June 9, 2011 by Paul Curtin
The most fun I had while at this year’s E3 was playing Starhawk‘s multiplayer on the showroom floor. I never had the chance to get into the original Warhawk because I didn’t have a PlayStation 3 when it was released. It’s been almost four years since the original was released, and we haven’t seen or heard anything from the series until now. In today’s era of milking franchises and releasing sequels annually, it’s refreshing to see a developer take their time and release a true sequel that introduces revolutionary new features.
Starhawk is once again being developed by Lightbox Interactive (previously called Incognito) exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Unlike the original, which only featured multiplayer, Starhawk will feature both single and multiplayer. Sony had a multiplayer setup at this year’s E3 on the showroom floor that allowed attendees to take one another on in 8 vs. 8 games of capture the flag.
While the game plays very similarly to the original, there are some big noticeable changes, the most obvious of which are the graphics. The Lightbox team has had four years to work on the visuals, and it shows. Starhawk was one of the best looking games we saw on the showfloor with stunning multiplayer graphics and a beautiful art style.
Another change you’ll notice while playing is the removal of the six-axis motion controls while piloting aircrafts. Warhawk‘s motion controls worked well, but they were more of a gimmick to help sell the PS3 when it debuted. With most serious developers moving away from adding six-axis control gimmicks into their games, Lightbox has followed in their footsteps and reverted back to normal controls that will please hardcore multiplayer fans.
Improved graphics and the removal of gimmicky features are enough to make Starhawk worth checking out, but it’s the brand-new features that make the game stand out from the rest. The best new feature that Starhawk offers is the ability for any player to build massive units anytime, anywhere, on the map. Players just have to rack up points by collecting orbs after completing objectives and killing other players, which allows them to hit one button and bring up a building wheel and select various structures to airdrop, like ATV and hawk factories, turrets, walls, bubble shields, and sniper towers. The way buildings look when falling from the sky is crazy in itself (think the live-action Halo 3: ODST ads), but the ability to essentially weaponize them by dropping them on top of unsuspecting suckers (instantly killing them, of course) makes this RTS element truly epic.
Fans of multiplayer games will love the huge role that teamwork plays. You’ll need to work as a team by using multi-seat vehicles to your advantage if you want to win objective-based games like CTF. There aren’t many multiplayer games out there with vehicles that allow for multiple people to use at once effectively, like Halo did so well. Starhawk has the same style of warthog jeep that you’re used to from Halo with three seats for a driver, a passenger, and gunner for the turret mounted on the back. The vehicles worked just as smoothly as in Halo and were key to capturing the enemy’s flags on the large map. Vehicles are also greatly balanced and easy for players on foot to go head-to-head with, so don’t worry about somebody getting in a jet and flying around in god mode as everyone else runs to hide.
Like the original, Starhawk also has jets that players can build on the fly and that make multiplayer matches pretty astonishing with basically two battles going on at once, one on the ground and one in the air. A lot of the time both battles will come together for pure craziness wherever the flags are, all while massive factories are falling from the skies and crashing into the ground (or players). All new multiplayer innovations, mixed with spectacular team gameplay and amazing graphics, made Starhawk the best and most unique multiplayer game we saw at this year’s E3.