Starhawk has a fully-fledged single-player mode with a story and characters and objectives and cut scenes and everything! And who are we to argue that actually it’s just a bunch of – effectively – training missions to prepare you for the main draw, multiplayer, by pitting you against little more than waves of bots and teaching you the game’s mechanics? Play, that’s who. And that’s what we’ll say, because that’s what it is. Don’t buy Starhawk if you’re only intending to play offline.
Online, we encounter something actually worth paying attention to – something actually worth paying to (“for”). The basic structure is the same as the game from which Starhawk is born – taking the Warhawk template of on-foot, vehicular and air-based combat across large battlefields in a few of your usual game modes and transposing it to the Wild West of the stars universe that Starhawk takes place in.
In this regard it’s very similar to what came before and will be instantly recognisable by Warhawk veterans. You run, you jump, you shoot, you drive, you hover a bit, you stomp-stomp-stomp, you press circle, you fly away, you feel good about life. Every. Single. Time. Seriously, this is a more satisfying transformation from mech to vehnicle than anything any Transformers game has managed.
Anyway, there are new features thrown in that keep things fresh, mainly in the shape of the RTS-like building systems. During a match every player is able to select a range of structures from a radial dial and place them on the battlefield, so long as they have enough rift energy. It’s an interesting addition, though admittedly one sure to take some getting used to by the community – we’ve already seen with our time in the game players building unnecessary multiples of support structures in bases, simply because they weren’t paying attention. But this will change; people will learn.
What it does mean is you can tailor a battle to your own whims, adding in a mech dispenser if you feel the need or lobbing a sniper tower into a ridiculous position just because you want to be the most in-plain-sight covert operative the world has ever seen. It opens things up and supports player freedoms, as well as improving the actual experience of playing.
Support for clans, customisation – even a co-operative horde mode – shows Starhawk is only really intended to be played online, despite marketing gumph that states otherwise. Offline, it’s forgettable. Online, it’s great fun.