Helldivers 2 on PlayStation 5
Helldivers 2 joins Risk of Rain 2 in offering a sequel that utilizes an entirely different perspective and then absolutely crushes it. While I had hoped for something to hold me over until the English release of Earth Defense Force 6, I instead found the Starship Troopers game I had always wanted, complete with hilarious propaganda.
There’s not much of a story to Helldivers 2, so as much as there is just a purpose. Bugs (and Automatons) are taking over the galaxy, and it is the Helldivers’ responsibility to ensure that at-risk planets are swiftly liberated. This is easier said than done, as planets are highly infested, and it will take all the explosions and bullets possible to turn the tide in the Galactic War.
Despite the appearance of being a fresh recruit, you are given your own ship immediately, which serves as your home base. I would prefer if there were more things to do aboard the ship, and I lamented to my squad mates more than once that I wished the ship had a firing range. That desire was stronger when I took a new gun into the field only to find out it wasn’t my thing.
Helldivers 2 is also a pretty strict military simulation, and this means your reloads have to be on empty mags, or that ammo is fully wasted. You aren’t given an ammo pool. Instead, get only a set number of magazines per gun before finding ammo or calling in a resupply. This means the first hour or so of the game had me attempting to unlearn other third-person shooter habits that were hurting me.
Weapons are also unlocked in a way I didn’t expect, as you have to progress the game’s free (or premium) Warbond battle pass to get new ones. This has drawn plenty of controversy to the game for some reason, as upset players have dubbed this “pay-to-win.” This label doesn’t make sense, as Helldivers 2 is completely PvE, and you can find the “Super Credits” on missions. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I found them, and they’re a nice little treat every time.
Though I would certainly prefer a smaller time commitment for new weaponry, the game does offset this by giving you support weapon options. These can be dropped manually as Stratagems or found within missions, but finding them is way more of a rush. There’s nothing quite like getting hammered by bugs/automatons just to find the right crashed ship that is carrying a flamethrower or railgun. From there, it’s all over for them.
Once you have everything set, from your weapon choices to armor customization, you’re ready to experience the gameplay loop. You’ll use the Galactic War Table to choose your difficulty and mission, which has several different objectives to discover. From there, you’ll step into your drop pod and be launched onto the surface of one planet from any available region. You navigate to your objective(s) using the map, and then back to the exfiltration point when finished.
There are also some very pretty environments, as planets range from deserts to lakeside forests to ice planets. However, this can also work against you, as a mission on a red desert planet kicked up a sandstorm early on that significantly cut visibility. There is always the chance a certain planet will have unique weather conditions, as the ice planet once had cold conditions that would lower your fire rate, but weapons would overheat much slower.
This game isn’t exactly complicated, but I think that’s what allows for fun. It can certainly become a little repetitive, though. Doing missions on the easiest difficulty allows you to become familiar with the game’s tasks, so things still feel familiar when you ratchet up the difficulty. However, higher difficulties mean more missions to complete in a sequence in order to get all rewards to unlock items in the Warbonds or purchase better Stratagems.
I don’t want to portray Helldivers 2 as an easy game, either. When out on a mission, it feels like everything wants to kill you. Not only can you lose to even the weakest enemy in seconds, but you need to coordinate with other players because friendly fire cannot be disabled.
This is especially noticeable when a whole squad keeps calling in orbital lasers that obliterate their immediate surroundings, or you summon a turret that will shoot through squadmates just to kill a single enemy. You can even be squashed by the exfiltration ship if you stand in the wrong spot as it touches down.
Playing solo is fine for the first two difficulty levels, but you’ll need random players or friends beyond that. For that reason, it’s slightly difficult to recommend this game to anyone coming in solo, as the game practically begs to be played with friends.
As part of finishing missions, whether with a squad or alone, the game directly tells you how much that mission contributed to a planet’s liberation. This is a bright spot of comedy, though, as you get to watch the completion percentage rise by about a ten-thousandth of a point.
The beauty of Helldivers 2 is in its simplicity. You’re just a single soldier tasked with the impossible job of contributing to a whole galaxy’s defense. But that’s also where the game shines, as you don’t play as Commander Shepard or someone massively important. You’re essentially just a grunt who survives long enough to get better gear and further fulfill their duty. Whether you want to sink hours into the war effort or just take on a few missions, this game is perfect for as much or as little as you want to give it.
- Fun sense of humor.
- Perfect game to mess around with friends.
- Guns feel good and appropriately weighty.
- Just enough strategy when working with a squad to make missions feel engaging.
- Can find the game's microtransaction currency in missions.
- Reloading properly is important and had me very aware of the ammo counter.
- Picturesque locations.
- Unlocking new weapons is a lot of effort for sometimes a worse option.
- Difficulty can be prohibitive for solo players.
- Gameplay loop can feel repetitive.