Starhawk Multiplayer Preview


Oh my, starry eyed surprise

All the way back in July 2011 we introduced you to Starhawk, Lightbox Interactive’s sequel to their rather subtlety titled ‘Warhawk’. Whilst Warhawk may not have made the huge splash in the gaming pond that Lightbox and Sony had hoped for, Starhawk seems to be ticking all the right boxes. Read on to find out what we thought of the the Starhawk multiplayer beta.

It’s good to have friends

Starhawk is a game that Sony and Lightbox have always promised to be more heavily based around the multiplayer action than the single player, and after even just a few a minutes of play you can tell that it has an awful lot to offer. At the moment, the beta only features two game modes (capture the flag and team deathmatch), but there are two more currently unavailable options, which will hopefully mean the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag combo with maybe an original unique game mode (hopefully based around the amazing vehicle combat).

The online modes also look set to have a character levelling system based around XP from in game actions (killing enemies, building structures, capturing objectives). This certainly isn’t a new idea, but it seems as though it would match up with Starhawk’s ‘Build ‘n’ Battle’ system very well, allowing the hardcore players some very nice unlocks, whilst still letting the casual guys still get involved too. As you’d expect, there is a system in place to govern unlocks, as well as skill trees for upgrading vehicles, weapons and deployable structures.

If you build it, they will come

A huge new lump of fun that Lightbox have built into Starhawk is aptly named the ‘Build ‘n’ Battle’ system. During the course of battles, players build up ‘Rift Energy’ through killing enemies and capturing Rift Extractors (basically a fancy named command point). After storing up enough Rift Energy, players can drop offensive or defensive structures into the battle. These range from simple defensive walls to bunkers, sniper towers, vehicle garages, automatic defense cannons and more. This new system adds an interesting real time strategy element to the game, setting it apart from a number of other third person shooters currently available.

Utilising  Build ‘n’ Battle system during a capture the flag match can provide some hilarious and unique moments involving  flags belonging to both teams being surrounded with 15 foot high walls and a forest of automated turrets. Sadly, the system can be the cause of matches ending in a stalemate, with neither team making headway. However, during deathmatch games it is incredibly useful, and allows even a single player with enough stored up Rift Energy to hold off a large number of attackers until back up arrives. For the duration of the beta, a maximum of 32 structures could be built on a map at any one time, however it has been confirmed on the Starhawk forums that when the game comes out the number will be theoretically unlimited!

Unfortunately, at this moment in time, it is very easy to get a large number of team kills by accidently (or deliberately, depending upon your sense of humour) dropping building onto team mates. Sure, a giant green outline of the incoming building appears on battlefield, but not all players are quick enough to hot-foot it out of the way!

Lock and load

Starhawk’s weapons currently feel a little disappointing due to the fact that, with the exception of the Rocket Launcher, they seem a little weak and lackluster. This isn’t helped by lack of an auto-aim system, and Lightbox has stated the team has no plans to implement one. Whilst this may suit the more hardcore console shooter fan, it may lead to the less experience being turned off.  This is an issue that hopefully will be improved, and the skill tree system is also sure to have a number of weapon damage buffs, meaning players won’t feel too underpowered for long, but the actual skill trees themselves remain to be seen.

The weapon selection in the beta wasn’t huge, containing an assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun and rocket launcher, along with the combat blade. More weapons have been hinted at (including a pistol and grinder), but whether these will be seen in another updated beta before release is uncertain.

Clunk, click, every trip

By far the most entertaining aspect of Starhawk’s multiplayer gameplay is the intense vehicular combat that nearly every player will find themselves involved with in one way or another. Every player is spawned onto the battlefield via a drop pod, allowing them to choose their exact insertion point in or around their base or captured Rift Extractors (no dropping right into the enemy base like Rambo). During the fairly short and speedy descent to the planet’s surface you do have some degree of control over your pod, which inevitably leads to everyone trying to land on someone else’s head (don’t pretend you wouldn’t give it a shot). Luckily, this relative spawn freedom almost totally removes the threat of spawn killing as players can choose to actively land away from the action.

Utilising stored up Rift Energy, players can build garages and hangers, allowing them to spawn the two currently available vehicles; The Razorback and The Hawk. The former is effectively a clone of  Halo’s Warthog (driver, passenger and rear gunner), but is still a formidable piece of kit in the right hands, and very useful for hit and run attacks or protecting the flag carrier during capture the flag matches. The Hawk on the other hand is the illegitimate love child of Optimus Prime and an F15 fighter jet. Spawned as a walking mech with a mounted chain cannon, swarm missiles and a powerful stomp, the player can either cause havoc on the ground or quickly transform into a fast fighter jet. The ability to change forms very quickly allows for incredible dog fights, with opposing players switching form hundreds of feet in the air to perform quick 180 turns before switching back, locking on homing missiles and zipping off.

Due to the fact that all players can build hangers and garages with enough stored up Rift Energy, at any given time, the battlefield could be filled with vehicles engaged in combat, which although hectic, does make for some of the best and most fun gameplay. It also means vehicle hogging is almost unheard of, chew on that Battlefield 3 jet pilots.

Dotted around most of the maps there are also power ups, which are, for the most part, only accessible using vehicles, but do provide some nice bonuses if you willing to hunt them down and risk getting your tail shot off.

Let’s get technical

The beta only featured two maps (Space and Acid Sea), but both provided a nice mixture of on foot and vehicle based combat options, with lots of high points and tight spaces for sniping and close combat. Graphically, Starhawk won’t break any records, but the gameplay more than makes up any shortcomings in that particular department. Let’s face it, blowing things up or trying to land a building on someone is always a good distraction. The full game promises many more maps of varying sizes/complexity, and with the Build ‘n’ Battle system players really are free to do what they like with the space provided.

With this being a beta, any problems mentioned above are sure to fixed, and hopefully Starhawk will be the success that it deserves. Even though there is currently no shortage of mutliplayer shooter games on the console market, this one sure does have a few aces up its sleeves. If you like your team based shooters, we recommend watching this title like a hawk.





Starhawk is set to be released in 2012 on the PlayStation 3. Beta keys were given out with copies of Uncharted 3, some may still be available from certain websites.

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