Helldivers 2 Review – Bullet Heaven

Nearly 10 years on from 2015’s Helldivers, Helldivers 2 carefully adapts the simple yet exciting formula of bug-blasting with buddies for a modern audience. Arrowhead Game Studios has swapped the top-down perspective for third-person while maintaining the frenetic, ballistic loop of crash-landing on hostile planets, completing difficult missions, and extracting against all odds.

In a galaxy torn apart by war, you and your friends are Helldivers, the brainwashed protectors of Super Earth, invigorated by humorous trite aphorisms espousing patriotism and the importance of so-called democracy. Invading forces of menacing Automatons and craggy, organic Terminids threaten your way of life and have made their home on precious interstellar real estate. After earning the shining cape of “freedom” in the game’s boot camp tutorial, you are set loose to tackle an impressive variety of punchy missions. Your objectives range from simple hive exterminations to complicated launch code recovery missions.

However, the exciting unpredictability of Helldivers 2 is secretly the game’s best feature. Whether it’s challenging terrain, wounded limbs, inclement weather, or a miscommunicated orbital strike that brutalizes your entire squad, your best-laid plans are destined to fall apart in devastating, hilarious fashion.

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Combat in Helldivers 2 is all meat, no gristle. The movement feels fluid and reactive, whether you’re sprinting to safety or comically leaping into prone to dodge the chainsaw arm of a lurching terminator. This means while you encounter similar biomes and objectives, the journey to meet your goals is always fraught with wonderful chaos. One great benefit to this system is Stratagems – abilities that can be accessed in combat by quickly inputting a sequence of D-pad button presses, like a Mortal Kombat Fatality.

After playing finger DDR, you’re given a marker grenade to revive your teammates, resupply and call down offensive airstrikes, top-tier weaponry, minefields, and more. Getting the inputs wrong as bugs nip at your health induces a feverish cocktail of adrenaline and fear. However, when you do smash it in successfully and summon a shower of hellfire, saving your gunned-down compatriots, the heroism is intoxicating. Few games provide such powerful opportunities to play the hero as Helldivers 2.

The efficacy of each snappy run is dependent on who makes it off the planet and how many optional objectives you complete. Subsequently, this determines the XP, Requisition, Samples, and Medals you take home, an uncomplicated suite of resources used to develop your ship and purchase new weaponry, armor, and Stratagems. Helldivers 2 also offers free and premium battle passes and a Superstore where players can use a premium currency called ‘Super Credits.’ Thankfully, the paid content isn’t overly intrusive and can easily be avoided as you progress through the campaign.

Helldivers 2’s customizable kit makes it easy to specialize within teams; are you the ammo-carrying support act or the pyromaniac frontman dousing the battlefield in flames?  Despite my efforts, I was my team’s problem child, flush with airstrikes and mines that negotiated as many spectacular escapes as they did squad wipes. There’s nothing quite as humbling (or humorous) as stumbling into your own minefield during a desperate sprint to the shuttle.

Beyond its refreshingly straightforward feedback loop, even more enthralling is how your personal success impacts the overall narrative. Helldivers 2 operates on a live map, with players around the world slowly liberating quadrants of planets, their actions influenced by Major Orders passed down by central control. In an already collaborative game, this compounds the sense of community, making you feel like you’re part of something bigger than even the heady emotional beats of your squad’s missions.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle Helldivers 2 has to face is its own success; servers have been overrun since launch, leading to lengthy wait times and faltering progression systems. Yet, for me, the indoctrination is just too strong. I’m still compelled to wait my turn to get another taste of sweet victory in this live-service diamond in the rough.

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