Platforms - PS3
Genre - Action
Aust. Classification – MA15+
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment
As Emmett Graves you are an outcast Gunslinger battling against factions over the universes most valuable resource; Rift Energy. This energy has enriched worlds but it has also created monsters, this is where you come in. There is now an outlaw leading and the mutants, called Scabs and therefore making them more organised, so your job has just become that much harder. In a Western futuristic style setting (think Firefly, Star Wars meets Borderlands) horses are replaced with hover bikes (Sidewinders), so the time has come to harness Rift energy to your advantage and win the war.
This is not just your average 3rd Person Sandbox/Open World style game. The element of building is added to not just add an RTS touch to the game but a fair bit of depth as well. It seems like anything and everything is at your fingertips with a touch (hold) of a button, just add water, or in this case Rift Energy. Need defense? Build Walls and Turrets. Need supplies? Build a supply bunker. Need troops? Build an outpost. Need vehicles? Build the appropriate instantaneous manufacturing plant. Hungry? Build a Macas. Alright... maybe not the last one, but thanks to the drop ship hovering eternally above, building and upgrading all types of useful structures, weapons and vehicles on the spot is constantly available and most of the time it becomes a necessity in order to keep from being easily overrun from the bad guys.
The building capabilities feature a fully contained barrier that includes a ladder and cover to take position and get the upper hand over the enemy, with warehouses, armories etc also available. Everything is destructible as well, so they can come crumbing down if the enemy is allowed to concentrate fire on them for any length of time. But I found, providing you have enough Rift Energy, that building a fortress of walls and lining them with Turrets seemed to be the best first line of defense. Shields can be built, along with automatic laser weapons and quite a few more useful items become available as the game progresses.
With quite a good variety of vehicles available, once they get unlocked that is, including the transforming Mech Hawk, Tanks and ATV's. One of the less protected but cooler vehicles was the Sidewinder, flying around in this baron terrain reminded me so much of Anakin riding his Speederbike on Tattoine in Star Wars Episode 2 (AotC), but it isn't exclusively ground based. When the battle is taken to the stars this is where the player takes control of the Mech Hawk that can transform into games namesake; the Star Hawk jet. All of them handle really well and although some take more getting used to than others, none of the vehicles felt cumbersome at all.
It does have a bit of a learning curve, for me the first couple of initial Space battles needed a bit of warm up time to get the hang of the controls, i.e. breaking, boost, changing direction, performing evasive maneuvers and shooting guns and missiles. When I ran out of Missile supplies and was left with just the fall back Machine gun it felt like I was trying to shoot a fast moving pin prick with a pea shooter (also known as shooting enemies). Because of this I found that it was best to try and find supplies instead of shooting them with the guns because the missile lock on system works really, really well and this frustration was not really necessary. What I loved doing here was flying over a big ship or floating platform, getting the enemy to swarm and then transform back into a Mech, land and then take potshots from this steady surface. Also another good technique I found was instead of looking for health, while in flight I would just build a Mech Workshop on a convenient platform and then land, build another Hawk and take off.
There is a heap to get excited about too if you are a Multiplayer fanatic. The Online mode is the big selling point, offering up to 32 players in the game at the same time. The various game modes including the usual suspects like Capture the flag but they seem more fun thanks to the uniqueness of the build mechanic and offer more of a challenge than the single player campaign in most cases and you need to be on the ball at all times as enemies flank you from all angles. Just like the Single Player you have the same (if not more) building elements at your disposal, so group tactics need to be formed to have a successful game. This is why, if you can, I recommend a headset and Mic especially for ground based missions. With this peripheral it is so much easier working out who will mind the base and suck in Rift energy to build better equipment that can then be utilised in battle and to better protect the base and who will go off to scout while others play soldier.
Visually it is a treat as it is a really a good looking game, suitably barren landscapes on the ground but the level of the detail in the vehicles and everything else makes up for the rather bland backdrop. Once in space the skies soon become busy with the amount of condensed action taking place at any one time. In a strange way it reminded me a little of a dusty dirty inFamous, especially the graphic novel approach to the cutscenes. The Spaghetti Western soundtrack is empahisised with orchestral moments and sets the mood for a perfect aural landscape that suited the game to a tee.
I absolutely loved the originality of this game and putting such a solid package together using so many different gameplay elements is to be commended. Even though the campaign was not in my opinion long enough, I still looked forward to playing each time I came home from my day job and although I played a couple of Multiplayer games in between, I actually really wanted to finish the campaign before I took too many dalliances into the online arena. It is the type of game that Multiplayer is best enjoyed with as much experience under the belt possible. The ability to mix both land and flight so effortlessly is fantastic and I loved just being able to jump out of a vehicle to go play soldier for a while.For the final score and more, go to Maceman Reviews