It’s been hyped up for the last two weeks but this past weekend I finally had the honor of playing the latest addition to Starhawk: the first level set in space. Gamers obviously expect some space goodness to be present in Starhawk given its sci-fi setting which includes fast transforming flying vehicles of death and it’s called Starhawk. Sony and LightBox Interactive have been nice enough to show us what to expect from the space level featured in Starhawk but actually experiencing something firsthand is entirely different than seeing a mere video.
My PAX Prime adventure with Starhawk was an interesting one for a few reasons because it was filled with joy and heartbreak. Having had an amazing first-go with Starhawk at E3 this year, I was more than ready to hop into the build and battle action of the game and kill a bunch of evil Rifters in the process. Upon arriving on the floating space station the multiplayer map was set on I immediately went into cold blooded warrior mode and made a fast dash for the enemy flag. Now most of the time when I play multiplayer games or even Warhawk back in the day I was never an instant flag attacker since it’s a bit cocky and can lead to an embarrassing death if the opposing team is camping out waiting to kill those foolish enough to immediately grab a flag. But the gaming gods were on my side during the first few minutes of Starhawk since I was able to capture the flag and successfully return it to my base – the only catch being that the enemy team was now in possession of my flag.
While being in a stalemate situation can often lead to a multiplayer match immediately being boring or lacking skill in terms of combat and attacks, that wasn’t the case at all in the Starhawk match I took part of. Instead of going into instant crouch mode and taking position in a corner when I wouldn’t be immediately gunned down, Starhawk allows gamers to take instant action thanks to the build and battle mechanics. Upon returning to my base I opted to stay close to the flag position, hoping my team would regain our flag. While doing such a thing may be deemed a poor tactical decision, the build and battle features allowed both myself and my team to instantly build a series of defensive positions in the hopes of protecting me. I took it upon myself to build some turrets while one tactically inclined teammate of mine decided to build some beam cannon stations in the hopes of holding off any would be Hawk bombers. While I valiantly took up a good defensive position it wasn’t enough as I was sniped after holding the flag for almost five minutes, which was a moment that left me crying on the inside.
Outside of feeling like my cat died upon being killed whilst holding the enemies flag, the space level in Starhawk left me floored in just how good it was. The central level designed may not be built around the feature of being in space i.e. there’s no gravity and stuff like that, but when I hopped into a Hawk or donned a jetpack I really was able to appreciate what LightBox created. Following the standard design of most multiplayer maps, the space outpost level in Starhawk featured a few different levels and ramps which were mirrored in both bases of the opposing teams. While generally nothing too new from how things were executed, Starhawk’s debut space level was notably cool because it’s a multiplayer level set in space.
Like I said the immediate feeling of being in space may not be felt since there’s nothing crazy going on, but seeing planets off in the distance and the subtle glow around them made me wish I could’ve stayed at the Starhawk booth all day and simply continue to master the game and bask in the small visual touches that are present which help establish the mood. The general color scheme of the space outpost may be filled with the sometimes traditional if not clichéd dark grey/steel look that we often see in sci-fi games, but it still looks cool and graphically the game looks amazing. Starhawk may not be one of the best looking PS3 games ever made, but just like Warhawk back in the day the game has a style and level of detail that’s almost unseen in most multiplayer games, or at least those that aren’t trying to throw in a crapload of features hoping that a wide range of gamers find the game appealing.
Maybe I’m just over-selling Starhawk a bit out of sheer fandom, but as a starter course of things to come the space outpost level in Starhawk was simply fun as hell. The sheer fact that gamers can have a massive and somewhat dense playground like the space outpost that can be enhanced through the build and battle feature is mind blowing to me – more so since it’s far from being a gimmick that’s never used. While I may have opted to go into revenge mode after getting shot in the head while holding the enemies flag, my team did their best to build defensive measures in the hopes of holding off the Rifters but sadly it wasn’t enough since my team lost. Even when the result is sheer defeat Starhawk has the makings to be one of the best multiplayer games this generation since it’s incredibly straightforward but has a level of depth that thankfully doesn’t involve choosing the perfect selection of Perks and weapon loads-out that were earned after playing for sixty hours. Outside of the core setting and theme there’s a lot of substance in Starhawk which could ultimately make it the multiplayer GOTY once it arrives next year.