Multiplayer-only videogames haven’t taken off the way console chieftains predicted this generation. Warhawk, one of the first truly dedicated multiplayer experiences for most PlayStation 3 owners, combined infantry and vehicle led battles across vast stretches of land as well as skies fit for epic dogfights. Despite being noticeably flawed, the game managed to scrape together a dedicated following thanks to its unique premise and fun combat.
Cut to the present. Five years and a handful of other failed multiplayer focused experiments (MAG, anyone?) later, we now have a true sequel to Warhawk, one that’s quite clearly tried to fix a lot of the issues people had with the first game. The most noticeable of these is the presence of an honest-to-goodness single player mode: something that its predecessor didn’t deem necessary to include back in the day. Set in the vast reaches of colonized space, Starhawk attempts to buck the space marine trend-line by adopting a wild-west theme to its story. With humans actively seeking out and mining Rift energy on a massive scale, it was only a matter of time before the prospectors figured out that hanging around next to a glowing energy source might not be the most sensible thing to be doing to your body. And thus follows a simple tale of conflict with the humans on one side and the rift-afflicted outcasts on the other.
You play Emmett Graves, a rift miner with a troubled past. Not only are you a part mutant thanks to an outcast raid that exposed you to an unhealthy dose of rift energy, but you’ve also lost your brother to the marauding band of misfits. The only thing stopping you from joining him is a regulator implant that bottles up the rift energy and stops it from consuming you whole.
Death from above
Now a mercenary for hire, you travel between outposts protecting settlements from the outcasts who are now suspiciously more organized and led by a mysterious figure (no prizes for guessing who). It’s a predictable story that’ll last you 6-8 hours depending on how stumped you are at certain pain spots in the campaign. It’s also quite evident from the start that one of the main reasons for the mode’s existence is to serve as a tutorial for the multiplayer main-act (especially since there’s practically no multiplayer tutorial whatsoever).
That said, this clearly isn’t a throw away mode. There’s a fairly well put together (if generic) story set in a varied set of coloruful environs. It’s also competently voiced and scored, with storytelling split between in-engine vignettes as well as a set of stylistically animated cutscenes. Aside from a handful of exasperating difficulty spikes, you’ll want to play through the single player mode if only as a fairly lengthy segue into multiplayer.