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Game Reviewed: Starhawk
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: LightBox Interactive
Platform: Playstation 3
Category: Third-Person Shooter/Flight Combat Simulator
ESRB Rating: T
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Starhawk is the spiritual successor to the previously-released game Warhawk. Despite the move from modern-day fighter jet combat to science fiction, the influence and basic ideas behind Warhawk are very visibly at play in Starhawk.
There are two notable things about Starhawk that are new from its predecessor, however (beyond the obvious change in setting). The first is the addition of a third-person shooter element that takes up a large portion of the single-player campaign. The player views the action from behind the player character and uses a variety of weapons to kill the many enemies that attack throughout the game. Rather than relying solely on flight combat and tanks (replaced in this futuristic setting with mechs that can transform between ground mode and flight), this game allows the player to get in and out of vehicles at any time to go it on foot. This also allows for a system wherein the player can build various buildings (from defense turrets to outposts with ammo and weapons to a docking bay with a newly-built vehicle inside).
The second main addition is that of a single player campaign. Warhawk was a multiplayer-only game, but Starhawk has added a story-driven single-player component. Sadly, this campaign is all I was able to experience due to the detestable “Online Pass” system that has become unfortunately common. Thankfully, though I cannot personally speak to the quality of the multiplayer (if the single-player is any indication, which it should be, the multiplayer would be highly enjoyable), I can confirm it has no objectionable content that does not also exist in the single-player. Outside of this being a general principle, since the story-driven nature of a single-player campaign can potentially include language and/or sexual content that has no reason to appear in competitive multiplayer, I’ve done research into the ESRB rating to confirm this. So then, let’s get into the big questions: is Starhawk fun, and it is appropriate for your child or teen?
What Parents Need to Know
The most notable violence takes place in the on-foot sections. When shot, blood effects usually occur. They are noticeable, but minimal, and with most enemies (mutated humans), this blood is not red, but a glowing blue.
The vehicular combat is less graphic, consisting of nothing more than explosions when an enemy ship is destroyed.
- The s-word is used throughout the game.
- The word “bitch” is used throughout the game.
- The word “bastard” is used throughout the game.
Starhawk manages to avoid the occasional tendency of both video games and science fiction to include scantily-dressed women; there is nothing sexually inappropriate in Starhawk.
The only thing bordering on spirituality is the strange energy around which the plot centers, as it is never fully explained, but there is no reason to think it is spiritual rather than natural.
A major plot point involves the protagonist needing to fight and kill his own brother (who has been taken over by rift energy and is inarguably evil by this point).
Starhawk impressed me on one level and disappointed me on another.
On one level, I have seen many games try a single one of these gameplay elements and fail miserably. And yet Starhawk manages to be a game with third-person shooting, vehicular combat both in flight and on the ground, and a strategic building mechanic, and it does all of it well. As I played through the campaign, I was impressed at how well these seemingly disparate elements combined into a genuinely enjoyable and cohesive experience.
Unfortunately, it is obvious the campaign was an afterthought to the multiplayer. The story and its characters are genuinely interesting, but a universe severely lacking in detail combines with a campaign too short to have explored it or its characters anyway, and the result is an experience that, while enjoyable, feels like it could and should have been so very much more.
However, this is all without having experienced the multiplayer, which is not only this game’s most highly-praised element. As I touched on earlier, I rented the game, which did not grant me access to the multiplayer because the game requires the purchase of a $10 pass to access the online content unless one buys the game new. But I can certainly say the gameplay is solid enough that the multiplayer is likely a highly enjoyable experience, and I know it is no less appropriate than the single-player campaign (exempting, of course, the behavior and dialogue of other players, since no game can control that).
In the end, if you enjoy flight combat and wish there was more of it around, you owe it to yourself to check out Starhawk. It has some great ideas and pulls many of them off remarkably well. If you’re in it for the story rather than the multiplayer, give it a rent. And if your kid wants it for any reason… well, you have the details here, so I trust you’ll make the right decision.
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