In the past I’ve been quite critical of local co-op and multiplayer games on the PlayStation 4, and that’s putting it lightly. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that I was weary when it came to Helldivers. I really needn’t have been. Helldivers is the complete co-op game; it’s tactical, explosive and most of all enjoyable, especially when playing with a few friends beside you.
Helldivers is a co-op top down shooter set in a dystopian futuristic world where ‘Super Earth’ finds itself under threat from three different alien threats. As a member of the Super Earth’s most advanced military group, the Helldivers, it’s up to you wipe out each threat from all three fronts. Although the plot doesn’t ever expand into something more it’s a neat backstory that sets the game up quite nicely.
To defeat each alien threat you will have to take over a number of territories to force the enemy back to their home world, where you can once and for all wipe them out from the game. You do this by gaining influence, which you can achieve by completing missions on series of planets in the system. Once the influence reaches 100% you can claim the territory and move onto the next. The influence of a given territory is not just governed by your battles too, but also determined by how well other Helldivers around the world are performing. This alludes to the fact that online play is integral to Helldivers, and its main attraction.
You can either play through the Helldivers campaign as a lone wolf or with up to three cooperative partners (online or local). The latter is definitely advised if you want the most enjoyment from the game, and if you want to stand the best chance at completing missions more effectively. You see, combat in Helldivers is all about teamwork and tactics. Before jumping into battle you have to choose what weapons and stratagems to pick for your Helldiver. When there are up to four of you in a group you have the opportunity to assign each member a different role in the team based on the equipment on offer.
For instance one member could equip themselves with a shotgun and ammunition packs with their focus close quarters combat, whereas another member could equip their character with a sniper and automatic turrets attacking enemies from distance and providing a good defensive option. Tactics really do increase your chances of success in Helldivers. Head into battle with similar stratagems and weapons and you may find yourselves unprepared for some of the enemies, as some weapons are better at taking down certain enemies.
The combat in Helldivers is reminiscent of Dead Nation. At first it you may find yourself having a little difficultly getting the hang of twin stick shooting and aiming, especially when coming straight out of a first-person shooter, but once you’ve got to grips with it fighting alien threats from all angles shouldn’t be much of an issue for you.
Although the combat in Helldivers is really fast-paced, you really never get a minutes rest from the action, calling in stratagems and some objectives require a moment’s pause from fighting to input a code on the d-pad. This leads to some frantic and nervous few seconds of play as you desperately try to press the code in the right order as a horde of aliens makes it way towards you.
Stratagems can save your life in Helldivers. After inputting a code you can throw a beacon down which can signal for ammunition drops, airstrikes, turret deployments and even for a battle exo-suit. With each player having different stratagems equipped you can expect a lot of variation to the combat capabilities of your squad. You might find a few stratagems to be overpowered though, especially the exo-suit, which ends up making some of the easier missions dull.
Co-op and stratagem signals make for some comical missions…but not always for the right reasons. Friendly fire is always on in Helldivers, which leads to some hilarious deaths. I’ve been trampled on by my teammate in an exo-suit a few times, not to mention the number of times I’ve walked into my own incoming ammunition drop.
You can expect the missions in the game to be quite expansive. You have to traverse a large map and complete a series of objectives along the way before heading to an extraction beacon. The difficulty of each mission is determined by the number of objectives to complete and of course by the density of alien presence in the area. Objectives vary from activating SAM sites and recon beacons to capturing certain areas and defending them from waves of enemies. Missions can last up to 10 or so minutes, but bear in mind this will be constant action.
After each mission you gain XP depending on how well you’ve played. Leveling up unlocks rewards including weapons and armour. You can also customise how your individual Helldiver looks, which is handy in frantic situations where you need to distinguish which character you are. Helldivers isn’t ground-breaking in terms of its visual capabilities but you can expect vibrant extra-terrestrial environments filled with a host of different enemies varying from cyborg snipers to xenomorph-esque organisms.
Online play is the main focal point in terms of progressing in Helldivers which, although a really well integrated idea, could be a bit of a worry. Defeating each alien threat really depends on the performance of other players as well as your own progress, so if there is a lack of people playing then surely you’ll never finish the game? I guess we’ll find this out when the game releases. Despite encountering a few problems connecting to the servers the online play was smooth throughout my time with it with a very quick matchmaking system.
With seamless online matchmaking and drop-in local multiplayer, Helldivers is the complete coop game. After being left disappointed many a time by previous local multiplayer games the PlayStation 4 has had to offer, Helldivers is a breath of fresh air providing short bursts of explosive action that’s both strategic and enjoyable.
Version Tested: PS4