Starhawk's visual style is very much in line with that of Warhawk's; although Echo isn't exactly brimming with fertile life it's still rather colourful, there's an unshakable Red Faction: Guerrilla vibe to it all too, although we're guessing that's down to the Mars like structure and colour scheme of Echo.
Being scavengers the Outcasts have reduced the area to a husk of its former self, metals have been deconstructed and structures have been destroyed, replaced by shrines to their all-powerful energy source. Our on-screen radar indicates that we need to make our way towards the gather of goons so we begin to descend the mountainous path and move towards the gaggle.
As we get closer it becomes evident that they're too busy prostrating in front of the pulsating Rift geyser to notice we've advanced on them, but as soon as we fire our first shot they scatter in all directions, taking shelter behind cover. From then on it's all pretty much the standard third person shooter fare, though a little more loose and twitchy than we're used to.
Snapping to an over-the-shoulder view we begin to quickly cut through the enemy defences, taking cover as we advance. The enemies rarely sit back and wait, instead opting to try and force us out of cover through a sheer force of numbers approach, but Emmet is quick on his feet and quite agile to boot, a couple of minutes of carefully aiming while strafing and we'd dwindled their numbers, leaving us free to call in a rig and restore power to the postal relay.
Although the controls were tight and the shooting felt solid it was all very familiar, and so far there wasn't a hawk in sight.
It wasn't until much later in the mission when LightBox revealed its ace in the hole, the new gameplay mechanic it claims 'adds the texture shooters these days have been lacking', what it calls 'Build and Battle'.
After securing the geyser we were tasked with defending it from oncoming waves of Outcasts, to do that we'd need to use the Rift gained from killing enemies in order to build structures on the battlefield. Along with the traditional ground and air combat Starhawk features a tower-defence like mechanic which requires players with building, maintaining and upgrading structures.
Spotting a timer counting down to the arrival of enemy forces we got to work, bringing up a radial menu we opted to first set down a communication tower, which spawned in a number of AI controlled team mates to fight alongside us. We followed that up by constructing a bunker for them to take position in then placed a turret on top of the bunker to help thin out enemy numbers should they try to attack it.
With only ten seconds left we blindly and frantically peppered the battle zone with auto-turrets, until we ran out of Rift to spend. As the time ran out we heard the distant thundering sound of a jet and watched as it swooped in low to the ground before transforming into a walking mech. Aircraft's in Starhawk also serve as ground units by transforming into, well - Transformers.
The mechs wasted no time and began crushing nearby structures and picking off any straggling AI. Although the mechs had a devastating effect on the battlefield they weren't completely overpowered, which we learned when when toppling one with a few well placed rockets. However, by that time they had done enough damage our turrets and we had start to become overwhelmed by the grunts.
To manage the hordes of enemies we started placing walls down to funnel the enemy towards an area we had dropped a few turrets in. The game's snap-to system made getting the walls positioned a breeze and we quickly blocked off a portion of the battlefield and forced the Outcasts to move towards our Killzone.
Alongside the traditional over-the-shoulder third-person shooting mechanics Build and Battle feels like it has the potential to introduce an interesting new dynamic to combat that requires players to constantly switch between offensive and defensive roles. The mechanic also allows for greater replayability within each mission, which the game rewards with additional experience points towards your persistent character.