Review: Helldivers 2


Posted on February 20, 2024 by Henry

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7.5/10

Summary

Arrowhead’s Helldivers 2 is an addictively fun co-op shooter that delivers explosive thrills and laughs, when it works at least. The constant server and matchmaking issues prevent it from being a must play experience right now. But it is indeed a worthy successor to the original game, and a great homage to the sci-fi space action genre. Now will you show your patriotism for Super Earth, soldier?

Developer – Arrowhead Game Studios

Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platforms – PC, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)

Review copy given by publisher

PlayStation 5’s newest live service cooperative action game has arrived, and it is none other than Helldivers 2, the sequel to 2015’s top down shooter Helldivers. Inspired by sci-fi action movies such as Starship Troopers, Helldivers 2 is an addictive fight for freedom and democracy with a group of friends, but it is dragged down by nasty server issues and matchmaking bugs.

At its core, Helldivers 2 is a third person squad-based shooter that has you playing as a titular Helldiver soldier from a fictional world known as Super Earth. Think of it as being similar to the widely popular Deep Rock Galactic, where you have a central hub to customize your loadout, and embark on missions from a terminal to various procedurally generated environments and locations. You’ll be squashing alien bugs known as Terminids as well as evil robots known as Automatons with up to 3 other squadmates. Each loadout consists of a primary weapon, secondary weapon, and an accessory such as a grenade. Stratagems, which are air drops you can call that provide supplies, machine guns, or shields for your team, make a welcome return from the first game.

The basic gameplay loop is quite simple. Choose a mission ala squashing some bug eggs or uploading some encrypted data and dive right into various alien planets via your launch pod. Shoot through waves of nasty bugs or Terminator robots before you call in the ship for an extraction. Helldivers 2 takes on a more realistic approach to shooting, as friendly fire is always on and each time you reload, it throws away the remaining bullets in the magazine. This forces a more tactical and strategic approach to combat, which is synonymous to how the first Helldivers was too. You can’t expect to spray and pray your way through this game buddy!

Aside from your main objective to complete, there’s a multitude of various side activities to discover and partake in on the planet you landed on. There’s loot to collect, random bug nests to clear, or even side missions to complete. Once you’re ready to head back to your mothership, call in the extractor and you’ll have to point-defend for two minutes before the ship arrives. What’s unique about Helldivers 2 is that in order to call in Stratagems or even the extractor ship, you need to input various combinations of buttons on the Directional Pad on the DualSense controller. It can be a bit difficult to do when things get hectic but it’s a novel mechanic nonetheless.

Progression comes in the form of unlocking further difficulty levels in missions, which go from Easy, Medium, and Challenging, all the way to Hard, Extreme, Suicide Mission, and Hell Dive. There’s tons of equipment, weapons, and accessories to purchase with your hard earned currency. There’s also a battle pass-like system with an in-game shop where you can purchase items with real life money too. It’s a live service game after all…

The game is a blast to play, especially with friends, as you experience hilarious and intense moments of chaos, teamwork, and heroism. If you want a fast game, there’s also a convenient quick play option. The game is full of humor and satire, poking fun at the absurdity of war and propaganda. The game also has a lot of replay value, as you can unlock and customize your Helldiver, and participate in the Galactic War, a persistent online campaign where you can influence the outcome of the conflict. What Arrowhead Game Studios did that blew my mind is invoking the sense of community and camaraderie. Every completed mission contributes to a global effort to liberate various planets in the name of democracy.

The major bottleneck holding the game back right now are the consistent server issues that prevent players from logging into the game. The game has been released for nearly 2 weeks now and yet it is still suffering from connectivity failures on a daily basis due to the sheer number of players trying to login. As a live service, online only game, this is a pretty big concern considering people who pay full price for the game can’t even enjoy it. 

To make matters even worse, let’s say you do get over the first hurdle of getting into the servers. Matchmaking issues also plague players as those who try to join with randoms get disconnected or lobbies fail to get formed. If you do end up getting booted mid-game from a bug or server related issue, you also won’t get any rewards, which essentially makes the past half hour wasted. That being said, the developers have addressed these issues and are working diligently to mitigate and resolve the aforementioned grievances, so here’s hoping it gets fixed soon!

It doesn’t help that the game also feels a bit repetitive at times, as the missions and enemies lack variety. The game could use more content and features, such as new modes, maps, and objectives. Currently there are no vehicles available in Helldivers 2, but the developers have already announced that mech suits would be coming soon! It is still unknown if actual cars or trucks will be available down the line or not, but given this is a live service game, it’s not entirely out of the picture. After all, vehicles were a thing back in Helldivers 1!

There’s a fair number of accessibility options here, with standard features such as setting the screen and UI brightness as well as toggling motion blur and depth of field. Voice chat can be enabled via the microphone on the DualSense controller, which is pivotal considering how important it is to communicate with your squadmates in game. Spoken languages come in English, Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, which is an impressive suite of options. Subtitles can be enabled to small, medium, and large, but unfortunately the default text on the in-game menus are simply too small to read from a TV screen. Lastly, controls can be fully rebound and controller sensitivity can be adjusted to your preferred level.

On a technical level, Helldivers 2 is an absolute treat. There’s both a quality mode for graphical fidelity and a performance mode that maintains a silky smooth 60 frames per second. If you know me, then you know I’m opting for frame rates over visuals. You can also turn on anti-aliasing for some smoother visuals as well. When played on a PlayStation 5, the game also provides immersive haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. The gunplay is as satisfying to shoot as it is epic to see. It’s also a game changer to have cross-play enabled so you can play with your friends on PC when you’re on PS5.

Arrowhead’s Helldivers 2 is an addictively fun co-op shooter that delivers explosive thrills and laughs, when it works at least. The constant server and matchmaking issues prevent it from being a must play experience right now. But it is indeed a worthy successor to the original game, and a great homage to the sci-fi space action genre. Now will you show your patriotism for Super Earth, soldier?

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