[PlayStation 5] Helldivers 2 Review

by Ajescent

Third-person action sequel Helldivers 2 from Arrowhead and Sony Interactive Entertainment is ready to go on PS5. Are you? Find out in our Helldivers 2 review!

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Ah, democracy. There’s truly nothing quite like it here on the Super Earth, and nothing fills me with more joy than waking up knowing that I have unending freedom, liberty, and sovereignty, and anyone who thinks otherwise or does not share this view is treasonous. That is the way it is and how it should be, which is why we should all give our full support to the Helldivers and their continuing mission to spread democracy to other planets and rid them of the bug infestation.

Before we go any further, I feel I should confess. I never actually played the first Helldivers game. Yes, this admission is near treason, but I am now remedying this situation by playing the sequel, and I have to say, Arrowhead and Sony Interactive Entertainment have done themselves a remarkable service. The original Helldivers was an isometric affair back during the transition period from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 some nine years ago. But today, the sequel is new, improved, and highly evolved because, instead, the game is now a solid third-person shooter whilst still maintaining the feel and humor of its predecessor. You play as a soldier who is part of the Helldivers, a military group from Super Earth spreading democracy to every planet you find in the universe. I say spread democracy. I mean, eradicate any sentient life that doesn’t look human.

Those of us who remember the movie and comic series Starship Troopers or, to a lesser extent, the Earth Defence Force series, will feel right at home here because the premise is simple. You are soldiers, and you have to kill lots of bugs. The comparisons to Starship Troopers are also apt because of the biting satire that the game oozes. Every word that comes out of the mouths of the in-game soldiers/NPCs is nothing but bombastic, patriotic, over-the-top nonsense, and I am here for it. Every time a soldier yells out, “Have a cup of Liber-tea” whenever they throw out a grenade, it is weirdly not as cringy as it sounds.

Helldivers 2 Review - 1

There is death and mayhem everywhere, and yet the soldiers seem to be having a jaunt. It is always a joy to see the contradiction because their life seems highly arduous. I say this because most of us have played extraction shooters before or, at the very least, shooters of any kind. There are certain staples we have come to rely on or expect when we play games in the genre. For example, when you have a mag that has 30/160 bullets in it, and you shoot 3 bullets before reloading, you expect the mag out to say 30/157 upon reload. Helldivers 2 does away with that nonsense and says you now have 30/130 because you decided to rid yourself of a perfectly good mag.

Weapons tend to behave a little more realistically in Helldivers 2, and those coming in fresh from other games may experience culture shock because of some of their nuances. There is a wide variety of weapons to play with and extra abilities locked behind the stratagem system. Do you need to call in an airstrike? By all means do so! Just be sure to enter the specific passcode!

Yes, another unique feature of Helldivers 2 is its stratagem system, which was also in the original game. When interacting with some of the items in the world or calling for external assistance, you will manually need to enter codes via the D-pad to execute them. While everything is calm and peaceful, this is perfectly easy, but when you have nearly 50 bugs bearing down on you, suddenly pressing a simple code is not so simple because if you fail, you have the pleasure of starting all over again. This threat strangely does not feel frustrating. In fact, it actually feels great when you perfectly execute a prompt sequence and summon an orbital strike to accidentally eradicate your entire squad… oh well.

Helldivers 2 Review - 2

Friendly fire, yes, friendly fire is a thing here, and it is not impossible for you to accidentally one-shot a teammate and then have to use a stratagem mid-fight to allow them to respawn. There are other features that may rub some people the wrong way anywhere else but strangely work here. The amount of clinicalness required here will be unfamiliar to some, but it makes the experience a more interesting one as each completed mission can be exhilarating, especially on the higher difficulties. Helldivers 2 has nine difficulty settings that can be attempted either solo or as part of a team of up to four others. In order to unlock new difficulties, you must first complete a mission in the previous option. As you venture higher up the ranks and difficulty, the need for a team becomes more prominent. Depending on your skill level, you can solo a medium difficulty level before it becomes too much of a challenge to handle on your own.

Here is where a small issue with the game crops up. Sometimes, the matchmaking can be a little on the iffy side, with servers sometimes failing to find or join existing matches or teams. It is possible to party up with preexisting friends or others you find in the game via a friend code system, but I think you will find more joy in working with people you are comfortable with. With that said, my experience working with others in-game has been pretty smooth. The missions go a lot smoother the more people you have on your team, even with or without voice chat. The game works quite well when part of a squad. One part that does not work well for me is the map markings.

At any point in a match, you can press the Touchpad to open up your in-game map. Using the D-pad, you can move along the map to highlight an objective to put a marker on your HUD. Just like in any game. But in Helldivers II, for some reason, quite a lot of your objectives are not highlighted in your view. For example, one mission required me to open some valves after accessing a terminal. Upon accessing the terminal, the game said to find the three valves, but at no point did it highlight them on my screen. I spent about 5-10 minutes trying to find them while being hunted by an endless supply of bugs. The mission did not highlight the valves in any way or tell me what they looked like until I accidentally stumbled over one of them. Whilst I am in favor of all the other hardships the game throws at you to make your experience harder, this one feels a little more disingenuous and looks more to be an oversight than anything, as there seems to be an inconsistency between which mission highlights objectives and which ones don’t.

Helldivers 2 Review - 3

I suppose this is something that will inevitably become second nature to you. The available missions are always random, but there seems to be a good variety available at launch and the promise of more to come in due time. Another gripe is with the movement in the game. As expected from a game of this ilk, movement is a key component. You can push in on the L3 button to sprint for a limited time. The sprinting still feels heavy in terms of movement. Arguably, with such heavy armor on, you will no doubt struggle to move at the best of times. Now, obviously, with such heavy armor on, it makes sense. But when you add in environmental hazards and status effects from some enemies, it can become a chore to just move from point A to B, especially when swarmed by the enemy. It’s yet another minor gripe, but this one can hamper you at the worst time, more often than not.

With that said, I still feel some decisions could have been changed gameplay-wise, Helldivers 2 is a fun game with a wealth of gameplay to stick your teeth into. The music, though minimal, is magnificent. The theme that plays when your drop pod falls into a planet’s surface never fails to get me pumped for the incoming mission. The voice acting is pretty good and, as mentioned before, is often hilarious in a weird way. Arrowhead should be proud since they have created a magnificent game. Even at a lower point of entry, the game still looks great and runs perfectly well on the PS5. A lot of the time, you will find yourself overrun by enemy bugs numbering into the 20s, but the game seldom experiences a loss of fidelity or framerate.

Helldivers 2 Review - 4

If you need something on your PS5 to kick off your 2024, Helldivers 2 is a great way to start things off. It’s what you’d expect to find in a sequel since it improves on what its prequel did to a point where it feels like a different but familiar journey. Helldivers 2 is out on PlayStation 5 with a $39.99 price tag. You can also get the Helldivers 2 Super Citizen Edition for $59.99, which, along with the base game, you’ll also get this:

‘DP-53 Savior of the Free’ Armour Set.
‘Will of the People’ Cape.
‘MP-98 Knight’ Weapon.
Super Citizen Status.
Stratagem Hero Ship Game.
‘Steeled Veterans’ Premium Warbond.

This Helldivers 2 review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

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