Warhawk was one of the games that really kick started the Playstation 3 for some. 2007 was kind of a rough year for the system without a ton of stuff to play but Warhawk really helped to alleviate that even if it was a game entirely focused on multiplayer. Now, four years later we have Starhawk, and a few are worried that the spiritual successor deviates a bit too much from the inspiration. I got my hands on the game to see for myself.
First huge difference about Starhawk is that it actually has a single player campaign. You play as Emmett Graves, a rift miner in the Frontier (basically a space version of the Old West). Rift miners harvest rift energy which is an incredibly powerful and valuable substance that has the unfortunate side effect of turning those exposed to it into mutants. Miners eventually grow exoskeletons and become increasingly hostile. Emmett has been infected with rift energy as well but his engineer Cutter has installed him with a goofy science fiction backpack of sorts that keeps things in check. After that brief explanation it was time to get into the gameplay.
The level I played was a wide open area with a building in the center of a field of dust and dirt. I asked the developer if there were more environments in the game than what had been seen since I know a lot of people are worried that this is just another brown shooter. He assured me that not only would there be fights on the moon of your home planet like this mission but also fighting on the home planet itself as well as in the space around it. Grey-Brown dessert works well to give off an Old West feel, but there’s only so much of the stuff I can stand.
My mission was to get to the central building and press a button (it does something I’m sure but I forgot). What followed was pretty standard third person shooter fare with a shotgun-like weapon blowing through anyone that dared get near me. After that was where things got interesting. Like everything in life you can’t expect things to go as planned, and it seemed the button had malfunctioned in whatever the hell it did and enemy reinforcements were on the way. The developer told me that while this particular mission gave me indicators of where forces were going to come from and how much time I had there were others that didn’t make it as obvious.
So why does the time I have matter? Well because in this game you can actually make preparations. Using the rift energy you obtain from killing bad guys you can press a button and bring up a Ratchet and Clank style weapon wheel of buildings to put down. The first one I put down was some sort of rift energy well that could only be placed on certain spots but I was told all the other buildings operate like making them in RTS’s in that you can build them anywhere unobstructed.
My next building was far more fun as it called down three of what the developer called “red shirts”. Little named AI guys that will just go about their business without any need for direction. I also called down a supply bunker which was a great place to hide as well as a stock pile of improved weaponry. The supply bunker showed off another RTS-like element in that it could be upgraded with turrets for auto-defense. After that I set down the building everyone would want, the transforming jet plane repository. Flying around in the mech feels a lot like warhawk and you can also transform it into a walker mode for more easily taking down stationary targets and infantry.
Taking out the first wave of baddies was easy enough; my AI minions did a good amount of the work for me so I set about making more buildings. I set up a couple of connecting walls to give my little AI dudes something to hide behind and was able to upgrade one section of the wall into a gate for easy access. Then there were some auto turrets to place, but I wasn’t able to try and upgrade them before I became overrun and my buildings started blowing up. It should have been obvious that buildings could be destroyed but I guess I just wasn’t thinking of that for a TPS. The developer told me that like an RTS certain units are better at certain things and I had just put a big building in front of guys who chew through them like paper. Obviously I am a master of strategy.
So sure the TPS aspect of this is a bit generic but I was really digging the RTS slant by the end of my demo. I could really see this working well in a multiplayer setting, though I wonder if you’ll still be able to call down little AI “red shirts” when you already have a bunch of people playing, or how rift energy will be split up between team members. Regardless it’s an interesting concept and I’m curious to see how it all works out when it releases in 2012.