Helldivers 2 review — Life, liberty, and low-orbit ordnance

Super Earth: a bastion of freedom, and home to a beautiful society of democracy. But enemies of peace lurk in the corners of the galaxy, plotting the demise of our way of life. When liberty is on the line, the Helldivers step up to protect freedom. With the galaxy at war, it’s up to you to take up arms and chip in to ensure democracy for all. 

On the surface, Helldivers 2 may look like a cheesy action flick, and to a certain extent it is. You’ve got the over-the-top expressions of freedom and democracy, slapstick levels of friendly fire, explosions abound and an army of baddies who want nothing more than the destruction of all life. But what really surprised me about this game was how it managed to wrap up all this humor into something that is really quite fun, and has way more depth than one would initially expect at a glance.

Helldivers 2 on PC -- Tutorial and earning our cape on PC

There are two factions to fight within the galactic war on peace, the Terminids and the Automatons, each with their own unique set of baddies to mow down. The Terminids are your traditional alien bugs, moving in swarms and have been known to eviscerate those who hold democracy dear. Sure the little scavengers are easy to put down, but when you start facing the larger enemies like chargers and spewers, you’ll feel the pressure quite quickly. And, if you encounter the monstrous bile titan, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’ve got a few rockets in your back pocket. 

The Automatons are equally if not more menacing than their insect counterparts. It’s one thing when you’re surrounded by enemies closing in on all sides, but it’s a whole different beast when those enemies also start shooting back. While the bots are equipped with deadly melee weapons such as laser swords and chainsaws, there are plenty of variants that have ranged weaponry. Hell, there’s even just a straight up armored tank that can roll through and blast your squad to smithereens. In my experience, facing the Automatons required a different strategy than the Terminids, providing an opportunity to change up my loadouts depending on the type of enemy I would be delivering democracy to.

Whichever enemy you choose to fight, it all begins on your Destroyer. This is your logistics hub for selecting missions, linking up with other Helldivers, changing loadouts and accessing the equipment store. Rather than upgrading your character, you’ll instead be using the resources you find on missions to bolster your ship, allowing you to gain access to new stratagems and more effective weaponry systems. These upgrades require varying rarities of materials, so you’ll need to take on harder difficulty missions to find these after you start unlocking higher tier Destroyer parts.

Selecting a mission brings you and your squad to the Galactic War Map, a staging table that allows you to view how the fight across the system is progressing. Not only does this show the current liberation percentage of each planet, but it also shows you how many Helldivers are actively deployed on any given front as well. This works well as both an immersive UI element and a tool to help you select which missions you and your team may want to undertake. Should you bolster the main force on a heavily active planet, or expand the borders of democracy on an enemy controlled territory? The choice is up to you, and being able to visit so many visually and topographically unique planets was a blast.

Once you’ve got boots on the ground, the real battle begins. Outside of splattering bugs and blowing up killer robots, you’ll also be tasked with various objectives to spread democracy across the planet. These range from rescuing civilians, activating missile silos, destroying outposts/nests and more. There are also smaller side objectives that can be discovered as you explore, providing an opportunity to earn more experience and collect additional resources if you’re up to the risk. 

Missions are designed with four people in mind, so even though you can deploy with less, it does make survival much more difficult. Thankfully there is a quick play system to make sure you’ve got some back up, but just watch out for friendly fire if you’re not on comms. While playing by yourself is an option, I found it much more difficult than with even a single extra Helldiver. The coordination of attacking bugs, using stratagems, and of course, respawning a teammate after an untimely death, makes this an easy sell for enjoying with a friend. Democracy involves more than a single person after all.

Each trip to the surface is restricted by a time-limit, as your Destroyer can only stay in orbit for so long. This means if you go over the timer, you’ll lose access to all of your stratagems and reinforcements, forcing you to evacuate or perish. I really enjoyed this mechanic, as it forces you to weigh the time cost of most things you do while on a mission and keep track of your objectives in a strategic manner. 

While blasting the enemies of freedom with traditional weaponry is great fun on its own, the stratagems absolutely take the cake here. These are special abilities that allow you to rain down all sorts of firepower and support from your Destroyer up in orbit. Perhaps you need an area peppered with high-caliber gatling fire, or need a resupply of ammo and stims, or maybe the best solution to your problem is a 500kg patriotic payload delivered courtesy of your personal Eagle squadron. Stratagems will absolutely make or break your trips to hostile territory, and coordinating your loadouts with your fellow divers is an important part of every mission.

As is true with many modern games, Helldivers 2 does feature a premium currency and an item shop, though this may be one of the most player friendly microtransaction shops I’ve ever interacted with. Now at first glance, it would be easy to think the opposite, as armor in this game does actually come with benefits. When a premium currency shop is selling gear with higher armor values or features better perks, it’s easy to immediately believe this to be some sort of pay-to-win garbage. However, you can actually earn the premium currency just by playing the game. This means you don’t have to spend a penny to get that cool item from the shop you have your eye on, you can just play the game and save up your currency.  I’ve already bought two items from the premium shop with currency I’ve earned from playing missions, and have plenty left over to get more items when one I want comes up. And to top it all off, all of the perks and bonuses on the shop armors have variants that you can earn normally, meaning these are simply redesigns rather than exclusives. I really respect the devs for making this model of microtransaction store, and hope others begin taking a page from their book when it comes to monetization. 

It’s been quite a long time since a multiplayer co-op game has had its hooks in me as deep as Helldivers 2 does. Even if there are still a few bugs (no not the those ones) left after launch, they’re greatly overshadowed by just how fun this game is. Whether I’m running for my life from a horde of scuttling Terminids or blasting explosives into an Automaton dropship, the moment-to-moment gameplay feels cinematic like I’m playing an action movie. Throwing a stratagem into a group of enemies (or my friends by accident) and seeing bodies fly in every direction only to be replaced by another horde 10 seconds later never gets old. With so many upgrades to unlock and planets to liberate, I’m always thinking to myself  “just one more mission.” Even if you’re just playing with strangers, Helldivers 2 provides some of the most volatile and entertaining co-op gameplay I’ve experienced in a long while, so get out there and do your part to spread democracy.

Editor | Website

Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!



Helldivers 2

Review Guidelines

While Helldivers 2 may look like a tropey action game on the surface, what lies underneath is one of the most fun co-op shooters I’ve played in recent memory. Endless explosions and unyielding foes makes for heart-pounding gameplay as you spread democracy across the galaxy one dead bug and bot at a time.

Corvo Rohwer, David Burdette and Ron Burke

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