Helldivers 2 review: An top co-op shooter with great thrills

The ultimate stand is only one of many gaming pleasures. Faced with overwhelming odds, a group of heroes unleashes gunshots and laser fire on an enemy that has overtaken them. It’s a spectacle that Halo: Reach and Left 4 Dead have used to great advantage. Helldivers 2 captures the magic and delivers it on demand in cargo containers. Arrowhead Games’ newest game focuses on having fun as your four-person squad exterminates swarms of bugs and robots.

Helldivers 2 lacks a strong plot. Super Earth and its surrounding planets defend themselves against Terminid and Automaton invasions with Helldivers, (mainly) voluntary volunteers who leap headfirst into conflict. Torching the villagers or launching an orbital attack is considerably more fun with three additional players. Carpet bombing robots or being on the receiving end of a rocket barrage may seem like silly activity, but Helldivers 2’s attraction grows with experience.

A group of individuals stands in Helldivers 2 after completing a successful mission.

While Helldivers 2’s loadouts may be more complex, I enjoy its unique firearms with no customization choices. In addition to the grenades, each player is given a main and secondary weapon. In addition to the aforementioned orbital attacks and sentries, your ship may call special weapons like an Anti-Material Rifle or Arc Thrower. Each decision helps differentiate your Helldiver from those of your teammates by providing an array of weapons and summons (called stratagems).

Missions include defending targets, realigning communications, and raising the occasional flag. While Helldivers 2’s mission variation might get monotonous after a few hours, diversions like enemy nests and abandoned research sites give some relief. Enemies you encounter along the road will put your stealth or determination to the test, particularly if they call in reinforcements. On higher levels, you’ll need to plan your paths with your remaining lives and mission timer in mind. However, these side quest-like diversions are worthwhile since they provide Samples, Medals, and Super Credits for ship upgrades, gear, and rare stuff.

That final one, Helldivers 2’s rarest currency, is uncapped and can be acquired in-game without paying a dime, which I appreciate in the age of live service games. In terms of new weapons, free and paid reward passes allow you to work your way up to certain prizes. I’d like an actual gun shop, but this encourages experimentation.

The action is tight, with Helldivers rapidly pinging targets and threats before moving out in four separate directions. Guns are hefty and distinct, with screaming feedback whenever your aim topples a robot Automaton or a bug-like Terminid. Calling in stratagems to annihilate adversaries looks great, too, whether it’s with the gigantic 500kg bomb or a legal evil mortar sentry.

Helldivers 2 is visually spectacular, with exotic alien scenery, complex character models, and enemy limbs that fly away amid laser fire and poisonous ooze. Moving from the original’s top-down perspective to a third-person one has greatly improved Helldivers 2’s immersion, particularly when the red color of robot visors emerges from a dense fog.

Even without using voice chat, I was able to enjoy some nice fellowship. As I completed my painful Machine Gun reload, a companion kept an eye on my back. Another put a respawn beacon on top of an enemy factory, causing my dead-on-arrival Helldiver to destroy the objective. As the last member of my squad, I dashed into a friendly mine, thus concluding the mission with fits of laughing.

Friendly fire is the cornerstone of the enjoyable experiences I’ve had in Helldivers 2. Few games make you giggle when a stray headshot forces you to sit out a team evacuation. Death isn’t punitive until you’re nearing the top of Helldivers 2’s nine difficulty levels, thanks to a generous revive mechanism and a slight XP cost for poor extractions.
A screenshot from Helldivers 2 shows a player prepared to head to the extraction location.

The coordinated battle effort extends beyond pooling ammunition and opening doors. A worldwide map displays the progress of every imperial mission in real time, with contributions shifting the balance in an interplanetary warzone. However, when you’re crawling in the dust and the trees in Malevolent Creek are communicating in binary chirps, terror deflates your lungs faster than a gunshot. It is both stressful and immersive to press a button combination to call in an airstrike while thinking about your nearly-full gun magazine and being coated in green blood. Helldivers 2 distributes these dramatic moments like sweets at a fair, making the quieter periods seem well-earned.

Helldivers 2 puts you against technological problems in addition to Terminids. I’m stopped in an ally ship’s defrosting area, unable to continue with mission deployment. And shaky server troubles often cut my weekend sessions short. However, developer Arrowhead Games has been consistently correcting bugs, and I’ve seldom seen game-breaking glitches.

Helldivers 2 combines funny fist-clenching moments with rock-solid co-op shooter foundations, but is hampered by repetitious scenarios. It’s one of the few multi player experiences that keeps me fantasizing at work, and all of it is fun. While the information may seem thin at first, I hope that regular upgrades strengthen its live service offering.



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