Helldivers 2 is the secret long-lost cousin of Metal Gear Solid 5

By admin Feb25,2024

I was flat on my belly on an Automaton planet the other day, being steadily driven back into the sea by waves of ramshackle AT-AT wannabes, when a switch flipped in my head amid the white noise of impending defeat, and I found myself saying “by golly, Helldivers 2 feels a lot like Metal Gear Solid 5.” Sadly, there was nobody to overhear my brainfart/stroke of genius, because I was playing the game solo. But that’s as it should be: if you want to appreciate what Arrowhead’s Starship Troop ’em up shares with Konami’s open world stealth bonanza, it’s better to Helldive on your lonesome.

Cover image for YouTube videoHelldivers 2 – “The Fight for Freedom Begins ” Launch Trailer | PS5 & PC Games

A hardy subsection of Helldivers 2 players have spent the weeks since the new shooter‘s launch experimenting with solo runs – motivated, perhaps, by earlier quickplay and matchmaking bugs, with co-op games sometimes crashing at the drop screen. They’ve already theorycrafted some distinct playstyles on Reddit, Youtube and the Steam forums, which are worth looking up even if you hate the very idea, simply for how they cut against the grain of the design. These players are, as it were, playing a game of their own devising called Helldiver 2.

If you’re minded to join their ranks, be prepared to not have much fun, at first. Even at lower difficulties, Helldivers 2 is built for parties, with overwhelming enemy numbers cropping up unpredictably across large-ish, procedurally generated maps. During my own solo runs, I’ve had a particularly tough time against the bugs, who are nimble and melee-focussed and very hard to escape once they have you surrounded – there’s a definite art to diving prone to avoid their claws. The Automatons, at least, favour ranged combat, and are less trouble to deal with providing you remember to bring at least one weapon or stratagem that can punch through vehicle armour.

A list of unlockable Stratagems in Helldivers 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/PlayStation

As you’d expect from a game that encourages teamwork, many of the weapons and stratagems that support lone wolf play are found higher up the unlocks ladder. The most useful in terms of upping your firepower and resilience include personal energy shields, over-chargeable railguns, more powerful autoturrets, and drone escorts. But having access to juicier gear only gets you so far. The real trick to solo play is to treat Helldivers 2 as an open world stealth sim, a mixture of reconnaissance, cover usage, rudimentary decoy tactics and knowing how to play around with systems that aren’t quite designed for this purpose.

Which is, of course, where the MGS5 comparison comes in. With no other players around to distract you/frag you/land on you, Helldivers 2 really does feel like it began life as a tactical sneak ’em up, full of embryonic stealth simulation fixtures that seem a couple of development passes away from being shippable.

For instance, enemies have different aggro ranges and awareness states – they’ll spot you faster when they’re actively searching. They appear to have some kind of last-known-position system, which means you can shake off attackers by breaking line of sight, though it feels like the game sics them on you at times for drama – during the closing seconds of an extraction, for instance. You can mislead them by summoning turrets to create a fuss. You can also equip a Scout armour passive that both makes you harder to detect and boosts your reconnaissance by giving you radar coverage around a map ping – not particularly vital in co-op, a lot of the time, but hideously handy for a solo player. You can even “backstab” unaware foes with right-stick melee, though this ain’t so great against anything larger than a person.

The MGS5 connections don’t just lie in how solo encourages stealth, however. There’s a Metal Gear energy to how Helldivers 2 characters move, and especially how they throw themselves prone, tumbling into the crevices of those procgen maps with all their back-mounted gadgets, like Punished Snake beating a “tactical” retreat from an alerted base. In general, Helldivers 2’s character handling and physics seem more in keeping with the work of certain Japanese studios than, say, the creators of Ghost Recon or Gears of War. The game rewards finesse – fire from a crouch, and your aim sharpens up noticeably – but it’s also enjoyably imprecise. Characters feel satisfyingly hefty, but that heft also makes them just a touch unwieldy when you’re trying to, say, back-peddle out of a crossfire: it makes me think of Capcom’s creations and especially the sadly forgotten Lost Planet series.

A sheep being airlifted by a Fulton balloon in Metal Gear Solid 5, with the main character Snake in the foreground near a building
Image credit: Konami

The MGS5 links also appear in the centrality of stratagems, which see you summoning various flavours of heavy ordnance from off-map, like Snake calling in resupplies and helicopter strafing runs. In both games, you can turn resupply drops into a form of aerial bombardment. I’d love Arrowhead to add more playful stratagems and equipment generally that are less about, well, combat and more about goofing around in the sandbox, as with some of Metal Gear’s odder gizmos. What about decoys akin to Snake’s various inflatable dummies? They could start by using the pop-up cardboard Helldiver from the tutorial. MGS5’s Fulton balloon extraction system would also make perfect sense in Helldivers 2, whether as a way of “despawning” tougher enemies you’d really rather not bother with, or of “kicking” co-op party members who are overly fond of friendly fire.

That element of whimsy is perhaps the real common thread, here. As Senior Ed wrote in a recent RPS Supporters post, Helldivers 2 is a wonderful source of comedy, and so is Metal Gear Solid 5 – it might reward you for being surgical and leaving no trace, but it’s not just about being a skilled infiltrator. The point of being sneaky in Konami’s game is partly that it creates space and time for experimenting with the tools, and playing clownish tricks on NPCs who make the perfect fallguys. Long may these parallels continue: Arrowhead are still updating Helldivers 2, of course, and it feels like both the solo play and stealth sandbox aspects have plenty of room to grow.

By admin

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