Helldivers – Review
For democracy! Anyone who has ever seen the movie Starship Troopers will instantly see its strong influences in Helldivers. From the giant bugs to the super-charged patriotism and hokey propaganda, Helldivers has it all. Once the frustration with difficulty subsides, Helldivers emerges into a fantastic cooperative game where every player has a role, and can suddenly become critical to a teams success.
Helldivers is a top-down Shoot ’em up where players must “liberate” the galaxy by waging war against various alien factions (Bugs, The Illuminate, and Cyborgs) to ensure the safety and power of Super-Earth. You start out as a Helldiver recruit, and work your way up the ranks, unlocking new weapons, equipment, and perks along the way. Each mission can be played solo or with up to three other players with various degrees of difficulty. While missions can technically be played solo, it is made obvious that the game is intended to be played with other players due to the steep difficulty curve in mid to high level difficulties. Fortunately, Helldivers really shines as a cooperative game.
Cooperation is absolutely necessary because the game is HARD. Each character is about as fragile as a porcelain doll, and can die to just about everything in the game. Accidentally killing teammates is a common occurrence met with as much frustration as one can expect. There’s nothing more infuriating than summoning a fresh tank, only to have it instantly destroyed by a teammate who summoned a supply drop directly on the vehicle. Ammo and supplies are precious resources. It is possible to run out of ammo and firepower in the heat of battle, so remaining well stocked can sometimes be a strenuous balance. Don’t even think about reloading a low clip without careful consideration because that ammo is gone forever — not to mention the process of reloading can get you killed by a swarm of enemies. Your every action suddenly has weight behind it, because you never know if that frivolous use of resources will hurt you in the immediate future. These unforgiving mechanics can be disheartening , yet it’s one of the reasons the game is so good cooperatively.
When tackling missions on numerous, alien planets, players are given a number of objectives that must be met before your squad can extract from the area. Objectives can consists of actions such as repairing an artillery emplacement, disarming a minefield, and deploying a geological survey. What makes these objectives interesting is, in order to complete many of them, you must input a button sequence on your controller to activate each stage of the objective. When being mobbed by enemies, executing these codes correctly can be extremely intense. It’s a great, simple way to simulate work being done on the battlefield. These codes aren’t exclusive to objectives, they extend to summoning fallen teammates, equipment, and high-powered weaponry through the use of “Strategems”.
Strategems fall under three different categories: Supply, Defense, and Offense. Players can equip four Strategem slots in any combination before every mission. The selection of Strategems available to unlock is plentiful with a lot of really cool items to choose from like mech suits, tanks, various airstrikes, and turrets. I noticed that Strategems from the Offensive category , which consists entirely of airstrike abilities, were used the least out of them all. Given the chaotic nature of the battlefield with enemies rarely staying in one place and squadmates always in danger of friendly fire, the Offensive abilities just didn’t seem practical under these conditions. Player loadouts are expanded with a selection of weapons and perks that boost abilities like adding heavy armor or reducing cooldowns of Strategems. All of these items can be upgraded by earning Research Points. Players can earn Research Points by finding Research Samples located randomly throughout the map or leveling-up.
There are enough varied environments to break up the monotony of levels, but nothing to really hold your attention. Small character and enemy models will often clutter the screen making it difficult to track everything that is happening, but that is the nature of this genre. Despite the clutter, the action runs smoothing. The movement of characters, enemies, and vehicles all create an accurate sense of weight, size, and power.
I love the sound of weapons in this game. There’s nothing more satisfying than hopping in a mech and hearing a barrage of bullets mowing down anything in its path. Voice acting is limited in a weird way. NPC characters in your ship will only voice the first sentence of their speech bubble. It’s a bit understandable if there is a wall of text accompanying the speech, but most of the time only two or three lines of dialogue follows . I would have preferred everything to be fully voiced, but honestly it doesn’t really matter that much because of minimal story elements. The music isn’t bad, but there could have been a greater selection of tracks to reduce the repetitiveness.
At first I didn’t like Helldivers because of the many punishing elements and cluttered action, but once I unlocked more powerful Strategems and upgrades, I started to have a lot more fun. For the most part, many of my teammates have been competent, but everyone is bound to accidentally do something stupid by killing a teammate or wasting a valuable Strategem. I would have liked to see more story elements, especially with the games usage of propaganda to set the state of the galaxy, but it’s clear that the focus is on gameplay, and that’s never a bad thing. Once you get the hang of things, Helldivers provides a satisfying challenge with rewarding, cooperative teamwork.
Style – Single-player/Multiplayer, Shoot ’em up
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer – Arrowhead Game Studios
Release – March 2015