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REVIEW: Helldivers 2 — Elected Representative of Live Service Shooters

 
 
Overview
 

Published by: PlayStation Studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment
 
Developed by: Arrowhead Game Studios
 
Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows (Steam)
 
Genre(s): Third Person Squad Shooter
 
Mode(s): Online Single/Multiplayer
 
FG RATING
90%
90/ 100


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

Raves


Solid gameplay loop. Addictive co-op experience. Impressive levels of replay-ability. Impressive visual composition of a broad array of proc-generated biomes.

Rants


Very rough launch (server issues). No cross-progression (yet). DLCs do not work across game sharing. Heavily relies on multiplayer.


0
Posted February 23, 2024 by

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The original Helldivers had the makings of what could be a great live squad-based shooter. It ultimately fell short due to in part it’s punishing difficulty but also its top-down twin-stick shooter perspective. Helldivers 2 seeks to restore it’s near-perfect formula by refining it’s difficulty curve, beefing up it’s visual fidelity, and – perhaps the most significant change of all – by transitioning into a fully immersive third-person shooter.

Helldivers 2 Screenshot 2024.02.15 - 00.50.06.95

STORY

Helldivers 2 doesn’t change much by way of story since the first Helldivers game. You are new Helldiver recruit, bullet-spraying, orbital-dropping, space soldiers tasked with eradicating the encroaching threat of giant space insects and robot sentinels in the name of democracy.

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It’s still very much the cheesy satire setting that could only resemble Starship Troopers and nothing else. Apart from the dedicated tutorial mission, much of the campaign is told through context dialog from the NPCs around your ship or through texts that can be found throughout the game’s many different maps spread across the many planets in the system.

Helldivers 2 Screenshot 2024.02.12 - 15.34.05.59

Regardless of it’s deliberate lack of a Story Campaign, Helldivers 2 is teeming with personality. A large portion of which you can attribute to it’s overall sense of humor on top of the often brutal albeit spectacular combat encounters.

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GAMEPLAY

Nearly every meta-game from original Helldivers is present and fundamentally unchanged in Helldivers 2. The two impossible-to-miss changes are primarily the visual fidelity and it’s shift into third-person shooting. Both of these new elements provide an unprecedented level of immersion that simply wasn’t possible in the previous game.

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Helldivers 2 is fundamentally a third-person squad-based PvE extraction shooter that goes hard on overwhelming the players. Each encounter if handled poorly can quickly lead to impossible odds. On top of that, players will also need to contend with Friendly Fire being a very common occurrence. The magic is in how these seemingly un-fun elements still manage to be essential ingredients to highly addictive and satisfying co-op sessions.

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You begin by gathering at the Wartable to plan your next operation. From here, you’ll see an overview of the community’s cumulative war efforts in Super Earth’s campaigns against the encroaching Terminid and Automaton threats. After selecting which planet you wish to ‘Liberate’, you can then take on operations, which are a set of missions with varying main objectives that grant EXP to level up your Helldiver and gain access to new Strategems which we’ll get to in a bit, Reputation Slips which are used to unlock said Strategems, as well as Medals which allows you to purchase Weapons, Armor, Boosts, Emotes and Cosmetics. Strategems are the bread and butter of every Helldiver. These Strategems can range from Support Weapons, Orbital Strikes, Air Support, and Sentries among other things. You can equip up to 4 and which ones you take with you will mean the difference between success and failure.

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All missions are on a timer and though some of them can get up to 40 minutes, each session can easily be that long. Escalation is the name of the game. A handful of seemingly unremarkable bugs can quickly lead to a hellishly unrelenting and overwhelming struggle to survive, all while trying to complete objectives and extract to safety. The earlier levels are quite forgiving and is perfect for getting a feel of the controls and gameplay loop. Its when you start unlocking the more challenging missions does the game teach you the meaning of the words ‘careful’ and ‘methodical’. Helldivers is an excellent tactical shooter because of this. Chaos is your enemy, and quick, precise, and often times excessive approaches are necessary to maintain control. “Manage Democracy” the game keeps uttering and apparently it’s  sound advice.

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Multiplayer is quite an essential component of the game. Though playing solo is definitely possible, we highly don’t recommend it. Thankfully, when it works, finding players to fill the squad is easy and each new addition is another set of Strategems, Firepower, (and bait), that can help improve your odds. Or make it worse, because as mentioned, Friendly fire is a thing and being clumsy or reckless with your aim and use of Strategems can easily make things worse for you and your squad. Communication is key and the game certainly equips you with the means to properly do so. Aside from the obvious voice-chat support, Helldivers can mark areas in the map, ping points of interest, utilize some preset voicelines, and even share in support items and ammo. My favorite co-op thing to do is the ability to reload your ally’s support weapon. Instead of painstakingly reloading the rockets on your recoiless rifle, a fellow helldiver can quickly load one for you after every shot, allowing you to keep your sights on the enemy and fire continuously for as long as you guys have ammo. It’s these very deliberate cooperative decisions that makes overcoming the overwhelming challenges of Helldivers 2 hella fun.

The game is aspiring to be a live service game and is already playtesting a features like a battlepass (warbond) and a premium store with rotating armor sets. What’s interesting about the premium store is that the currency can be obtained in game via unlocking them from the warbond or finding them randomly in points of interests scattered in the map between missions. The gameplay loop is perfect for its plans as a live service, with no signs, at least not yet, of steering the microtransactions towards pay to win elements. There’s a premium warband that has its own sets of unlocks unique from the free one but none of the weapons and armor have anything significantly advantageous. In fact, one weapon was particularly unique due to its explosive ammo property but its slow rate of fire and limited ammo made me opt for the free assault rifle anyway.  Admittedly some like the incendiary grenade was particularly useful but even that is more situational than anything.

VISUALS & PERFORMANCE

Helldivers 2 looks unassuming up close and when on the main Hub. It’s when you’re deployed in campaigns does the game look really good.  There are many, many planets that may need liberating, though most follow a certain theme (ie. desert, ice, tropical, etc.) each are distinct and looks beautiful. Fog and foliage not only look good but play a major role in the game as well – heavy foliage slows helldivers down, while thick fogs or extreme weather conditions are not only visually imparing, but can cause issues when calling for support or navigating the map.

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Explosive payloads are extremely important in surviving  Helldivers 2 and so you’ll be using and seeing these frequently, which is fortunately a satisfying sight thanks to the stunning explosive and particle effects that you’re treated with with every use. Maps are very well designed and don’t ever look generic or unatural, terrain is very variable and uneven too, which again, serves a gameplay impact as well, though its not as polished as what you see from games like Death Stranding or Horizon, both running on the Decima engine.

Helldivers 2 Screenshot 2024.02.15 - 06.28.27.45

Helldivers 2 definitely looks phenomenal and incredibly immersive, but the latter part is also largely attributed to its solid soundtrack. Every encounter, from run-ins with hoards, a Titan, or just trying to survive long enough to extract, are all supplemented by an epic musical score that really immerses you in all the action. All these elements perfectly capture the same vibe and feel of the classic Starship Troopers movie which is definitely a good thing.

Helldivers 2 Screenshot 2024.02.14 - 18.15.07.29

VERDICT

Not only is Helldivers 2 one of the most entertaining co-op shooters in recent history, it also has all the markings of what makes a great live-service game. The difficulty curve is still steep and though the game allows you to play completely solo or join randoms, Helldivers 2 is like a multiplayer squad’s wet dream. Launch had a few bugs and hiccups that made the online experience less than ideal and the grind can be quite the number, but with the amount of options at your arsenal as well as the righteous ability to be able to earn premium currency just by playing are concepts most modern live service game need to take notes from. If you even have 1 member in your squad, don’t miss this phenomenal shooter.


Dian Raval

 
Dian is a writer for Flipgeeks who, in his spare time, stares at a wall in his basement. If you'd like to discuss music, video games, or the infinite wisdom of concrete, follow him on twitter @iburnandfume or subscribe to his YouTube channel @iburnandfume. He's pretty much iburnandfume in everything. Apparently he... burns and fumes.


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