The single player game is a straight up multiplayer tutorial. There are ten levels which you can breeze through in five to seven hours, depending on how much preparation you want to do in between skirmishes. Enemies come in waves, allowing you to ready your defenses. You’ll want to place as many fortifications as you can, because the checkpoints can be brutally far apart. Yes, there are useless AI teammates. No, the campaign does not support co-op play.
The story is fair, but I didn’t care much for gravely-voiced Emmett Graves or fatherly Sidney Cutter. The space western setting is so much fluff with what amounts to a near faceless supporting cast. The plot plays out in minimalist animated shorts, which is a shame, because the in-game graphics are really quite good. As the story progresses you are granted access to more buildings and vehicles, until you’re finally asked to use all of your gun-shooting, hawk-piloting, building-dropping skills at once. By then there are only a handful of levels remaining. The flow of the single player game is jarring, as each level seems disconnected from the previous mission. You’ll quickly realize that you’re basically playing the multiplayer maps against bots. It isn’t very satisfying.
The co-op is equally drab. The Prospector mode amounts to little more than a survival mode. Two local players, four online players, or any combination of the two must protect a Rift reactor from waves of enemies. Build up fortifications and use the game’s vehicles to your advantage. If the Rift-crazed Scabs destroy your reactor, it’s game over. I played split screen with a local co-op partner. We had a tough time at first, then we figured out a fairly time consuming, but effective way to win.
The worst feature of co-op, or the lack thereof, is the absence of any form of matchmaking. Co-op is a friends-only affair. That means if you don’t have anyone on your friends list playing Starhawk, you don’t have any co-op partners. There’s no way to access an open co-op lobby, and no randoms will fill out your roster. I asked LightBox president, Dylan Jobe, about the possibility of public lobbies via Twitter. He said “We're going to be evaluating that here in the studio once we get through Starhawk's global launch.” If public lobbies do open up for Prospector mode, I’ll reevaluate my co-op score.
If you do manage to have three friends online, (or a local partner and two online friends) the co-op mode is fair. There are five co-op levels, six if you acquired the bonus items from the Gamestop pre-order. The matches are only six rounds long, which is nice if you don’t want to dedicate a night to 50 rounds of co-op. I spent more time gathering Rift energy and building my defenses than actually fighting enemies. The game did seem to increase in difficulty when we added players. You’ll also earn experience and unlock items for the multiplayer mode. You will not, however, unlock any multiplayer skills. LightBox has said that future additional maps will be free. With some minor tweaks, Prospector mode could be a lot of fun. As it stands, it’s a pretty weak co-op experience.
Starhawk is a very good multiplayer game when everything’s working correctly. The Build and Battle system is more than a mere gimmick, and the vehicle combat is exceptional. The single player campaign is less than engaging, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone picking this game up solely for the co-op mode. Networking and freezing issues aside, play it for the multiplayer.
The Co-Op Experience: Starhawk features a cooperative survival mode called Prospector. Two local players can team up and use the game's Build and Battle system to fend off waves of enemies. NOTE: Per the European listings of the game on the PS Store, online capability has been removed. The single-player campaign can still be played as well as the co-op Survival mode (two player couch co-op only). It is not clear if this affects all versions of the game, or Europe only. For now, we have marked this as a local co-op only title. Here's the note that's been added to the description pages of all European listings: From 30 June 2018, Starhawk’s multiplayer features will be terminated and no longer available; but its single player campaign and any other offline content will continue to be playable.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.