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Helldivers 2 review- Intergalactic cooperative chaos

Sam Cawley

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| Last updated 

Helldivers 2 review- Intergalactic cooperative chaos

Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Helldivers 2 has officially landed on PlayStation 5 and PC, and it’s an absolute blast. It’s one of the best multiplayer games I’ve played in recent memory, and it’s made for those late-night gaming sessions with your friends. Liberating the galaxy from hostile forces has never been more comedic.

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If you’ve watched Starship Troopers, you’ve almost played a Helldivers game. The galaxy is in need of a healthy dose of freedom and it’s up to you and your buddies to hand deliver it. The Helldivers are hailed as heroes, which is basically used as propaganda to encourage more people to join, though the reality of what they do is absolutely terrifying.

Take a look at Helldivers 2 below

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The game wastes no time getting you acquainted with the gameplay mechanics, and after a very quick tutorial you’re dropped off on your very own warship where you’ll do your part in the war against the bugs and the borgs.

First things first: the game looks lovely. It’s not an overwhelming graphical showcase but I don’t think it’s really trying to be;it’s the gameplay that’ll keep you coming back, not the vistas. That being said, the planets do look quite pretty from time to time, and some of them can even be quite unsettling, like ones that are covered in a thick fog. When you’re in the heat of battle is when it looks best, as the entire screen quickly becomes a medley of shrapnel and luminescent guts.

Selecting a mission is quick and simple, when it works. All you need to do is select a planet in need of liberating and choose which mission you’d like to play. Missions vary from exterminating a nest of bugs, to securing supplies, rescuing a civilian and many, many more. If you’d rather join another player’s game you can either search for an open lobby on the map, hit the quickplay button to be automatically transported to another player’s ship.

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When I found a game you could get into the action pretty quickly, and playing in a team of people, whether ones you know or random players, is clearly the way to go if you want to get the most out of Helldivers 2. The only problem was actually finding a game. Frustratingly it took ages to find a game sometimes, even though I knew for a fact that there were thousands of people playing at the same time as I was. Sometimes after a particularly long wait I’d join a game only to have the host player disconnect, which boots you back to your own ship, and one time I was halfway through a game with other players when the game crashed.

Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

At the time of writing there’ve been several recent patches addressing instability in the matchmaking, stuttering issues and game crashes, all of which I’ve experienced first hand during my time with the game. My most recent gameplay sessions have been far more stable and it’s been much easier to both find and connect to other players. There are still some technical hiccups here and there which I can’t ignore, as it can make playing the game a real challenge, but for the moment it looks like the major issues are slowly being patched out.

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However when the game worked as intended it was absolutely fantastic, with the only dull moments being a few games I played by myself without any online teammates. Solo play just isn’t it for this game. It’s a nice inclusion if you don’t want to do online matchmaking but it’s clear the game is meant for more than one person to play at a time.

Each mission begins with you and your team dropping onto the planet to complete whatever objective is on the mission agenda. This is where the fun begins, as the vast, open world planets are crawling with bugs waiting to tear you apart in an almost comedic fashion. Absolutely everything can kill you in this game to the point where it’s basically slapstick. You can step on plants that explode, get mauled by a pack of insects, blow yourself up with a badly thrown grenade, get shot in the head by your teammates “accidentally” and much much more. The amount of times I saw a beam of light shining on top of me and thought “what does that mean again?” before being bombarded with space artillery had me laughing for hours.

Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
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The gameplay itself is challenging, strategic and thoroughly entertaining. Players can equip a variety of different weapons and grenades, from pistols, marksman rifles, shotguns, SMGs and more. There are also special weapons you can call down with Stratagems. The Stratagems are a key part of a Helldivers arsenal. By inputting codes on the battlefield you can summon a range of support options, such as special weapons like rocket launchers or heavy machine guns, orbital bombardments, sentry guns, or reinforcement pods for when one of your teammates is dead and needs to be respawned. Weapons and Stratagems can be unlocked over time by levelling up and spending in-game currency, as can customisation items for your Helldiver.

The mission variety can feel a bit repetitive, as even though they tend to be different the majority boil down to travelling to a certain point, killing bugs/bots before travelling to an evacuation point and killing more bugs/bot until your ride gets there. It’s a case of some missions shining brighter than others, but there is a time limit for each one which at least adds some pressure to get the job done reasonably quickly.

That being said, there are always plenty of bugs to kill, both on the way to the objective, when you get there, and when you’re getting the hell out. When their numbers grow to an overwhelming amount, your teammates are down and you’re low on ammo is when the game is at its best. It’s the kind of hectic fun that’ll have you screaming into your microphone as you beg for your teammate to help you, and scream more when they throw an orbital strike marker at your feet in response. It’s also worth mentioning the difficulty felt just right no matter which one you set it to.

Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Higher difficulties yield some better rewards, but if you’d rather have a casual experience, that’s definitely an option for you. There were a few times where I thought one of my deaths wasn’t entirely justified, like when an enemy hits you, you briefly slow down to the point they can hit you again before you have a chance to escape. If you’re surrounded by enemies you might as well give up, unless you’ve got a teammate nearby to help you out.

Overall playing through missions was a lot of fun, even if you do get one or two repeated ones during your session. One of my personal favourites was travelling with my squad to find the launch key for an ICBM. Once found we limped over to the launch site, slapped the keys in, fought off wave after wave of insect abominations and watched as an enormous missile emerged from the ground and blasted off. You then get to watch that missile travel off into the distance before setting off an enormous nuclear explosion. What was it blowing up? Who knows, Helldivers certainly aren’t paid enough to ask/care, in fact I don’t think they’re really paid at all considering your earnings go straight back into buying new weapons and equipment.

Once you’ve completed a mission you need to extract yourself from the planet by calling down your ship, which more often than not leads to some cinematic last stands. Be careful though, the first match I played had me so overwhelmed by what was happening I tried to meet the ship as soon as it landed, only to be crushed as it touched the ground. Again, there is so much that can kill you in this game and it should almost never fail to make you laugh at stupid some of the deaths can look.

When you return to your ship you can spend your points on gear or customisation, as well as take in the sights of the planet below. A neat feature is the planets being rendered in real-time, and if you have a peek out of the window you can sometimes catch a few explosions and orbital strikes down on the planet’s surface. According to the developers these are actual players completing missions, which really makes you feel like you're part of a large-scale intergalactic war.

Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Helldivers 2- Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Helldivers 2 is a fantastic game, and a brilliant multiplayer experience when it works. It’s still bogged down by technical issues and bugs at the moment and I can’t pretend that hasn’t affected my overall experience with the game. Thankfully a lot of work is being put into fixing the game and when all the kinks are ironed out it’ll be a tough act to follow for other multiplayer games.

While the graphics aren’t really anything to write home about, the game oozes with style. Every match feels like it could be its own short film, the genre of which depends on what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it. While the gameplay loop is fairly small and repetitive it takes a long time for a session to get boring, and that time is extended dramatically when you’re playing and chatting with your friends. Playing Helldivers 2 almost makes you feel like you’re back in the golden age of online gaming, it’s pure, silly cooperative fun that offers a tailored experience for all kinds of players, whether you’re looking for something casual or your next big challenge.

Pros: Great fun in multiplayer, satisfying visuals and gameplay, plenty of loadout/customisation options, decent mission variety

Cons: Not ideal for solo players, technical issues make multiplayer inconsistent, gameplay could be too repetitive for some

For fans of: Helldivers, Gears Of War, Alien: Fireteam,

8/10: Excellent

Helldivers 2 is out now for PlayStation 5 (version tested) and PC. Review code was provided by the publisher, Sony Interactive Entertainment. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Topics: PlayStation, Sony, PlayStation 5, PC

Sam Cawley
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