Ever since Starhawk was officially announced, I’ve been looking forward to the title. I never played its spiritual precursor, Warhawk, but the idea of Battlefield in space with light real-time strategy elements was too good to pass up. The fact that developers Sony Santa Monica (God of War) and LightBox Interactive made a lot of bold claims about their spiritual sequel didn’t help alleviate my yearning for Starhawk.
When the game arrived I cracked into it with glee, tossing it into my PlayStation 3 and saddling up for some epic space western action. Or so I thought. The truth of the matter is Starhawk doesn’t really live up to expectations. In some areas it definitely delivers, but in others, not so much.
For starters, LightBox and Sony Santa Monica made a big fuss about Starhawk’s single-player campaign. Warhawk never featured a single player mode; it was solely a multiplayer experience. With Starhawk, the developers wanted to give the guys/gals who love to fly solo something to enjoy. Unfortunately, the single player mode of Starhawk suffers from the same syndrome as early Battlefield titles; the mode is simply multiplayer with computer-controlled bots instead of actual people.
Single player is essentially an appetizer for multiplayer. The campaign lasts for maybe a handful of hours and is solely concerned with familiarizing you with the ins and outs of how to play Starhawk -- from shooting weapons, to building defensive structures, to piloting the game’s badass mechs called Hawks.
It also doesn’t help that the story stringing together each level is paper-thin. You play as a space miner named Emmett Graves, who gets caught in the middle of a war between honest Rift-energy miners and a group of ruthless savages called Outcasts. The story’s twists are predicable, and its characters instantly forgettable. You’ll walk away from single player wishing you didn’t waste the hours playing it.
It’s a damn shame, really. I, for one, wanted this game to deliver something worthwhile in the single player arena. But as we’ve learned before, a multiplayer tutorial disguised as a “full single player campaign” does not equal a good time.
Thankfully, Starhawk’s multiplayer mode swoops in to save the day. If it wasn’t blatantly clear already, multiplayer is definitely the focal point of Starhawk. The mode is robust and continually rewarding.
There’s never a battle that isn’t engaging, whether it’s on the ground with foot soldiers and tanks, or in the air with multiple Hawks dog fighting in space. Being able to create defensive strongholds on the fly with the “Build and Battle” system adds another strategic layer to matches.
Because of the diversity in gameplay available, Starhawk’s multiplayer mode consistently remains a fresh and engaging experience. Better yet, if you can find a team of players that share your enthusiasm for stratagems, Starhawk becomes an even deeper multiplayer experience. Committing to learning the intricacies of combat rewards players with a game that’s much more than another brainless online shooter.
If you’re thinking about buying Starhawk for the single player affair, please reconsider. You’ll regret the purchase. But if you’re looking for the next big thing in the multiplayer arena, Starhawk is a solid option. The multiplayer mode might be easy to pick up and play, but the breath of layers to it makes the experience a rewarding one on a consistent basis.
CraveOnline received one advanced copy of Starhawk for the PlayStation 3 from Sony. Before starting our review, we completed the game’s boring single player mode and played a handful of hours in the multiplayer component. Our greatest accomplishment was squashing someone with a respawn drop pod. It was awesome.