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Starhawk preview – horde mode in a wide-open battlefield

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At GDC this week, we got our hands on a few new features for the upcoming successor to Warhawk. In addition to the full-fledged single player campaign and popular 32 player multiplayer battleground, Starhawk will also include four player co-op – which plays like the game’s own take on Horde mode.

This new mode can be played with up to four players who are tasked with protecting a power generator at the center of the map. If the generator’s life bar depletes completely, it’s game over. However, there is an (as of now) unspecified, finite number of enemy waves – so this Horde mode doesn’t always end with your guts getting splattered across the map.

Players have access to all of the weapons, power-ups, and buildings in the multiplayer, only this time they will be using them against waves of AI controlled enemies. In our play session, the first wave started out with the usual infantry cannon fodder that we made short work of with the mech we got fresh off the assembly line, but soon we were dogfighting enemy aircraft and bombarding incoming tanks. We didn’t feel nearly as overwhelmed playing the horde-type gameplay in Starhawk as you would in the Gears of War games. Since the map is wide open, it makes it easy to run away from danger rather than tough it out in a corner with a shotgun.

Otherwise, co-op plays out as you might expect. The real strategy comes in coordinating building defenses and vehicles, and managing resources with teammates so you don’t end up getting obliterated using a group of mechs against the more powerful enemy tanks. But even if you’re team is a bit lacking in effective strategy, the developers have also added a useful practice feature in the game as well, called Explore mode.

In Explore mode, players can set up practice matches for their team to develop and play out their building and battlefield strategy. All of the timers and game mode rules still apply – there just won’t be an opposing force to compete against. This could be used to help beginners familiarize themselves with maps or clans with coordinated attacking and defensive strategy.

In addition to the new details on the game’s co-op Sony announced the public beta patch 1.3 is available today. The update gives players a chance to play with two new vehicles: the Sidewinder Jetbike and the OX Heavy tank, and experience the Planet Dust map.

Starhawk releases on May 8th for the PS3.

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