Starhawk is unlike anything I've ever seen or played before. I've played my fair-share of shooters, but none of them have ever captured the essence of what makes online gaming so great. Then Starhawk was announced, and I was lucky enough to get accepted into the Beta. The gameplay was immediately reminiscent of Warhawk, which this game is now the successor of. Players have a variety of vehicles and weapons to use in order to win the match. It was all fairly simple at first glance, but there was so much depth that I just kept coming back. By the time the Beta ended, excitement for launch was at a fever pitch. Now it's finally here, and I am extremely satisfied with the final product.
Starhawk is essentially broken up into dogfighting in futuristic jets called Hawks, and ground combat, complete with Jeeps, Tanks, and Bikes. Both soldiers on the ground and pilots in the air have multiple weapons at their disposal, but the list isn't overly extensive. This is for balancing purposes so that one weapon doesn't do anything better than another one with the same purpose. For example, look at the sniper rifle. There's only one in the entire game, and everybody (no matter what level) has access to it. It's something you don't see much, and I wish was adopted by every multiplayer game on the market.
While the two different types of gameplay styles are great and all, what is really so special about the game is how they fit together. Capture the Flag battles are a two-front war. Teams need to distribute their players so they are never vulnerable from the ground or the skies. Pilots can attack the players on the ground and vice versa, yet a one dimensional team is never going to stand a chance. Teamwork is essential to victory, which is extremely appropriate. When an air-strike clears the way for a flag run and a squad on the ground is able to get in and out of the enemy base, the feeling of accomplishment is unbeatable.
Now while all of that is great, it was also present in Warhawk. Starhawk also has a new system where a player can hold down triangle to bring up a menu. From there they can select a structure, such as a bunker or a wall, and call it down onto the battlefield right in front of their eyes. This is how you obtain vehicles, weapons, set up your defenses, and build a forward base to mount an attack. The process is incredibly fluid and only takes a matter of seconds. When used properly, you have a deadly and organized base of operations that you take a sense of pride in. YOU, the player, built that, not the computer. The level of variety it brings to the table is also immeasurable.
For anyone that has played or heard of Warhawk, some changes have been made to allow it to fit in with modern games. Skills/Perks have been implemented, as well as numerous control changes that are very easy to use and work very well. Also, there's an addition of a single player campaign. It isn't vvery long and doesn't deliver much of a story, but it eases you into the mechanics of the game, provides for some fun moments, and sets up the conflict that you're playing out in multiplayer. If you set the difficulty high enough, the AI become extremely clever with their tactics. Combat scenarios become more like puzzles: they give you freedom in how you approach them, but you have to think about every step you take and structure that you place. It's really quite the challenge.
There's also a co-op mode that can be played alone or with three friends, and that's also a lot of fun once you've beaten the campaign. Multiplayer is really the star of the show, but co-op is still a lot of fun to be had. Other features such as clan support, great server options, and hub-world lobbies really show how much content is there. The developers also promise to continue to patch any bugs and fix any balancing issues that arise to give the game an extended life-span. And, all map packs will be FREE!!!
To top it all off, the musical score is great and really fits the sci-fi/western vibe that feels so much like Firefly. In addition, Jetpacks, walking Mechs, and space environments remind you how awesome it is to be in such a cool universe. I couldn't be more happier with this game, and cannot wait to see what post-launch content is released. If you're interested, look into it. It's unique enough that it's worth a buy just to see the potential of what breaking from the norm can really be like.