Starhawk is the spiritual successor to celebrated 2007 shooter Warhawk, once again combing sharp third-person shooting with vehicular warfare. This space-bound follow-up comes with a twist, allowing players to call in defences, vehicles and structures at a moments notice. Digital Spy checks out the campaign ahead of the PS3 exclusive's release next week.
Starhawk is set in a universe where a futuristic gold rush is taking place following the emergence of powerful Rift energy. While scores of men and women take to the stars to make their fortune, many are ensnared by its toxic properties, turning them into the monstrous Scabs who defend the Rift with their lives.
The campaign sees the Scabs unite under a powerful and mysterious leader, and it's down to allied soldiers to defend manufacturing installations against attack. While the set up is a little generic on the surface, Rift energy provides plenty of gameplay potential.
Summon your own defences, exactly when you need them
Starhawk takes elements from the tower defense genre to create a true sandbox shooter. Early missions in the campaign see soldiers reclaim stations and structures overrun by the Scabs, and from there they must continue to defend against them by further enemy waves.
Thanks to orbital drops, players can call in anything from auto turrets to entire structures to help them defend themselves against oncoming waves. Massive supply bunkers packed with rocket launchers can be used as an ideal cover point against initial waves, and if players become overrun, then walls can be planted to stem the flow and provide cover.
Elsewhere, enemy snipers can be counteracted by constructing watch towers that position you out of danger below, and hand you a few rifles to help fight back too.
The process of building structures is all governed by Rift energy - which can be found in barrels ready for the taking, or replenished by defeating enemy waves. It means you have to keep a steady offensive in order to build new structures while being conservative enough with your purchases to stay alive.
While early missions drop you in areas where there is plenty of cover, certain situations sees enemy fire cut through your health in seconds, meaning careful and appropriate building is key to survival.
Take to the stars, and back again
As well as on-foot sections on a variety of planets, the campaign also sees you take to the stars in a Hawk, a walking mech that can freely and stylishly transform into a fighter ship on command. These nimble and adept spacecraft are capable of firing homing lasers and a stream of bullets on opposing enemy fighters, keeping the spirit of Warhawk alive.
A particular mission sees players having to protect a vast space station, requiring them to patrol the surrounding stars for enemy ships before landing, dismounting and calling down buildings to defend against enemy waves within quick succession.
With land-based rides such as jetbikes and tanks also available, we hope that this seamless transition with vehicles for defending structures is a regular occurrence, as going between the Hawk and on-foot was an exciting highlight.
Outside of its fortifications, Starhawk is very much a traditional third-person shooter, but one that nails the essentials. Traditional but punchy and playful weapons mean on-foot sections are a blast, the spaceship controls are tight and responsive, and it's all wonderfully presented, with a cartoon aesthetic and cool Wild West vibe in sound and art design that ties in perfectly with its attractive space frontier angle.
While campaign missions appear to be straightforward, having players defend bases in a variety of locations, they act as a solid and enjoyable introduction to the real meat of the game, multiplayer, and would be great fun when played co-operatively too.
Starhawk is a fun, well-produced shooter with an engaging sandbox twist. Despite the lack of buzz leading up to its imminent release, it's definitely one to watch, and could prove to be a multiplayer sleeper hit during the coming months.
Starhawk will be available on May 8 in North America and on May 11 in Europe exclusively on PS3.