Starhawk Gamescom 2011 Preview -- Flag Capturing, Mechs in Flight, and Deadly DropsBy Sinan Kubba - Posted Sep 01, 2011
With Starhawk, Lightbox Interactive has done what we’ve been patiently waiting for Activision to do with Call of Duty. The “spiritual successor” to Warhawk sees the 32-player PS3-exclusive shooter experience launch into space, and that’s a very stirring prospect for us at G4.
Back in May, Kevin Kelly gave us an in-depth look at what we can expect from Starhawk. We got a look at the single-player campaign, which pits hero miner of Rift energy Emmett Graves against the Outcasts, the unfortunates who’ve come into contact with the precious material and been horribly mutated by its power. Emmett has also come into contact with Rift energy, but it’s only mutated him slightly. The story will see him try to deal with the ever-increasing effects of the mutation as he follows his journey to take down the warlord of the Outcasts, who as it happens is his mutated brother Logan. What is it about space-based warfare that brings out inter-familial conflicts?
As for the play itself, we also saw the RTS-like “Build & Battle” system, which players can use accumulated Rift energy to deploy structures like turrets, anti-air beams, barriers, and so on. When built, these structures will come crashing down from above so powerfully they’ll take out all enemies in their path. We also got a sense of that wonderful Warhawk-inspired ability to transform the Hawk mechs from hulking ground units into gracefully gliders to take into the sky and dogfight with.
At Gamescom 2011 we saw how important the Hawks can prove to be depending on the map, as Lightbox showed off their capture-the-flag mode in a new multiplayer map called Orbital. The Orbital map is made up of a number of floating platforms which are orbiting around the vast brown planet below. There is nothing interconnecting these relatively tiny platforms, so the emphasis is on using the Build & Battle system to spawn the launch pad required to generate the flame-powered Hawks. We also saw how the communication tower, which in the single-player calls AI units to come help, will transform in the multiplayer to a spawn point, and how in Orbital this becomes a fundamental part of establishing a foothold on these island-like platforms.
The Hawks are not the only way to traverse the sky, though. The jetpacks introduced in the Fallen Star expansion pack for Warhawk will make a welcome return to Starhawk, so soldiers on the ground will be able to follow the Hawk units across the starry space, albeit at a slower pace. They also don’t quite have the maneuverability of a Hawk, so players will have to be very canny and careful in using them to cross Orbital’s platforms undetected. Either way, jetpacks are always cool so we’re happy.
What really stood out in Cologne, though, was just how good the game keeps looking. Warhawk wasn’t a bad-looking title, but it was the first PS3 downloadable/retail game and the system has taken strides forward since then. It’s just stunning to watch a Hawk glide against the blue and navy flickers of deep space before it turns round and looks down from on high at the towering structures below which float almost serenely if it weren’t for the flurry of missiles and lasers around them. It’s the kind of game that when we look at it makes us feel old as we think back to the rigged polygons and stodgy frame rate of the original Warhawk on PS1. And based on what we’ve seen so far, it plays as good as it looks. PS3 multiplayer fans could be in for a real treat come February 2012.