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In addition to all of this, you can create your own games, with options for the map, mode, layouts, loadouts, time limit, score limit, and even the option in Capture the Flag matches to only fly with the flag. Like most standard online shooters, there is level progression in multiplayer. As you level up, you unlock new costume options for both your Rifter and Outcast avatars, as well as paint jobs for your vehicles. You also gain access to skill points that enhance your character's attributes — like dealing more damage with weapons, having your Hawk's speed boost last longer, etc. This allows you to build your character in a way that matches how you play.
A main problem I found with the game is that everything is accessed through a menu called 'The Uplink.' It will definitely take a while to learn how to navigate this menu. Even finding out how to play with my friends was a task. Hint: it helps if you create a clan, send invites to your friends to join your clan, and then play with them. I feel like in a multiplayer game, it shouldn't be so hard to play on the same team with your friends. Also, the Quick Match option will piss you off. It'll connect you to a random game, where most of the time I was on my own against a team of four. I was helpless as I rocketed toward my base in my spawn pod, watching the four of them waiting in Hawks. LEAVE THOSE GAMES! It's much better to go through the game list and choose one that has settings that you like. Did I ever mention that you can kill an enemy by having your spawning pod land on them? No? Well, you can.
Visually, the game looks good, but it won't win any awards. For so much happening on-screen, I didn't notice any frame rate hiccups. It's fun to take in the action in the skies above and in the distance while you're defending your base. The art style definitely lends well to the space western theme. On the other hand, the soundtrack kicks butt. There's a lot of drama and epic moments in the score. Likewise, the sounds behind the Hawks transforming and buildings dropping down really put you in the middle of the action. I also thought the voice work for Emmett was good, but the rest of the cast was spotty.
Let there be no doubt, the strength of Starhawk comes from the multiplayer matches. With an ever-changing battlefield and tons of possibilities, strategy and teamwork are prime. Yes, there's room for lone wolves — one match I was doing awful, so I flew a Hawk right outside of the enemy base, transformed into a mech, and started blowing up their structures. That shows the depth of the multiplayer; even when you're not on your game, you are still vital to your team's success. If the Story mode featured more of the multiplayer gameplay, it would've been more captivating. I'm sure I could play most of the Story as a standard shooter if I wanted to.
So if you want a multiplayer shooter where you control the landscape and course of the match, Starhawk definitely offers a quality experience. It has a ton of options for customization. If you can see past some of the lulls in the Story, as well as some weird design choices with the Uplink menu and random enemy difficulty spikes, Starhawk will drop a spawning pod of fun right onto your face. God, that never stops being fun.
You can follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ