field, by bringing the action down to the ground, and enhancing a game far beyond what it would have been as a mere shooter.
Story and Setting
Starhawk is the spiritual successor to Warhawk, another exclusive PS3 title. The main way in which Starhawk has built upon this previous entry is by having a single-player story mode of any kind, as Warhawk was entirely a multiplayer game. This should already tell you where the focus is in terms of this series game design. Nevertheless, Starhawk presents a capable and entertaining story, focusing on the mysterious substance, Rift Energy, which is capable of constructing great objects, while at the same time infecting and making some people craxed and monstrous. You play as Emmet, a mercenary who works for a group who defends mining sites from these sorts of crazed beings mentioned earlier. Starhawk takes place in a sci-fi setting, but much of it pays homage to the western genre, much in the same was as Joss Whedon’s series, Firefly. Starhawk presents a reasonable story that serves its primary purpose of educating the player as to how the mechanics of the game function.
Players control two different forms of play primarily. The first is basic ground combat, in which various weapons can be found and equipped, and then fired at enemies. Upon killing enemies or breaking special crates, Rift Energy pours into the player that can then be used to place a building with a touch of a button. These buildings drop from orbit within a few seconds of being ordered. Buildings can range from armouries with more weapons, to walls and turrets for defensive purposes. Buildings can also be captured, destroyed, or retaken depending on the situation. There is a wide variety of them, and placing and constructing them is handled very easily. The second form of play involves the titular “Hawks,” which are star fighters that can either fight in orbit against other ships, or transform into mechs to be used for combat on the ground. Either way, the control of the Hawks feels very visceral and exciting, capturing the feel of a fighter in space very well.
Starhawk is primarily designed to be played online, and hosts a wide array of features in menus and such to allow easy connection and support of games. Gameplay in this realm can either take the form of various missions against another human team, or defending against waves of AI enemies, much like Gears of War’s Horde mode. Online play can support up to 32 players per match, which is a very enjoyable feature in console online games, which typically have fewer.
As a shooter, Starhawk does not bring much new to the table, but is simply competent. Its tower defence features deserve a closer look, as they make matches and gameplay much more dynamic and different each time. If the concept appeals to you, Starhawk will deliver, but is otherwise fairly average.