E3 2011: Starhawk
QUICKTAKE: Even in its early state, Starhawk shines with polish. Developer LightBox Interactive has done an incredible job of making every way of playing the game -- whether by foot, by car, by plane, or by mech -- immediately accessible, fun and satisfying.
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THE DEMO: While the final game promises a variety of modes and 16v16 battles, the E3 demo only offered 4v4 Capture the Flag on a single map. While you can immediately run and gun across the battlefield, players will want to build towers to gain an upper hand: sniper towers, turrets, and garages give players new weapons and new vehicles. I was able to get a brief feel for the buggy, mech, and plane, but space combat was not offered.
DETAILS: Starhawk's roots are immediately evident when you pick up the controller. If you've played Warhawk before, then you know what you're getting yourself into. Like its predecessor, the game does a great job of making you feel empowered no matter what vehicle you find yourself in. Even running around on foot is satisfying -- and a sneaky (but slow!) way of getting around the map, if you happen to have the enemy's flag. All the vehicles have a slight learning curve, but it only takes a few minutes to get an idea of how to maneuver around the map.
While the vehicular combat doesn't seem to stray far from its heritage, the ability to build new towers at a whim certainly changes things up. You can build defensive towers, such as automatic turrets, and you can also build towers that grant you new vehicles. Resources are collected simply by standing next to a glowing generator or by killing enemies. Holding the triangle button calls up a circular menu that lets you literally drop new equipment from the sky. (That, and the ability to aim a drop ship every time you spawn, invites easy comparisons to Section 8: Prejudice.)
Because it was such a lightly populated game (only 8 players), the action did slow down at times. Also, the setting simply wasn't conducive to great teamwork: a noisy stadium, with three strangers that have never played the game. It was difficult to coordinate strategy, as some players opted to simply play the game, deathmatch-style. I chose to build as many turrets around our flag as possible, hoping that that would give my team the upper hand in battle. (It seemed to work. In our ten minute match, our team won, 1-0.)
The game's not due for another year, but it already sported a rock-solid framerate and some of the best visuals for a multiplayer game on the platform. There wasn't a single hiccup during my session, a testament to the solid foundation placed by LightBox Interactive. Keep an eye on this one.
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