May 15, 2012

Disparate Measures

Lasting First Impressions of Starhawk from Lighbox Interactive

starhawk_boxartI was first introduced to Starhawk, developed by Lightbox Interactive, last week at the Sony Spring Showcase event. I hadn’t heard of this title until that event and I was intrigued by what I saw.  Starhawk was promising a genre-bending cross between a full-on third person shooter with the tactical structure building of an RTS.  On top of that, Starhawk also boasts space and aerial combat levels, a genre that is sorely lacking these days.  Three great genres in one title, done right, seemed like the perfect combination and I was eager to give it a try.

The game opens with a very stylized animated introduction reminiscent to the opening of inFAMOUS.  It tells the story of Rift energy mutating people and a team of hunters tasked with keeping them in check.  One such team is the focus of Starhawk and their attempt to, um, well, I’m not really sure.  Honestly, the story wasn’t clear to me at all as I made my way through this very linear game, and I found myself not really caring for any of the characters.  Backstory was interspersed throughout the game but nothing seemed to make any sense to me as everything just happened so fast that I wasn’t given an opportunity to truly digest what I was given.

starhawk screen 1

Regardless of story, how was the gameplay?  As a merger of two great genres, Third-person Shooter and RTS, both elements were done very well.  As a shooter, gameplay was exactly as you would expect it to be: solid controls, good selection of varied weapons, plenty of enemies.  As an RTS, it was also everything you would expect: solid controls, good selection of building types, plenty of space to build.  Unfortunately, as a combination of these two solid genres, the game falls short as it doesn’t give you enough time to fully enjoy either.  When deciding which building type to deploy, the action doesn’t stop or slow down so you are caught in the midst of a flurry of enemy fire while attempting to pick a building to deploy and place.  Additionally, I found during my time with the game, that the action was constantly interrupted by more cut scenes which took me completely out of the action and I was left feeling disoriented when the cut scenes completed.

In addition to the RTS/TPS action sequences, Starhawk also brings along aerial and space combat into the mix.  A Starhawk is a transformer of sorts: when you first mount the vehicle it can be used as a giant mech but, with ease, can instantly transform into a aerial combat vehicle.  It is a very cool mechanic but I found the space combat to be a bit sloppy. The controls felt too loose and the vehicle seemed to be much slower than that of the enemies.  The space combat left me feeling frustrating and wanting it to end so I could get back to the mediocre ground assault gameplay.  During the aerial combat, the enemy combatants appeared to be piloting vehicles that were much faster than my Starhawk so, by the time I finally spotted one, it had already flown by requiring me to perform a 180 degree flip and begin my search for them again.  Once I did finally spot them and obtain a target lock, I was forced to dodge their swarm of fire, thus losing them once again.

starhawk screen 2

Starhawk seemed to have some amazing promise when I first laid eyes upon it, but once I got deeper into the gameplay, it just felt like too many disparate game types having been mashed into one, with neither gaining the attention it deserves. In a season full of mega titles such as Diablo III, Max Payne 3 and Ghost Recon Future Soldier, I think Starhawk is going to have a tough time garnering any attention and I don’t feel like it is doing enough to stand out amongst such titles.  Starhawk simply gave me a sense of uneasiness and confusion and I have no reason to want to come back for more.  The concept seemed unique enough to entice me to play, including space combat, but the too-quick pace and unclear objectives steered me away.

Lightbox Interactive, I gave you an hour and I am NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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One Comment

  1. Craig

    I wonder if the decision to keep the action moving while you’re calling down structures ties back to its multiplayer roots. Reminds me of what they did with Lost Planet 2. Sounds like what it would be like if the action continued while you brought up the power wheel.

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