Helldivers 2 is the dark horse of 2024 – Review – WGB

By admin Feb18,2024

One thing is very clear about Helldiver 2: your friends are much more dangerous than any of the giant bugs and socialist robots you’re dispatched to dispatch. Over countless hours my comrades-in-arms have shot me in the head, decapitated me with a laser drone, blown me up countless times using a wide variety of orbital bombardments and even dropped a resupply pod straight onto my noggin. While monstrous bugs and Terminator-esque robots have killed me more than a few times, most of my deaths came at the hands of my friends, and boy, was it funny.

Helldivers 2 revels in the mayhem of battle and the ease at which the three other people fighting alongside you can meet their end. This four-player co-op title successfully builds on the first game’s strengths by doubling down on the satirical comedy, upping the action and just being fucking fun, to be honest. There’s a simplicity to the well-executed gunplay and fighting that makes Helldivers 2 a very more-ish experience, especially with a couple of good friends along for the ride.

If you’ve ever seen Starship Troopers, the 1998 movie based upon the book of the same name, then you’ll immediately understand the deeply satirical vibe that Helldivers 2 aims for and hits squarely in the bullseye. The cringy propaganda in the opening cutscene sets the tone perfectly for a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, urging you to serve Super Earth by becoming a Helldiver to protect the citizens of your glorious home by spreading freedom and democracy across the galaxy by force. Your foes are the endless hordes of bugs, again referencing Helldivers 2, and socialist robots, and while the game never addresses it, there’s a vague sense that maybe you’re the bad guy in all of this. But the storyline is largely nonexistent, at least for now. As the war for the galaxy heats up, perhaps we will learn more.

Available On: PS5, PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developed By: Arrowhead Games
Published By: Sony

Price: £34.99/$39.99

While the first game was a top-down shooter, Helldivers 2 sticks the camera right behind your character’s shoulders in a traditional 3rd person setup that brings you right into the action. The immersion factor is helped immensely by the heavy use of fog effects, downpours of rain, smoke from explosions and dashes of coloured lighting, all creating a really atmospheric game. It can lead to some really cool moments like a wall of giant bugs breaking out of the fog bank or volleys of bright red laser fire from giant metal robots that look like something out of Terminator 2. Despite not having insane hardware requirements and running really well on my ageing 1080 Ti graphics card, Helldivers 2 can be quite the visual stunner.

A basic mission in Helldivers 2 is a straightforward affair that usually amounts to killing some big target or messing around with terminals to launch an ICBM or stopping an illegal transmission. Nothing too fancy. The twist is the hordes of enemies that occupy the planet’s surface, all waiting to ruin your democratic mission to introduce freedom to the galaxy by introducing your brain to the open sky. Optional objectives like bug nests, robot factories and artillery stations are scattered around, too, if you feel inclined to chase extra XP and resources. And you should because you can actually achieve your mission without successfully evacuating. Super Earth sees no issues with a suicide mission.

It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. The fun part comes from the satisfying gunplay and absolute insanity that a group of four lunatics with access to orbital superweapons can cause. Even a small patrol of bugs or robots can be fun to tackle but the best moments are when you and your comrades have to face down a wave of foes. Bugs can be turned into mincemeat under concentrated fire and the corpses will begin to pile up as you and your fellow soldiers valiantly hold back the tide. The robots are harder to contend with, their heavy armour and literal freaking tanks meaning it’s best to wait until you get better armour-piercing gear.

A massive part of doing your part for the glory of Super Earth is the Strategems which can be called down from your personal ship hanging out in orbit. These might be simple things like resupply pods or a machine gun or rocket launcher, but they can also be devastating attacks capable of levelling anything in the area, including you and your pals. An orbital barrage, a strafing run, napalm, giant laser blasts – these are all options for those willing to spend the resources to unlock them which can be deployed on the battlefield. There’s a pretty extensive list of Strategems to unlock and use, along with ship upgrades that boost their efficiency.

Actually using them is pretty cool as Helldivers 2 carries over a mechanic from the first game where you have to quickly hammer in a code for the Strategem you want to use. It sounds simple but when you’re in the middle of a massive bug onslaught and really want that 480mm barrage, it can be tough to tap out the right sequence without screwing it up.

Between the guns, the ultra-satisfying way enemies can be ripped to shreds and the absolute fucking chaos of calling in bombardments, the action in Helldivers 2 is top-tier and only enhanced by how easy it is to kill your pals. Friendly fire is on and can’t be turned off, which is why you also have plenty of reinforcements so that death is nothing more than a good laugh, especially if it came at the hands of a supply pod squashing you. Throughout my time with the game, I’ve seen people die due to walking straight through a minigun sentry’s automated fire, burn to death because of a napalm strike and witnessed all their limbs being torn off amid a precision strafing run that I thought was a great idea at the time.

Some missions will be buttery smooth affairs where you drop in, cut through the enemy and extract without losing a single life. Others will be fights from start to finish where you and your chums barely manage to hold out against the tide, desperately calling in airstrikes and hiding on top of rocky outcrops.

Here’s a prime example: I and a few friends decided to up the difficulty level and dropped into a mission where the objective was to kill a Bile Titan. Unaware of what exactly a Bile Titan is but excited by how badass it sounded, we mopped up the optional objectives before heading for the big boy. We were not ready for the chaos. The massive Bile Titan towered above us as bullets bounced off its armoured hide. On the ground, the Chargers were causing problems for all of us because of their heavily armoured carapaces, so while the Bile Titan stomped across the ground we were all running in circles trying to shoot the unarmoured arses of the Chargers. Airstrikes were called in on top of each other, supply pods were brought in and reinforcements were burned through. In the end, it wasn’t smart strategy or precision gunwork that won the day; it was my friend accidentally landing their reinforcement pod squarely on the Bile Titan, squashing it straight into the ground. Thus began our long and solid strategy of using supply drops and reinforcement pods as weapons until one of us unlocked the orbital laser, a weapon so powerful it has a 5-minute cooldown and is limited to three uses per mission.

There’s a lot of small details to appreciate, too. For example, reloading while you still have ammo in the clip results in all those bullets being lost, which is important when running out of ammo is so easy. Going prone can help you survive explosions. Reload animations have a few save points, so if you get interrupted you can resume reloading from where you left off. There are various environmental effects to contend with as well, like torrential rain or fog banks that can hide big enemies right until you’re on top of them. There are even tandem weapons where a second player can reload them for the user.

In terms of the overarching story, Helldivers 2 has you as part of the Galactic War, a big ongoing campaign where you and everyone else fight to complete the goals given to you. When the game launched the first challenge was to liberate a series of planets from the bug menace, but while I was writing this the game introduced its first live-service twist when the socialist robots suddenly attacked human colonies. We were redirected to the other side of the galaxy to defend our fellow Super Earthers from the metal bastards in new types of defence missions.

Questions do, of course, remain about the longevity of Helldivers 2 as it has been positioned as a live-service style title. Arrowhead is promising plenty of free content and updates to keep the game alive, including the addition of vehicles, new enemies, more planets and new mission types. These things should help keep the gameplay feeling fresh, but in a few months or even half a year will the relatively straightforward nature of Helldivers 2 be able to keep players engaged? It’s impossible to tell.

With that said, I’m fine with it having a finite lifespan. Not every game needs to last forever, and I’d be happy to get a few months of fun out of Helldivers 2 and then move on to something else. The price tag really helps reinforce that – this is a $40 game, making it a much more appealing title.

If players do stick around, how exactly will Helldivers 2 support itself? Well, via microtransactions and season passes, referred to in-game as Warbonds. I’ve written a basic guide to monetization which you can read here, but I’ll give you the basic rundown anyway – there’s a free season pass and a premium one which costs about $10. Both of them have items you unlock by earning medals in the game. These are things like new guns, armour sets, backgrounds, emotes and so on. Then there’s a rotating storefront that sells other armours and cosmetics, and those are fairly priced at a couple of dollars for a suit of armour and $0.50 for a helmet. It’s a hell of a difference from the recent Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League which charges ludicrous prices.

Overall, I’d rather it had no extra monetization at all. But to support free content it needs to have something, and on the spectrum of monetization bullshit, Helldivers 2 falls squarely on the good end. The season passes offer decent value for money and the microtransactions are cheap enough that I actually went and bought a couple of things myself, something I normally refuse to do. The CEO of Arrowhead himself said that he feels monetizing a game needs to be earned, and so far Helldivers 2 appears to have done just that.

The final topic we need to tackle is that of the servers. Helldivers 2 launched with server issues that were fixed quickly, but as the game’s popularity has surged the developers have struggled to keep up and that has resulted in a few server outages. As I write this, the peak concurrent player count on Steam has hit another all-time high and the servers have buckled under the stress, rendering the game unplayable. Ironically, Arrowhead Games was offering double XP as an apology for previous issues, so now I can’t get my double XP because the game simply won’t work.

It’s clear that there’s a strong demand for a simple, fun co-op shooter and Helldivers 2 is exactly that. Whether you’re hanging out with a group of loyal friends or teaming up with random citizens of Super Earth, Helldivers 2 is a blast to play. Mowing down bugs in the name of democracy and dismantling socialist robots is immensely satisfying, as is calling down terrible rains of fire from your personal super destroyer. If a few other Helldivers happen to get caught up in the devastation, well, they knew what they were signing up for. Freedom must be achieved at all costs, and freedom is rarely this fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

By admin

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