After a lengthy gap following 2007’s Warhawk, this spiritual sequel ups the ante by moving the action into space. Having colonised far-off worlds, humanity has gone crazy for highly valuable Rift energy. Unfortunately, this space age gold is just as likely to turn you into a ravenous mutant as it is a millionaire. You play as Emmett Graves, able to wield the mysterious Rift energy without losing control but ostracised from society as a result.
The story plays out secondarily to the fast-paced action though, which sees you hopping from awe-inspiring vehicles to hectic third person shooting, all while gathering energy from downed enemies to construct a variety of buildings and battlements. While the idea of trying to construct a defensible base while fending off hordes of rampaging mutants or aliens may sound confusing, it's this blend of strategy and shooting gameplay that makes Starhawk worth your time.
Unlike many strategy games there's little to no waiting for your new buildings to be completed. Once you’ve requested a unit from a simple radial dial, it’s dropped ready-made from orbit and able to be used immediately, allowing minimal interruption to the more frantic ground level action.
While the single player campaign will provide several hours of solid entertainment, particularly once you have access to the signature transforming Hawk mecha, it’s really in online multiplayer where the strength of the game becomes truly apparent. With up to 32 players engaging simultaneously in a variety of modes – each utilising the games’ “Build ‘n’ Battle” mechanic to dynamically alter maps in real time with their own constructions, encampments and weapons – it becomes very much like stepping into a live and explosive firefight, every match an unpredictable battle for dominance.
The game loses some points for lack of originality in its setting - after Rage, Borderlands, and Fallout New Vegas, games should steer clear of Wild West inspired futuristic locales for a while. In every other respect though, it's one of the freshest and most entertaining titles to be released on the PS3 so far this year.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen