Over the Festive period we have had some quality time with the next game in the Warhawk series, Starhawk. To say that Starhawk is a different beast to the previous entry would be an understatement. Starhawk takes all the features of Warhawk and boosts them up and into the stars themselves; we mean this literally as Starhawk fit to its name takes the franchise into space as well as keeping the ground battles that made Warhawk a success.
The actual gameplay is for all intends and purposes extremely similar to Warhawk in almost every way. That is with a few exceptions, let’s take the ground combat first; the first major difference is that the knife and thus the melee attack for ground troops has been moved to one button function. With Warhawk the knife was mapped as a selectable weapon that you needed to pick your moment to switch to, now in Starhawk it has been moved to the new standard of R3 making it easier, but also less tactical to deploy in combat. In addition, the pistol that became the crush time weapon of choice for so many seems to have disappeared completely. This has meant that all of your weapons have a limited ammo count now, which in turn balances the gameplay out somewhat.
Remaining loyal to the past Starhawk isn’t all about flight, however there are vehicles missing from the beta with no mention or indication that they will appear. First off, you have a Warhawk of sorts, the Hawk as it is called here has two modes a flight and walker mode. The walker mode sets your character at the top of an AT-ST like robot but still giving you access to the full firepower of the Hawk. In flight mode, the Hawk works in a similar style to that of the Warhawk in terms of controls and firepower. However, the way in which you collect that firepower has changed. Now, you have a new option in the place of the R3 melee attack; Chaff. Once a collectable ‘power-up’ style weapon, now you can deploy Chaff at any time after a cool down period. There are collectable weapons around, however they seem to be just additional ammo for your missiles instead of new weapons, whether they are just missing for the Beta to cut down the download size or if they are absent from the game as a whole, we can’t say. Another oddity is that you cannot change the control settings for the Hawk, thus you can’t set it to Pro-Flight mode. In addition, joining the casualties from Warhawk is the Tank as the only land vehicle in the game is the Razorback, which acts like a Jeep. This, of course, requires more than a single player to be an effective weapon as the Razorback hold positions for a rear gunner as well as a driver and passenger up front.
Moving on to actually playing the game to look at the most publicised and largest difference in Starhawk is the Build and Battle system. This basically allows you to construct walls, vehicle depots and turrets to offer defence to your base or to spawn more vehicles in the world. These buildings require a resource to build, Rift Energy and this is collected in various ways; the first way is strangely patrolling your base as long as you are in the area of the base you will collect energy from the hub. Another way is killing enemies. For each of the opposite sides players you kill, you gain an amount of rift energy from them, as well as collecting new weapons and picking up more ammo. This does add a great favour of the tactics to the game and placing the different building options in a strong strategic place can change the course of the game for good and bad.
As the current version stands there are two game modes available to actually play, but the full game will have four modes. They are Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch and Zones (a territory capturing mode), each of the modes will not be a surprise to veteran players of the game. Of the four Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch are the playable ones. We don’t really think we need to explain what the modes are as they are pretty standard affairs, although the map shapes are again similar to the style used in Warhawk they are different to the normal with each offering the mirror image of the other side. There are two maps in the beta, one a ground battle map called ‘Acid Sea’ and another Space based one called funnily enough ‘Space’.
For those who loved, ate, slept and drank Warhawk, this might be a slap in the face, as based on the Beta it seems more limited than the previous entry. However, the scope for tactical decision making and streamlined gameplay makes for a fresher more suitable experience. Whether the tactical side will win out over the ‘pro’ flight sim will only be told in the full release.