Back in 2011, a little game called Magicka took over Steam by storm, with some of the most chaotically entertaining multiplayer we had ever seen up to that point. Since then, developer Arrowhead Game Studios kept that DNA intact in pretty much all of their following releases, including the original Helldivers. Now its sequel is out and I’ve had a chance to play it over its launch weekend, delivering bloody democracy to all of those who dared stay in our way.
Everything about Helldivers 2 is ridiculous and over the top, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Taking a huge cue from Starship Troopers, the satirical tone of the game is definitely on point as you play as one of Super Earth’s elite combat troops, sent all over the vast reaches of space to defend your way of life from a number of threats, such as gigantic bugs and an onslaught of out-of-control robots.
All the while, you have to do your best to keep alive since friendly fire is a constant reality as you and your teammates call in orbital strikes and handle a vast number of deadly weapons from mission to mission. It’s never easy out there, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Helldivers 2 might have ‘games as a service’ hooks in the form of battle passes and premium currency, but none of that stood in my way as I had a blast playing for well over 20 hours over the course of the days following its release.
Frankly, the only real drawback so far has been performance, as Helldivers 2 launch and post day-1 patch state has been rocky at best, with random crashes and server issues, some of which had us replay sections of the game over because data was not saved. And since missions tend to last for well over 30 minutes, I sure did get annoyed at times, but that still wasn’t enough to keep me away from diving into hell time and time again.
Sony has invested heavily on this release and the bump up in budget can be felt all throughout Helldivers 2. It looks absolutely amazing before, during and after all the chaos that ensues during missions thanks to a beautiful lighting engine that reacts to debris and smoke, allowing for some incredible looking vistas as you jump from planet to planet. The visual variety is a big bonus as well, making every location feel different and alien. Character designs also instill a faux futuristic military vibe to the whole affair, as you switch armor sets as the stats better suit your playstyle, and the weapons that you do get to use also look deadly – and, well, are, not just to enemies but to everyone around you.
For as much as you’ll be busy trying to keep tabs on the absurdity around you, it’s also worth communicating with your squad, either via voice chat or through the in-game text system, but Helldivers 2 also does a good job at providing quick audio quips that you can play in order to alert your buddies. It wouldn’t be much if the sound design in the game wasn’t up to par, and in that department, the game also shines, not only when conveying the absolute mayhem from moment to moment, and in revelying in the sheer absurdity of it all too.
It’s easy to look down on games that use live-service design to keep players invested financially post-release, but it feels like Arrowhead and Sony were careful not to overdo them in Helldivers 2. Surely you can spend actual money decking out your soldier, but thankfully it’s just as easy to accrue the same currency simply by playing, which is to say exactly what all other games like this do it, but the speed at which it happens here is noticeably higher than usual.
While yeah, forking the cash is definitely faster, earning that dime by simply playing doesn’t feel arbitrarily held back, which is a welcome sight for those of us who were put off by more predatorily designed titles of this ilk. It’s up in the air how Helldivers 2 will feel as it moves from this post-release vibe in order to deliver newer content as the crowd-contributed take over of planets from enemy forces continues going in the coming months, but from what’s currently going on, there’s reason to be hopeful for the game.
20 hours in, Helldivers 2 continues delivering enough of a good time to keep me going and going. Knowing that the issues that are currently plaguing the game are bound to be fixed as new patches roll out, it’s exciting to think that there is indeed space in this subgenre for experiences like this, where the grind isn’t too intense and it’s possible to see goals being reached in an enjoyable rate. Whether or not that will be the case later down the line, it all rests on the shoulders of Arrowhead Game Studios’ planners, but what I’ve had so far gives me plenty of faith that the war for Super Earth has plenty of momentum to keep going for a long while more.