Star Hogs Review

Star Hogs is part loving homage to the classic franchise Worms, part insanely technical space opera, and entirely awesome.

IUGO nailed the artillery gameplay, and then packed the game full of weapons, upgrades, features, and play modes–resulting in something that turn-based strategy lovers can really sink their teeth into.

Yessir, that’s my baby!

Though Star Hogs is filled with porcine puns, PETA can relax; no pigs are harmed during play. Instead, you’re piloting a team of one-man space rigs (kind of analogous to the Earth-based “Hawgs” made by Harley Davidson) that alight on an asteroid and blast the crud out of the opposition.

The space warriors take turns trying to kill one another, first dealing out whatever punishment they can, and then bracing to take it back. IUGO makes fantastic use of multitouch to keep movement, camera control, and weapon selection easy and intuitive. Attacking is as simple as setting the angle and power of your shot.

Attacking effectively, however, is not so simple. It takes practice to land a rocket on a distant enemy, because gravity is in full effect. This includes 360-degree free fall, allowing for circular battles on the surface of a globe-shaped asteroid, for instance. Too much power, and there’s a decent chance your shot will fly all the way around and blast you in the back.

The environment is partly destructible, too, turning the game into a real physics playground. If you can destroy whatever your enemy’s sitting on, it’ll fall into oblivion, giving you the win. Plus, certain asteroids cough up bonus cash and power-ups when blasted. These can help a lot.

Energy limitations force you to think carefully about what you can accomplish in a single turn. A Hog starts out charged with 100 energy points, and every movement or weapon use from there depletes the store until it hits zero. This creates an elegant trade-off between offense and mobility, while opening up new combat strategies that involve sapping your opponents’ energy.

Gravity and energy factor majorly into your Hog’s configuration, too. Every piece of equipment you unlock and purchase in Star Hogs–and there are many–weighs you down when added to your rig. So, installing heavy equipment seriously limits your mobility, unless you compensate with boosters.

Ow! Cut it out! Ow! Ouch!

Space Hogs’ upgrade, customization, and fleet management stuff is completely out of this world; the level of control you have over your Hogs is pretty astonishing.

To begin, you can buy one of three basic chassis for your first Hog (a fourth unlocks later), each with different stats and numbers of possible slots for weapons, body upgrades, and tech upgrades. It costs money to buy new stuff (you can trade in old items for a discount), as well as to open up fresh upgrade slots.

A new item unlocks for purchase every time you beat a level in the single-player campaign. Missiles, shields, armor, thrusters, guns, mines, excavation tools, healing beams… the list goes on, and on, and on. Not all of this stuff is as useful as, say, homing missiles, but it makes for a dizzying array of possible ship configurations.

Add that to the fact that you can buy, outfit, and command multiple Hogs, and you are looking at a lot of tactical options. For example, you could command a combat rig for shooting bad guys, a support rig for healing/disruption, and a speedster for zooming around and grabbing powerups. There are combos within combos.

You won’t have to stretch that hard to beat the single-player campaign. The AI is decent, but it feels like an unnecessary slog to unlock all the goodies piece by piece.

Online multiplayer is clearly the main attraction. This is where the game’s genius is on full display, as fellow Hoggers come at you with majorly crazy, tricked-out armadas.

There’s a points ranking system, match-making, and private games. Turns are limited to 30 seconds each, insuring that the game moves along briskly. We’d like to be able to customize that limit, and adding chat would be a good idea, too.

The one real problem right now is that almost nobody is playing, so was difficult to get a game started. We imagine that the ranks will fill out given time, though, and the handful of games we got in on were a blast.

Star Hogs’ graphics and sound rock even harder than its gameplay. The kickass metal soundtrack has more wailing guitars than a hair band convention. The Hogs are detailed little 3D models that spit rocket-guided death. The camera zooms and moves smoothly.

For $4.99, Star Hogs is basically everything a turn-based strategy fan could hope for, and it will prove to be a great buy for many an action gamer, too. There is enough depth here to last the right kind of player for months, especially once online play really kicks into gear.

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