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Helldivers 2 review

Helldivers 2 is Starship Troopers spliced with Terminator and, ultimately, a whole lot of fun.

Helldivers 2 hero card
Helldivers 2
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Platforms
PS5, PC
Release date
8 February 2024
Price:
From $59.95 (Humble)
Nathan Lawrence
Feb 22, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

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pro
Pros
pro Incredibly addictive gameplay
pro Horror game solo
pro Action-horror game in co-op
pro Over-the-top stratagems
pro Friendly fire made fun
con
Cons
con Painful server issues
con Microtransactions at launch
con Multiple in-game currencies
con Barebones player onboarding
con Crashes and stability woes on PC
Reviewed on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080-powered PC.

Helldivers 2 is some of the most co-op fun I’ve had since the glory days of Left 4 Dead. Even with two or three players, on the higher difficulties, the seemingly never-ending waves of foes and constant close escapes feel incredibly satisfying. Instances of blue-on-blue friendly fire are bound to happen, but they’re more often entertaining than they are frustrating.

With a full four-stack on the second-highest difficulty, Helldivers 2 is particularly punishing. Your group starts acting as a hive mind, ironically battling back waves of bugs as you instinctively form firing lines and drop scores of enemies out to tear you limb from limb.

Then it all falls apart.

Someone dodges into a firing line. A grenade bounces off a bigger foe’s armoured leg. A devastating Stratagem beacon that calls in hell from above is dropped danger close or at the feet of a knocked-over Helldiver. The panicked calls over comms or terrified noises of a squad mate’s mistake that they know may wipe one or all of you are a big part of the fun.

Helldivers 2 doesn’t really have a story. It’s more of a premise. Pick to fight against the Starship Troopers-inspired Terminids or the Terminator-like Automatons. Choose your difficulty. Select a trio of missions to successfully complete for increasingly better rewards, with tasks that’ll soon become very familiar. Repeat ad infinitum.

“Helldivers 2’s repetitive nature would be annoying if its boots-on-the-ground gunplay wasn’t so satisfying”
Helldivers 2 screenshot

The impact of your efforts is a dot-point percentage bump in dominating a planet. Once a planet or region’s percentage bar is full, it’s on to the next rock to do it all again. Helldivers 2’s repetitive nature would be annoying if its boots-on-the-ground gunplay wasn’t so satisfying. Experience gained is accompanied by requisition points and, painfully, a few too many other in-game currencies that the game never bothers to properly explain to you.

Early on, the two main currencies are the ones you’ll use to unlock bigger boomsticks and better explosive ordnance. Requisition points go into Stratagems, which are called in by holding a button and then entering directional codes of increasing complexities once you get to the truly apocalyptic stuff. You will stuff up those inputs regularly but that’s all part of the beautiful risk-reward mix that developer Arrowhead Game Studios has nailed in its moment-to-moment gameplay. In this part of space, your buddies will hear you scream, and it’s all part of the joy.

The other currency is medals, which feels a whole lot grindier until you start unlocking and testing your mettle on higher difficulties. Medals are used to unlock a mix of cosmetics, emotes, passive drop-pod upgrades, armour and new weapons. Most of the weapons I’ve unlocked are average, though, and none can compare to the almighty shredding power of the SG-225 Breaker Shotgun—less a close-range devastator and more an all-ranges kill-all—which has yet to be replaced as my primary since unlocking it.

But this unlock system is frustrating because it’s made to mirror battle passes from other games. Unlike Stratagems, you can’t just buy what you want once you’ve passed an XP level. Instead, you need to spend enough medals on subsequent store-like pages to unlock the next items on the next pages. Basically, you have to burn medals on things you don’t care about just to get to what you do. It doesn’t help that there’s also a separate battle pass, which uses the same medals to unlock content.

Helldivers 2 screenshot

These are the parts of Helldivers 2 that make it impossible to ignore the grind aspect, made worse by weapon unlocks that feel limp compared to the ones you nabbed hours earlier. It doesn’t help that microtransactions have been front and centre since launch day. Yes, it’s a comparatively cheaper $59.95 game in Australia. Yes, I’ve already played around 35 hours of it so the value is there. But it’s still an icky trend to follow, especially when Helldivers 2 has some bigger problems.

On PC, there’s a controversial nProtect anti-cheat software installed with Helldivers 2. In fairness, cheating does tend to be rampant on popular PC multiplayer games. But the thing is, Helldivers 2 only has co-op and doesn’t feature competitive multiplayer. It’s hard, then, to not see anti-cheat as an implementation to stop cheaters from fast-forwarding the grind rather than dropping into public co-op matches and griefing.

And that’s if you can even get into the game. At the time of writing, Helldivers 2 was still growing in popularity, which meant delays getting into the game. Players are reportedly leaving the game on overnight just to ensure they don’t have to wait, which isn’t helping. While Arrowhead continues to roll out server fixes and boost overall capacity, these incremental bumps in player capacity feel odd given the measurable popularity of the game. You’d think server capacity would be doubled or even tripled so players can spend money on microtransactions, I mean, actually play the game.

All of this could’ve likely been fixed if Helldivers 2 wasn’t an always-online game. As it stands, you can’t even truly play alone, which is a truly horrific affair in the rare times I actually got to play the game that way. Your choices are either public matchmaking or friends-only games. If you have other hungry Helldivers 2 players on your list, the chances are good your solo outing will be interrupted by Steam or PlayStation friends dropping in on your match. It was for me for every game after the first 24 hours of launch.

Helldivers 2 screenshot

It's not the end of the world—after all, Helldivers 2 is more fun with mates—but it’s not a problem the original game had. I’m labouring the cons and frustrations here because of how immersion shattering they are in contrast to the highly addictive gameplay loop. Sure, fighting bugs is more fun than dropping killer ’bots, and maybe that's a big part of that’s because the game’s tonally modelled on Starship Troopers more so than any Terminator flick.

But even when you’re playing the same repetitive missions repeatedly, there’s something addictively dynamic about how it all plays out. The best-laid plans lead to frantic firefights where you’re down to your last mag, screaming for help. Other times, the squad synergy makes it a cakewalk but those devastating Stratagems popping off all over the place just never get old.

In short, I love Helldivers 2. It’s easily the most addictive game I’ve played in 2024. If it was just the planet-side gameplay with fewer server woes and other bugs, it’d be dangerously close to a perfect score. Unfortunately, the detractors of the meta game and stability issues pull Helldivers 2 a little lower than the divine score it deserves when you’re caught up in the thick of the main gameplay loop.

Helldivers 2 trailer

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What can I play Helldivers 2 on?

Helldivers 2 is available for PlayStation 5 and PC.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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