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Sony Reveals Sci-Fi Western “Starhawk” for PS3

Sony Reveals Sci-Fi Western “Starhawk” for PS3  (photo)

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The two genres may look like they’re lightyears apart but the Western’s actually influenced scienc-fiction from the latter’s earliest days. Star Trek famously began as a embryonic pitch for a “Wagon Train”-style show in space and the whole steampunk subgenre owes itself to anachronistic engineering advances happening before they were supposed to.

So, Sony Computer Entertainment’s just-announced “Starhawk” stands in a long tradition of howdy, partner/warp drive entertainment. The PS3 manufacturer showed off the game to a crew of journalists in Austin last week at the city’s famous Alamo Drafthouse theater. In addition to being home to the Lightbox Interactive development studio that’s making the game, Austin’s a city that celebrates the frontier spirit of the Old West, making it a perfect fit for “Starhawk.”

EmmettGraves.jpgThe game takes place in a far-future reality where humanity’s spread out to the stars. The push into space discovers new elemental resources. One such resource, a transdimensional force called rift energy, also goes by the name “blue gold.” The hunt for blue gold created a frenzied social mania called the Rush, where everyone’s trying to get rich off of the valuable element. But, working with rift energy is dangerous and prolonged exposure can cause human beings to mutate in freakish husks called Outcasts. Outcasts become horribly disfigured and worship the huge dimensional tears where rift energy flows from. Since outcasts hold blue gold as sacred, the human rift miners trying to lay claim to it come in constant conflict with the Outcasts, who scavenge technology and weaponry from their former human lives.

Lead character Emmett Graves is one such prospector, traveling to distant planets in search of blue gold with his tech-savvy partner Sidney Cutter. But a horrible accident exposes Graves to dangerous levels of rift energy, but instead of mutating, he lives in a tenuous state of near-explosion. Cutter builds a regulator that Graves wears to stabilize the blue gold coursing through his body. The game opens as Graves and Cutter take on a contract on a small moon named Dust. In the single-player section of “Starhawk”I played, Graves gets into a running gunfight with the Outcasts. You don’t use cover in “Starhawk,” and have stay constantly on the move in order to stay alive. Lightbox take a slightly different approach to enemy AI in the game, attaching the bad guys’ awareness to an environmental radius. So, the Outcast roam throughout a territory and, if you start to fight on the periphery, they’ll swarm to your location. It’s different than path-based game design enemy movements are more predictable. It’s tougher to prepare for a fight if you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen.

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The other key mechanic of “Starhawk” is the Build-&-Battle system. While players fight off scabs (the derisive name for Outcasts) At the end of the first skirmish of the level I played, I planted a blue gold extractor and secured an area. This gives you points to spend on battlefield assets. Before the next wave of Outcasts came, I got time to drop a tower that would spawn computer-controlled human partner characters who helped me fight off the mutates. You can also build pod bunkers that spawn weapons for you and your AI partners to use or towers that serve as launchpads for Hawks, the giant, tank-like mech suits that you can get in and fly around in. The AI seems pretty clever at this point: they’ll jump into empty vehicles and head to objectives and will base their engagement of enemies on how you play. So, if you stay on the ground to fight the Outcast, they’ll follow suit. Jump into a Hawk to rain death on your oppponents and they’ll do the same. The combo of Build-&-Battle and the AI programming allows for a nice scalability of strategy. You can play at a bit of a remove, building assets to the point where you don’t need to fire a bullet yourself and let your Rift Miner allies do all the work. Or you can get you hands dirty and let the AI follow your lead to provide back-up.

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All these principles follow through to the multiplayer portions of “Starhawk,”too. Groups of players will face off as either Outcast or Miner, with each player able to build assets. But, each side shares a pool of points so that there needs to communication and management. During some of the session, my side had built too many vehicle garages and didn’t have enough points to build a Hawk tower. The humans we were fought against didn’t make the same mistake, building enough Hawk towers to trounce us soundly. The maps we played on seemed big enough to contain lots of action but not so sprawling as to feel desolate.

Lightbox makes no apologies as to their use of Western tropes in the making of “Starhawk.” But, since they’re making a big game full of reckless battles on a lawless frontier, the DNA fits, even if it is flying tanks you ride instead of horses. They’re not talking much about the game’s single-player storyline yet, preferring to leave the mystery of what the larger purpose of Graves’ continued blue gold-infused existence will be. Where “Starhawk” feels most promising, though is in the fusion of styles and ideas it brings together. It’s got the immediate action of a third-person run-and-gun shooter, the strategy of a tactics title and the methodical planning of a tower defense game. It looks gritty and shiny at the same time, too, making the most of the PS3’s processing hardware. I can’t say that “Starhawk” a surefire winner yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far to keep it on my radar moving forward.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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