Arrowhead Game Studios’ 2015 co-op shooter Helldivers proved to be a bit of a hit. So much so that it now has a sequel. And while Helldivers 2 sports a major change in perspective, with the camera now being positioned over the player’s shoulder rather than offering a top-down look at the action, it very much captures the same energy. Basically, if you love Starship Troopers you’re going to want to play this game.
Primarily designed as a multiplayer experience, Helldivers 2 asks you to team up with up to three fellow soldiers and fight for Super Earth. From aboard your ship you’re free to manage many things such as your appearance, loadout, and even upgrade the ship itself. But you won’t want to hang around for long: you’ll want to get into the action.
Head to the Galactic War Table and you’ll be presented with a visual representation of the current situation. At launch, you’re fighting a war on two fronts: on one side you’ve got bug-like creatures called Terminids, and on the other you’ve got fearsome Automatons. You’re free to engage in missions to thwart either, but it’s wise to pay attention to the current war effort to reap better rewards. While Helldivers 2 doesn’t have an in-your-face story to follow with cutscenes et al, there is a meta narrative that directs your war efforts at least.
A decent variety of missions are on offer, ranging from simply taking down powerful targets to fighting off hordes of enemies while scientists make their escape. Even when repeating missions, however, the act of waging war against invaders is so enjoyable, it doesn’t matter all that much. After dropping down into a location via drop pods, it’s up to you whether you head straight for your objective or take time to explore. The latter often reaps benefits, as aside from resources that might prove to be useful in the fights ahead, you might even find medals or samples that can be used to unlock cosmetics and other goodies.
Sometimes you might have optional objectives to complete, too, such as taking down enemy strongholds. But everything is a balancing act, as you can’t dilly-dally too long. Your exploits are lime-limited, you see, and a limited number of respawns are available should players die, too. After completing the main objective, then, anything else should be seen as a bonus – though some will want to risk it all.
Regardless, it’s important to co-ordinate with your team members and watch each others’ backs. Using stratagems to call in everything from powerful orbital strikes to resupply crates is also pivotal, which is achieved by holding the left shoulder button and inputting a code with the d-pad before throwing a tracker. It feels a bit like entering a cheat code.
Related: The Best Online Co-op Games on PS5
Even when your main objective is complete and you’re ready to end your mission, however, your fight is not over. You then need to make it to an extraction point, call in your dropship, and survive until it’s able to come in and pick you up. You engage in at least two major fights in each mission, full of intense action and, more often than not, unintended comedy. You’ll laugh as grenades unexpectedly bounce off enemies and end up putting your life in peril. Seeing players perform a mighty jumping dive to escape an incoming orbital strike might also raise a guffaw. Basically, even when things go wrong in Helldivers 2 you’ll be having fun.
Despite the co-op focus, you can play Helldivers 2 alone if you wish. It’s not the ideal way to play, with certain aspects of the gameplay being locked out to you – you might find you can’t enter certain buildings, for example, that require two buttons to be pressed at the same time – but it’s still nice to have the option of heading out on missions by your lonesome. There are even difficulty settings, so you can give yourself more chance of achieving success by playing on easier levels. Though of course, you’ll find your rewards reduced to match.
We have, at times, found ourselves forced to play Helldivers 2 solo — it being the victim of its own success. Server issues at launch have led to matchmaking being unavailable, rewards not being issued correctly, and, at worst, some players not being able to get into the game at all. Thankfully, Arrowhead Games Studios has been working diligently on these issues, but there’s still some way to go.
Hopefully these issues won’t put players off in the long-term, as Helldivers 2 certainly is more enjoyable when played with others. And with plenty of content promised post-launch, for free, this could become what Sony has been hoping for: a successful live service game. We’re certainly looking forward to taking on new adversaries in additional biomes, that’s for sure.
Server issues aside, which eventually should be eliminated, jump into Helldivers 2 and you’re bound to have a good time. Its battles are challenging and engaging, it’s got a fun sense of humour, and it’s rewarding seeing your war efforts pay off. Whether you find yourself fighting against fearsome automatons while waiting for your flag to be raised, or squashing bugs while racing to take down an illegal radio signal, chances are you’ll have a big grin on your face while doing so. And that’s what really matters. Helldivers 2 isn’t particularly big or clever, but boy, is it a lot of fun.