E3 2011: Starhawk Hands-On Preview

By Darryl Kaye on June 25, 2011, 4:41PM EDT

For years, rumours buzzed around about a sequel to 2007's cult hit Warhawk, but Sony remained tight lipped. That was, until Starhawk was officially announced last month. Described as a spiritual successor, not a sequel, Starhawk looks to build on what made Warhawk so great, all while retaining the same feel. Because of this, there are plenty of differences, with a new single-player campaign and a new, expansive, battle mechanic thrown in too. There are still some questions to be asked though, the most prominent being, what took so long?

A single-player campaign isn't alien to the series, with the original Warhawk, which released back in 1995, being solely single-player focussed. Warhawk which released in 2007 was planned to have a single-player campaign too, it was even shown off in its original E3 demo, but it was removed in favour of a multiplayer-only experience - a decision which proved to be the correct one, as that was part of Warhawk's charm. It's back with Starhawk and LightBox are keen to stress that it's more than just a glorified campaign for the online experience.

Throughout the campaign, you will follow the story of a man named Emmett Graves. He's a rather unfortunate fellow who was running a rift mine in the Frontier, a space colony. His mine was attacked, his rig exploded and he became infected with rift energy. Because of this, he gives up the family business and becomes a hired gun. Along with his brother, they then make their way to a place called White Sands, which is where the game's story is said to take place.

Gameplay, on a basic level, is much the same as the original title. It's still a third-person shooter at its core and even things like weapon selection are identical to how they were in Warhawk. What's different this time around, is the Build n' Battle system. It will allow you to create your own building structures on the fly, which will also help to give the game a more strategic approach.

The demo on show at this year's E3 introduced the Build n' Battle system, allowing you to build progressively more important buildings as the level progressed. Some buildings brought down AI troops to help ward off invading forces, while others were simply there to just defend, such as a wall or turret. It will be very interesting to see how this plays off during a multiplayer match as you can't build unlimited amounts of buildings.

Warhawks are back, of course, but they've been amended. No longer are they called Warhawks, now they're just called Hawks. They also double up as walking battle mechs too, which is quite nice. The opportunity to check out a lot of the weapons wasn't really available, but the Swarm missiles have been upgraded. You can fire well over 10 missiles at a time now and their animations are gorgeous.

Even though we didn't get to check out the multiplayer component of Starhawk, rest assured that LightBox Interactive will do everything in their power to make sure that Warhawk's memory is honoured. And with a solid single-player campaign present, hopefully that will encourage more people to pick the game up when it ships at some point during 2012.

Starhawk is exclusive to the PlayStation 3.

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