It is safe to say that Helldivers wears its influences like a badge of honor. The story is shades of Starship Troopers: You, fighting for Super Earth, freedom and liberty, against the endless hordes (including bugs). It all seems so derivative but that’s not to say that it's uninspired as a couple things set the game apart.
Your teammates may be deadly, but your enemies are even more so. Three varieties of bad guys can be found in Helldivers; we’ve got bugs, cyborgs, and super high tech aliens. Each of these races is comprised of multiple units. The most deadly will only rear their heads in higher difficulties however. If that sounds like science fiction’s greatest hits to you, you wouldn’t be wrong.
The Stratagems system is the most standout aspect of your arsenal. To receive any type of support you must press the L1 button to pull out an 80’s style cell phone and basically input a 90’s era cheat code. All of your Stratagems are assigned a fixed d-pad button combo (which can be memorized for convenience). All take a specific length of time to activate once selected and most are beacons that are thrown much like grenades. Running out of ammo is a reality, and there is a surprising amount of strategy that emerges from proper Stratagem use.
The Stratagems become equally unique as well. Mech suits and 4-seater APCs can make traveling in snow or sand a breeze, but prove unwieldy in tight quarters. Massive airstrikes can decimate large groups of enemies or more massive monsters, but also run the risk of annihilating your entire team if poorly placed. Add in specialized items like anti-armor rockets, land mines, portable ammo boxes, and repair tools and you can build a highly effective killing machine. Beyond initially obtaining these weapons and stratagems, all can be upgraded using points found within missions. Needless to say, there is a cornucopia of carnage to be unlocked and mastered in repeat playthroughs.
Especially impressive was when I dropped from a local game to make a sandwich. Three online players joined and ran a mission with my friend while I ate. One of the newcomers bailed on the game and I was right back in with a single button press. This may not seem impressive but no menus were involved and it all occurred seamlessly without loading. While voice communication is recommended, it isn’t completely necessary thanks to a very basic emote/command system. A simple “move” is generally understood as “don’t get hit by my incoming junk”.
There is also a neat feature in which the entire community is working toward conquering the enemy’s home worlds. Upon starting back into the game, you are given an update as to the current state of the war. There are real-time feeds of how many allies have died, enemies have been killed and unfortunate team killings have occurred. To go along with this persistent war idea, there are occasional defense events in which players can participle, that are in a different settings than the usual missions.
I found myself somewhat torn in the process of playing Helldivers and I feel the need to end my assessment of the game with this: I typically hate playing online with strangers. Helldivers is fun, hard, and chaotic. I recommend it immensely for local co-op games but the online functionality is exemplary (thus a suitable substitution for a room full of friends). I plan on revisiting Helldivers fairly frequently for quite a while longer.
The copy of Helldivers reviewed was purchased with personal funds for personal use.