Starhawk! (Yup, It Really Exists!)

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Both Glenn and Rey attended the event for Lightbox Interactive to finally unveil their first title, Starhawk. What you’ll see below are reports from both Glenn and Rey, with different perspectives on everything that both saw. Enjoy!

Glenn’s Report
The entire day was a whirlwind of action. I flew down that morning, dropped my stuff off at my hotel, then walked downtown to check everything out, and I fell in love with Austin, TX in an instant. I happened upon a dive’ish bar called The Jackalope, and I was quickly joined by our writer, Rey Barrera, who actually lives just outside of town. We had a couple of beers and made our way to what many movie geeks consider quite the landmark, the Alamo Drafthouse Theater. It was there that we’d meet the Lightbox team and get our first glimpse of Starhawk.

As Dylan Jobe got on stage to introduce the game, he said “It doesn’t take CSI Austin to figure out what game we’re working on… but what you’re going to see tonight should be quite unexpected.” We were started-off with a presentation of the back story of Starhawk, and a minor explanation of the Single-Player and overlying story of the full game.

The game is set in a lawless frontier somewhere in space. Human colonies are spread to the farthest reaches of this frontier, colonies that have spread to every planet in the system. In a similar manner to what took place in the 1800’s in the western U.S., the story takes place during a time known as “The Rush.” Instead of Gold however, these men are in search of Rift Energy, a valuable form of energy that can be harnessed and used in many interesting ways. Unfortunately for the “Rifters” (men who mine and extract this valuable commodity,) exposure to Rift Energy is incredibly dangerous. If it’s even touched, they begin to mutate, eventually killing almost everyone that’s been exposed. But some are strong enough to resist death. These “Outcasts” that survive leave everything behind and go into hiding, as they are still somewhat mutated and not welcome by the humans. This establishes the core conflict in Starhawk. While the Rifters are still attempting to mine the Rift Energy wherever they can, the Outcasts are hell-bent on protecting and worshipping the rifts from everyone. The Outcasts have essentially become a brutal race, developing tribes all across the frontier, and all making sure that nobody gets near the Rifts.

This Rift Energy, not only being the catalyst for the core conflict and what is used for “currency” in the game, it also fuels the hero of the campaign, Emmett Graves. Unlike others who were exposed to Rift Energy, not only did it not kill him, he didn’t even fully mutate. He carries Rift Energy within every cell in his body, but with the help of his friend and “Tech Guy” Sydney Cutter, he survives although in excruciating pain at all times. Sydney, after some experimentation, figured out a way to regulate Emmett’s condition by implanting a regulator directly into his spine. Unfortunately for Emmett, the uniqueness of his condition alienates him from both factions, as he’s still, in the Humans eyes, an Outcast, but the Outcasts want nothing to do with him. So Emmett and Sydney are Rift Salvagers, helping small Rifter outposts defend against Outcast attacks and getting a share of the profits, in other words, they’re hired guns. As you may have figured out by now, Starhawk has a definite Western theme. Rey said almost immediately that it seemed to have been inspired by Firefly, where I thought it was a tad similar to what we’ve seen of Rage so far.

The core game mechanics are aimed squarely at breaking the mold of first and third person campaigns, where you go from Point A, to Point B, to Point C, all while making every twist and turn that the developers wanted you to make. In Starhawk’s campaign, there are no predetermined routes, there are no predetermined enemy positions, and the enemy AI is smart enough to actually co-mingle and work together. The even bigger feature though, is the fact that you, the player, will actually create the layout of the game-space, on-the-fly, while the game is in-progress. They’re calling this mechanic “Build and Battle.” Think of a 3rd-person shooter, set in a huge section of a Warhawk map. Then imagine an RTS element of being able to place weapons and objects wherever you like, all by holding Triangle to choose an object, then laying it down on the ground using a wireframe model of hat object for reference. So, in our demo, Emmett is up on a ridge, you start running down into a valley and are quickly spotted. I take the first couple of enemies out with y machine gun, then I grab my sniper rifle with the d-pad (yup, weapons are still tied to the d-pad) and start plucking guys off in the distance.

At that point, Sydney appears in a small window on the screen to let you know that you need to get a transmission working, but that the dish isn’t functional. He tells you that enemies will be landing in certain spots on the map and that you’d better figure something out to hold them off. Their aim is to stop you from transmitting your position, which is also where a huge cache of Rift Energy has been found. Just like that, enemies start shooting-in from the sky in small transport pods. As you fight your way through, a quick press of the Triangle button allows you to choose a locater beacon, which brings three allies in to help you fight. They’ll keep spawning-in to a max number of three as long as the beacon isn’t destroyed. Then, another wave shoots-in on the other end of the map, so I run over, hit Triangle, and build some walls to slow them down. The build portion, once you figure the controls out, is quite intuitive, and it all happens in realtime. Other items in the demo included automatic turrets, a weapons bunker, and oh yeah, Hawk launch pads. The thing that they’re obviously shooting for here though, is the fact that you can play any mission a bunch of different ways, and the game will recognize and reward this kind of play.

So, one change made to the Hawks in Starhawk is that they removed the hover mode. Now, before you zealots freak-out, they replaced it with something a bit more balanced…

The Hawk can now TRANSFORM INTO A MECH!!! While not able to hover any more, the Mech is pretty powerful in its own right. Where the balance comes in is that it has to be on the ground. Also, it’s pretty slow, so it’s a great target for those adept at the rocket launcher. The Hawk itself, like the rest of the gameplay, absolutely feels like Warhawk, with a few adjustments and enhancements (all for the best so far.) So, to talk about those, let’s get to the multiplayer.

Multiplayer:
So, here’s the biggest change in the multiplayer, your team doesn’t start with any vehicles, and limited weapons. There are no more weapon pickups strewn across the map (except for what’s dropped by fallen friends and enemies.) Instead, you start with a certain amount of Rift Energy, shared completely by your team. You use this energy as currency to build everything that you need. So if you’re on a team of randoms that all decide to build 5 4×4 garages, you’ll run out of currency VERY quickly. This one will require the players to definitely play as a team when it comes to resource management, because if you can’t be effective with what you’re building, you’ve already lost the match.

In the map that we played (we got to play 3 rounds,) items that became available included:
– 4×4 Garages
– Weapons Bunkers
– Walls/Gates, which can be upgraded with turrets
– Automated Turrets
– Anti-Air Beam Weapons
– Warhawk Launch Pads

With the garages and launch pads, only one vehicle appears at a time. After that, you merely have to hit a control panel to build another, for a price (war ain’t free!) One of the coolest things that I figured out was the fact, at least in the CTF mode that we were playing, there were no more territories to capture. You do have a designated area for respawns etc, basically considered “your base,” but this doesn’t mean that you can’t build these things anywhere else on the map (although the costs is a bit higher.) So, as in a typical Warhawk map, it’s basically a mirror-image on each side, so I decided to build a weapons bunker right on the hill that’s directly in the center of the map. The good news is that these structures can be DESTROYED! It’s takes quite a bit, but it can be done even with a handheld rocket launcher.

That same great gameplay from Warhawk still exists, from squadrons of Hawks flying in for bombing strikes, to full jeeps rolling-in to capture the flag from a road behind the base, to taking a Hawk down with a few shots from the handheld rocket launcher, the game feels like would be expected. A couple of tweaks have been added, especially when locking-on to an enemy with your weapons, Now, instead of holding the button down to lock-on, it happens automatically when the enemy is in-sight and is being aimed at. The perspective, especially when on-foot takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, man oh man is it sweet.

Another change is how you spawn-in after dying. Instead of just dying, you now choose a spawn-point in your safe area on the map, and are dropped-in via a rocket-powered pod. Now here’s the cool part, when choosing your spawn-point, you can actually see where teammates are choosing as well, allowing you to coordinate with them if a certain spot is being overrun. Also, if a jeep has happened-in to your base, you can choose that spot to drop-in on. Then, when you’re hurtling-in, you’ll see a bright spot on the ground, which is where you’re going to land. Try to move that spot over the enemy jeep that’s in your base,, and if you succeed, you’ll perform the most powerful kill in the game (yeah, it’ll even take a mech out.) Even more fun, but effective is dropping a bunker on an enemy that’s in your base and trying to hide. In the last round, I had 4 enemies trying to kill me while I hid behind a rock, that is until I saw a shadow of a bunker all around me. I ran as fast as I could (you actually have to hold R2 to run now) but I just wasn’t fast enough to outrun gravity.

The visuals so far (this was a pre-alpha build) look great. It looks like Warhawk still, but with everything amped-up. Textures are cleaner and higher-res, colors are deeper, lighting is even more dynamic, and explosions are much fuller and more dramatic. Even in this early stage, the game looks great! Also, 3D isn’t being shoehorned into Starhawk, and at least from my perspective, I’m happy about that.

A few other items that were discussed but not shown, the online features are definitely going to be the deepest we’ve ever seen on a PS3 game:

– Full Clan support (not just a tag)
– In-game calendar
– Cross-Server Clan Voice Chat
– A Fully Automated and Integrated Tournament System (we heard him say “cell phone,” but we’re not sure if it was something in-game or not)

Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg. We’ll be getting a lot more information as the months go by. We definitely expect to see more at E3, and so far the plan is to have multiplayer on the show floor. Stay-tuned to PS Nation for even more coverage in the future, and make sure that you grab Episode 215 for our full discussion of the event.

Starhawk is tentatively scheduled for a Q1 2012 release, exclusively on the PlayStation 3.

Rey’s Report
Oh My God, It Transformed!

The original Warhawk (PS1) was the first game I purchased when I brought home my first original PlayStation. For its time, the game offered a great level of flight control, with an awesome hover mode and a selection of weapons that gave you some options in taking out your enemy. Despite our spoiled expectations from this gaming generation, Warhawk delivered some of the better console graphics of the time.

When I think of Warhawk (PS3), the word “polish” comes to mind, because everything about the game felt tight and spit-polished. Animations were fluid, controls were tight, and the warhawks flew like the controller was an extension of your mind. The moment a match would start, I would immediately rush the flight pads. But that’s the thing; not everyone rushed the hawks, because Warhawk (PS3) gave ground-lovers just as much reason to look for a tank or jeep, or simply man a powerful turret. Damn those turrets…

So, when I entered the Alamo Drafthouse, I had a good idea of what game I was going to see (in title at least). But I had no idea what I was going to see. This immediately hit home upon entering and seeing the standee of the character Glenn mentioned. The first thing that I was pleased to see was his attire. I personally loved the almost-World War II look of Warhawk (PS3), but seeing Emmett Graves dressed in a Western-themed getup was refreshing, and I’m sure I annoyed Glenn with my comparisons to Firefly (edit- No, he didn’t. -Glenn). But it was refreshing, because we were getting something where the main character (albeit a tough-looking hombre) was not a space marine. I love my Killzone, and I have played with Space Marines on the other console, but after a while, you want to shoot things with someone else under your control. And after listening to Dylan Jobe’s description of the universe that he and his team were creating, I knew that I was in for something different (at least in concept). After playing it, I knew that I was in for something different in execution.

You see, if I had to mention one complaint I had about Warhawk (PS3), it would be that as much as I loved the game’s multiplayer, I was raised on the single-player Warhawk (PS1), so I was disappointed to see that the sequel ditched the single-player campaign.

Dylan had me at “Single Player”. And as Glenn explained, both the single player and multi-player modes delivered, especially considering that the game still has some development time ahead of it. Even as a single-player fan, I found myself enjoying the living hell out of the multiplayer game, and even earned the respected title of “longest to survive being run-over”. I give credit to the new “R2 to run” button, because not having to worry about the joystick also being your sprint button made it easier to focus on dodging and outrunning an oncoming vehicle.

But for those of you who are veteran flyers of Warhawk (PS3), take heart…these are still the hawks that you piloted before. It’s just that they can now…you know…transform into giant MECHS. So yes, you can fly at top speed towards a ground battle, press that convenient button, and transform on the fly, land on top of your unsuspecting enemy and fire away, only to switch back to hawk mode and blast away before you get nailed by a rocket.

Are you Running home with the flag (on capture the flag) and your loser friends aren’t there to help you with a vehicle? No problem, bring down a garage right in front you, hop on the 4X4 and burn rubber back to your base.

Having a problem with enemies getting into your base too frequently? No problem, build a quick wall to keep them out.

Feeling particularly malicious? No problem, grab a couple of friends and land some turrets inside the enemy base.

Feeling vengeful? Why not spawn right on top of the guy who killed you (assuming you can aim your decent). I came so close to nailing a starhawk with my spawn decent.

And speaking of things falling from the sky, every time you create a new structure in Starhawk, it falls from the sky with a thunderous crash…And yes, it can fall on your enemies too. So your destruction can also serve as a weapon.

I can’t wait to see what Lightbox has in store for us in the coming year. They seem to have a great set of standards for their game, and even if I am a fan of 3D, I can completely respect a developer who sticks to their own principles and does not include something in their title just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

Starhawk will sell itself on its own merits. If the full game is a fun as what we experienced, fans of the series are in for a treat, and newcomers will find something unique here as well.

Lightbox Interactive “Dev Diary”

Official Press Release:

LIGHTBOX INTERACTIVE UNVEILS STARHAWK™ EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™) SYSTEM
Fresh New Shooter Poised to Redefine the Genre in 2012 Combining Nonstop Action with Instant Customization on the Battlefield

FOSTER CITY, Calif., May 13, 2011 – Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC (SCEA) announced today plans to release Starhawk™, exclusively for the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) system. Developed by LightBox Interactive, in collaboration with Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios’ Santa Monica Studio, Starhawk will provide fast paced third-person shooter action set in the lawless frontier of space allowing players to instantly alter the battlefield by calling down offensive and defensive structures in real-time from an orbiting drop ship, all while blasting away at enemies in the middle of huge single-player or multi-player firefights.

“Our goal is always to innovate and provide fans with new, engaging experiences, which is exactly what Starhawk delivers,” said Scott A. Steinberg, Vice President, Product Marketing, SCEA. “The combination of a run-and-gun, frenetic gameplay style with our advanced Build & Battle system will truly move the genre forward offering new strategic and tactical options for the player while never taking them out of the action. Add to that a compelling story, robust multi-player experience, and seamless transitions between air, ground, and vehicle combat, and Starhawk is sure to excite shooter fans and newcomers alike.”

Starhawk’s feature set begins with a host of weaponry and a multitude of vehicles for high-speed, extreme combat combined with intense vehicular warfare on both land and air. The game’s innovative Build & Battle system lets players alter the moment to moment action by giving them the ability to change the dynamic of the battlefield instantly with a selection of base structures at their disposal, all while in the midst of the fight. By the touch of a button players can violently deploy a number of buildings, vehicles, or artillery to strategically complete mission objectives and defeat enemies. Through the sophisticated architecture of the PS3 system, the instantaneous customization that Build & Battle provides, as well as the breadth of gameplay that spans multiple modes, is made possible.

Utilizing state-of-the-art visual technologies, the development team has made every effort to give players the realistic feel of actually being on the battlegrounds with vibrant characters and environments, coupled with dynamic lighting effects. Starhawk includes a full-fledged single-player story mode with various missions set in a number of diverse interstellar environments. The title also boasts a strong online mode where users can battle head-to-head in epic 32-player matches, up to four-player online and offline co-operative play, and split-screen gameplay within multi-player and co-op modes, always against an endless attack of enemies.

The Starhawk universe is set in the distant future, out in the far reaches of space where factions battle over a rare and dangerous resource known as Rift Energy. In this galaxy, colonies of humans, called Rifters, explore a scattering of planets, known as the Frontier, in attempt to mine this energy to make an honest living, but find their way of life threatened by the Outcast, a ruthless species of humans who have mutated into psychotic monsters due to exposure to this very same Rift Energy. Caught in the middle is Emmett Graves, a hired gunslinger ostracized from society because of his own exposure to Rift Energy, leaving him partially mutated, but still able to retain his humanity. Starhawk allows you to take on the powerful role of Graves who is drawn back to his home settlement of White Sands on the Planet Dust to face a mysterious outlaw and his war band of Outcast warriors only to discover that this job may mean more to him than he could have ever imagined. He will soon find out that his family is involved in the clash between the Outcast and the Rifters and therefore must decide between those close to him and those he swore to protect.

Additionally, Starhawk employs a host of online community features that allows players to be always connected, all the time, including tournaments, leader boards, and clan support with additional friends list and quick match options. Players can keep up to date with the community events calendar, ticker tape updates, and a Starhawk Android application that let users to keep track of friends, clan mates, and stats when not online.

Starhawk is a single or multi-player third-person shooter experience that has an ESRB rating of “RP” for Rating Pending. It is scheduled to be released in 2012. For more information about the ESRB, visit www.esrb.org. For more information about Starhawk, visit http://us.playstation.com/

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  • awesome really looking forward to this game and there has been rumors for this games for years and I do think most of use knew it was coming

  • Great stuff guys. Game sounds awesome

  • lucky mofos
     

  • yeah this looks awesome.  I played Warhawk to death!

  • This already looks more plished than games that are coming out earlier (I’m looking at you Twisted Metal). Looks like fun. I didn’t play Warhawk much since there was no single player campaign and the multiplayer was very hectic for my taste.