Helldivers 2 Review

Helldivers 2 header artwork

Do you have what it takes to defend the Freedom, Justice and Liberty of Super Earth? To fight back the rampaging hordes of chitinous Terminids and the implacable robotic Automatons to defend our home? Do you want to see exotic new planets, and smash them into submission with high explosives? Then Helldivers 2 is the game for you!

Helldivers 2 is about as close as we’ll get to having a video game adaptation of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, a film that pretty much every late 90s teenager mainly wanted to see for some steamy T&A, but has grown into its cult classic status as people reinterpreted its satirical themes and messages. From the opening cinematic introduction, to the slapdash basic training that you get before being sent hurtling in drop pods down to alien planets to fight horrendous alien foes you had no real preparation to face, it nails the tone and style of Starship Troopers in brilliant fashion. The big difference from the first Helldivers to this sequel is that it’s gone from a top-down view to a third-person shooter camera.

You’re both horrendously under and hilariously over-equipped for whatever missions you’ll face. As you land, you have just your main weapon, sidearm, a handful of grenades and stims to heal yourself up. That’s good enough to push back the smallest of enemies, and even carve up tougher chitinous beasts that are your height – they’ll keep coming at you as you blast away limbs and even their heads – but it doesn’t take long before you face off against towering enemies with armour that deflects your basic bullets, or can do away with you in a single gush of toxic fluid.

You’re going to need some bigger guns. And more people who also have more and bigger guns.

Helldivers 2 Terminids

That’s where your very own Super Carrier comes in, giving you access to a catalogue of Stratagems to call in heavy weaponry, orbital bombardments, aerial bombing runs, defensive turrets, minefields, drones, and more. All you need to do is bring up the Stratagem overlay, tap in the rapid D-pad code for what you want, and then fling the beacon to where you want it to land. Easy!

You can only pick up to four Stratagems to take into a mission, and as you use them they have a cooldown timer, but then that’s where having more of your playing comes in. Four Helldivers means having up to sixteen different or doubled up Stratagems at your disposal. Considering that you can unload them all at once, that’s just a cavalcade of screen-shaking destruction landing within a few dozen metres of you. Or on top of you.

If you’ve played the original Helldivers (or Arrowhead’s breakout hit Magicka), then you’ll know exactly the kind of game you’re getting in Helldivers 2. This is all about you and your friends using often disproportionately explosive force, and when you can only throw a beacon so far, and when there’s often a lack of fire control and discipline, or overly chaotic situations… well “friendly fire” is pretty much inevitable. That’s absolutely by design, though, and it’s pretty much half the fun – you’re given a pool of fresh Helldivers to call in as reinforcements for a reason.

Helldivers 2 bugs gameplay

Honestly, Helldivers 2 an absolute riot to play this with friends, especially if you let a little bit of mischief creep in from time to time. Going through the early progression of unlocks, you’ll be trying out new Stratagems fairly regularly, and discovering just how excessive some of them are. Use minefields with care in particular!

However, outside of that rather specific situation, Helldivers 2 is ‘merely’ very good. Matchmaking has been problematic at launch, but when you do get matched with others, you can expect far less chatter, and there will be a fair bit less acceptance of friendly fire from strangers. Still enjoyable, but not as silly. And if you happen to be playing solo, then it’s very, very easy to get completely overwhelmed on even the lowest difficulty levels.

The randomised missions you’re taking on are all variations on a theme, whether it’s blowing up bug nests, rescuing important civilians, or launching an ICBM. You’ll be dropping into an open map at a point of your choice, tramping across the terrain while blasting enemy hot spots, doing some side objectives and facing on-the-fly enemy drops, then completing the main objectives, and getting across to the extraction point to hold out until a VTOL can rescue you. It’s a fun loop, but it has its limits.

Helldivers 2 Automatons

There’s also a very clear divide between the two enemy races and the challenge they provide. The Terminids will rush toward you with far more focus on close attacks and melee, while the Automatons have more of a ranged threat, though with a few enemy types that will rush you. The Terminids are just that bit more iconic, and enjoyable to fight against, if you ask me.

Alongside the shift to third person, Helldivers 2 just looks and sounds absolutely incredible. There’s some great variety to the planetary biomes that you can drop onto, affected by time of day that can bring heavy mist and lighting to really ramp up the atmosphere, meanwhile the over-the-top patriotic tone comes through in every part of the soundtrack.

It might take a while for you to visit many planets, though. The game’s overarching form is all about taking back sectors of space, one or two planets at a time. The whole community has to incrementally work to cleanse each planet, with big rewards for each successful operation, while there’s also daily missions to take on.

Helldivers 2 Galactic War progression

The great thing is that your player progression is all in-game. There’s a few different currencies to earn to buy new Stratagems, ship upgrades (to subtly improve those Stratagems), and then there’s the free and premium battle passes. You can earn premium currency through the free battle pass, though not enough to get the premium one this first season, but this does mean that the weapons in the battle passes aren’t paid-only – and they won’t give you a huge advantage anyway. It’s about as fair and reasonable as you ever see these days.

The biggest problem that the game has faced at launch, though, is issues with matchmaking, server flakiness and crash bugs. Quickmatching currently fails far too often, unless it can funnel you into the game of someone in your friends list, we’ve had to restart the game on occasions to get deliberate co-op to work, and the game has crashed on several occasions, even with the latest updates.

A naked shower scene away from being an official Starship Troopers game, Helldivers 2 is gloriously daft fun when you can get a group of friends together to play. It's just a shame about the matchmaking and crash bugs at launch.
  • Such glorious, violent, explosive excess
  • Daft fun when playing with friends
  • Plenty of challenge for those that want it
  • Immaculate vibes
  • Loses a lot of the over-the-top silliness without friends
  • Too many matchmaking and crash bugs at launch
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