“If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, you should check your ticker.” – Cutter
Spurs in space
Get ready to buckle up and blast some Outcast scabs in this action packed space western from LightBox Interactive. Set in the far-off future, this 3rd person shooter with a Tower Defense/RTS twist takes you to the rough edges of space colonization where neon blue rift energy is the key energy source, and mining it from arid backwater planets is a dangerous business.
Humanity is constantly in battle with the Outcast, crazed mutant humans exposed to rift energy, vying for control over this “Blue Gold”. Meet Emmett Graves, the main protagonist, a badass gunslinger infected with rift energy and hated by society because of it. He does the jobs that no one else can; salvaging rift sites overrun with Outcast along with his partner, Sidney Cutter, the gear man. Together they travel the frontier kicking Outcast ass until they are called back to Emmett’s childhood hometown of White Sands to protect it from the infamous Outlaw, Emmett’s brother Logan Graves, and his Outcast legion.
Build me up, buttercup
Starhawk kicks out action at an incredible pace, though this game is just as much about strategy. The Build & Battle system gives you the ability to change the battlefield at any given time, if you have the rift energy to fuel it. There is a reasonably large arsenal of buildings/vehicles you can orbitally drop in with a bang at any time, from sniper towers to jetpack stations. You can even call in an outpost station to give you some extra friendly AI backup. The most iconic for this series is of course, the Hawk station, a mech that can both soar through space with a variety of explosive weaponry and be taken to the ground to stomp merrily on clustering Outcast like ants.
Flexibility, brought by the Build & Battle system, is where this game stands out above the rest. There is not one specific way to complete a mission; the game tells you what’s coming and you prepare for it the way you see fit. Be it by building walls with mounted turrets to keep out the hoards of Outcast or supply bunkers, filled with rocket launchers to give your visitors an explosive welcome. If your strategy fails, you can always drop in other buildings. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you might even manage to flatten your enemy (hopefully not yourself) with your elite orbital dropping skills. Sadly, the camera angles can get a bit weird when you’re dropping all manner of machinery left right and center, but luckily it’s not something that permanently damages the experience.
The visual style really is a work of art. In tandem with the epic western style musical score and fantastic voice acting, the environments are superb at building an incredible atmosphere from a dusty wild west style town to an industrial orbital space station, giving it a definite Firefly-esque feel. Each environment is sewn together with a story-related artwork style cut scene, and though the artwork is amazing, the story is where this game trips up.
The story and character development is shallow and unfortunately in this short game it’s not likely you’ll end up giving a damn about anyone or anything, other than the next adrenaline fueled Outcast attack. I wouldn’t say this detracts from the fun but it certainly feels like a missed opportunity in a game that succeeds in every other aspect of an immersive experience.
Though the single player only clocks in at around 6 hours, it’s an action intensive experience backed up by fully fledged multiplayer and co-op as the icing on the cake. In the single player you’ll be built up step by step, introducing you to the ins and outs of all the weapons, buildings and vehicle types and how they can potentially work together against the AI. Once you’ve got that down, you can either take your knowledge and use it to co-operatively defend claims against AI with friends in 1-4 player co-op. Or, alternatively, flip it on its head in online multiplayer as AI mentality is certainly no match for the ingenuity of flesh and blood players.
Multiplayer modes come in a familiar variety of flavours; Capture the flag, deathmatch, team deathmatch and zones (capturing and holding multiple bases). But all this is quite upended when you have the ability to drop anything and everything on the battlefield. There’s nothing quite like getting into a capture the flag battle, taking the enemy’s flag, dropping a Razorback (warthog type vehicles) station or a Sidewinder (jedi speeder-esque vehicles) station just outside and executing a speedy getaway. Provided, of course, you don’t get blown up by someone with a keen rocket launcher eye on your way out. There are hours and hours of fun to be had here as not two matches will be the same, and surprises can come anytime, anywhere.
Round ‘em up
All-in-all Starhawk’s single player experience is a short but intense ride is intended to be followed by hours of quality multiplayer. This game will definitely get the adrenaline pumping and have you wondering what the next instrument of death should be and where the most effectively place is.
Miss; Story and character development. The world is there, its just not used.
Needed; More! The single player experience is far too short.