Helldivers – Review
Helldivers is a top-down co-op shooter for 1-4 players either online, on the couch, or a combination of both. Helldivers was created by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released exclusively for the PlayStation 4, 3, and PS Vita.
Helldivers is an awesome action-driven coop shooter, one of the best I have played to date. You are a Soldier of Super Earth, a fictional Earth set far in the future. Helldivers does not offer much for story, but rather uses tongue-in-cheek humor as you travel the galaxy conquering planets for the Government and spreading ‘managed democracy’ without questioning twice.
The intro sequence covers it all in a humorous way:
The Helldivers are heroically named after their method of entry: being launched from orbit in a drop pod straight onto the enemies planet. A concept that plays well into the gameplay.
The gameplay of Helldivers is brilliant. It is an absolute blast to play with 3 other friends. The controls are simple and similar to most other top-down twin-stick shooters. Left stick to move, right to shoot, triggers and bumpers mapped to firing/grenades/managing your equipment.
You pick a planet to fight on, pick your loadout, then orbital drop from your ship onto the enemy planet. Each planet is procedurally generated and will consist of 2-3 missions per planet. To complete a mission you must complete all the objectives. Objectives range from escort missions, capture the flag (in this case suitcase of intel), capture the area, assassinate targets, eliminate enemies, and many more. Easier missions will have few objectives, while harder missions will have many objectives. This makes game length differ drastically which is great when you might only want a 5-10 minute session or a full our hour to hour and a half battle with friends.
As mentioned, each planet is procedurally generated within the Helldivers Galactic Campaign. You pick one of three regions to fight in, each home to it’s own unique enemy type: the Bugs, Cyborgs, and Illuminate. Each enemy race has different units and ranks to fight against.
Everything every online player does is synced in real time with the Galactic Campaign. The joint community goal of each player is to conquer every region for each of the three enemy regions available. Each time all sections of a region are conquered, an attack is launched on the enemy home planet. If all Helldivers are successfully in the assault, the enemy is shut down. Once all enemy home worlds are conquered, we win the war. Since the games launch, this has only happened once and took just over 2 weeks for the Helldivers community to achieve this.
To conquer a region of the map you must clear planets within the region. As said before, planets are divided into 3-4 missions of which the difficulty you chose. There will be 12 planets in any given region at one time representing the difficulty level: difficulty 1 ‘A dive in the park’ is as easy as it gets, to difficulty 12: ‘Helldive’ which is impossible for the most part. Completing the planet will add your score the global Community Influence for that region. Once the Community influence bar is full, the region is conquered. This gives a great feeling of satisfaction and working together as a community.
Helldivers gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Everything you do and how you play is down to your own actions as a team. You make your own decisions as to where you first drop on the planet and in what order objectives are completed. Depending on the planet and enemy type, will determine how you travel and what equipment you will bring with you. In Helldivers planets generate with 1 of 3 different environments: Desert, Snow, and Forest. Snow planets will cause you to walk slower and you will be unable to sprint in the snow, similar happens in forest planets when you walk through swamps. For these planets you may chose to bring Mechs or APC vehicles. Depending on the enemy, you may chose to bring Rocket Launchers to deal with the Cyborgs tanks, or Orbital Laser Strikes to deal with the shielded Illuminate.
The equipment in Helldivers is referred to as Stratagems. You equip your Stratagems before you enter battle and call them down during combat using your Stratagems menu. To call down your AirStrike, Mech, or something similar you need to open a separate menu dedicated to your Stratagems. This menu does not pause the game, and it requires you to enter a combination of the D-pad buttons. This is a wicked feature as it adds to all the stress and excitement of getting things right. You might be the last man standing in your team, pushed into a corner of the map by the bugs while struggling to punch in the combo to call in your airstrike annihilate the bug wave in front of you to give you an extra few seconds to call in your team mates again.
Another feature of Helldivers is that friendly fire is permanently on. Everything you do, you can do to your team members. You can accidentally melee them, get them caught in an airstrike, step on them in a mech, run them over in an APC, or plain shotgun them in the face. The game hilariously refers to team kills as ‘Accidentals’ and there is a real time counter on the Galactic Campaign home screen of how many in total there have been. Accidentals are guaranteed to happen multiple times during any mission with 2 or more players. It’s a polarized emotion as it’s incredibly funny when you kill each other in silly ways, but also incredibly stressful when you are playing a difficult mission and you accidentally wipe out half your team. Luckily the game knows team killing is all part of the experience and gives you a dedicated Stratagem for calling in your team members again if they die. However this itself is a double edged sword as choosing the drop location of Hellpods is not something you control, so getting killed by respawning team members is bound to happen.
Once all objectives are complete, you call a dropship to evacuate you and your team from the planet. Calling the drop ship will initiate a minute and a half wait and a final wave of enemies. This adds stress and intensity as you are all fighting together to ensure you get off the planet.
Helldivers has a great deal of customization too. You manage everything from your ship in Helldivers. This includes accessing the Armory for upgrades on weapons and Stratagems as well as changing the appearance of your character with unlocked items.
Every time you level up, you gain a Research point to spend of Weapons and Stratagems. There is a large variety of weapons available, ranging from your standard SMG’s, Shotguns and Assault Rifles to Laser Rifles, Heavy Machine guns, and Flamethrowers. There are also many Stratagems available, all with the ability to be upgraded. The large variety makes for interesting loadout combinations and keeps the gameplay fresh as you have many different ways to play.
Finally sound and music is also very well done in Helldivers. It is particularly well done on the PS4 as its uses the speaker on your controller effectively. When you are running low on ammo, the last few bullets in your magazine will start clicking to let you know you are running out. This sound plays out through your controller rather than your TV so you can hear when you are running low, rather than the sound being lost in the chaos of every other sound coming out of the TV.
Similarly, when you Hellpod is called back into battle you controller plays a little re-entry music making you feel kick-ass while entering battle again. It’s satisfying when two or three people all drop back in and the music is played one after the other but slightly different than the last. You all feel ready for battle again. Simple things like this really make you feel engaged in the game and is a nice touch.
The music is also very well done. All tracks have a patriotic and victorious sound to them. Every time you drop ship is called and the minute and half countdown is started, an awesome track plays to compliment your final battle before you get out. Again, its the small things that help add to the immersion of the game to keep you feeling awesome an engaged.
In summary, Helldivers is an awesome cooperative game to play. It’s a must own if you have any of the Playstation consoles. The one downside it might have, is that its really best played online or with friends. Going at it alone feels a little empty. The rush definitely comes from playing with other people.
This game is also cross-play, so you can play online with other people no matter what platform they have Helldivers on. Plus the game is cross-buy! One purchase entitles you to a copy on PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. Great value for money.
Helldivers is available now, go buy!
Helldivers is a brilliant top-down co-op shooter best played with 4 people. The sense of cooperation and achievement is like no other game this year. It's a must buy if you have PlayStation console.