Helldivers Review

Conquest and glory.

Helldivers won't be remembered for its narrative, nor will it be praised for intriguing mission design. No, these elements of the game are merely average pieces of a backdrop in a theater enacting thrilling performances destined to be endlessly retold among friends and fellow helldivers--and many of those tales are the kind that begin with "Hey, do you remember that one time?" Among these stories, the best ones told by veteran helldivers are of the edge-of-your-seat moments that culminate in cries of jubilance and relief as you and your allies watch your space-faring drop ship fly to safety just in the nick of time. But just as indelible are the tales that end with howls of disappointment (or, sometimes, laughter) as the last remaining member of the team crumbles against the odds and is finally overtaken. There are undoubtedly some blemishes in Helldivers' armor, but inside that armor you'll find a story creator, helping you craft fond memories to be retold for years to come.

Indeed, the stories you create will be ones that will stick with you long after you hang up your uniform, as the plot in Helldivers is one quickly lost to the recesses of space. A multiplayer twin-stick shooter, Helldivers sends you and your fellow caped soldiers to march across the galaxy, delivering "managed democracy," all for the glory of Super Earth. You fight an interstellar war against three other races: the grotesque bugs; the technologically advanced illuminate, and the cyborgs, humans who grafted flesh to metal after separating from the regime--all of whom the government has decreed the enemies of freedom for some reason or other.

The game draws its theme from current history and popular fiction such as Starship Troopers, with the latter inspiring the game's light-hearted, corny propaganda. There are also some thinly veiled references to real-world issues. The Super Earth government labels cyborgs, who reportedly attack with suicide bombers, as terrorists, all the while justifying war in the name of protecting democracy and "our way of life," as well as collecting necessary resources such as, you guessed it, oil deposits (sometimes the veil is so thin as to be nonexistent). But Helldivers isn't attempting to be the next Spec Ops: The Line. It uses tongue-in-cheek humor throughout, and a delicate touch with its weighty themes.

Helldivers is tug of war on a cosmic scale. You and your fellow helldivers fight together against the three computer-controlled species, who reciprocate by pushing toward Super Earth. It's a persistent online universe, in which battles are won and lost even if you don't partake in them. The war theater, viewed from a console on the deck of your ship, is split into three large sections that are then broken into smaller sectors, any of which are claimable after you gather enough community points. These points are earned by completing missions on the many procedurally created planets nestled within. Once all the smaller sectors are claimed, you can begin the real battle, on the alien homeworld. During my time with the game, we were able to take the fight to the bug planet, which invoked some fond memories of a certain sci-fi adventure romp. Hopes were high, but to say the planet was a tough nut to crack would be an understatement--we got completely whupped. The desert world was too much for our handful of helldivers, but perhaps the story will be different post launch. Ultimately, complete conquest of the three planets is the goal, and once achieved, the game starts anew. The home world fights are not the only special events, however. On occasion, helldivers are called to safeguard a city under siege, and cleansing the infestation results in a double dose of experience points. Also, if an enemy species manages to breach Super Earth's defenses, all players rally to its defense.

No Caption Provided

The humdrum missions, sadly, do put a damper on the engaging design of Helldivers' war front. Planets are won by completing objectives, which don't stretch far beyond the typical, such as capturing and holding an area, activating some device or another, or the always popular escort mission. Odds are you will be too occupied dealing with oncoming waves of enemies to notice boredom seeping in, but after hours of slowly dragging a briefcase or yet another hapless group of stranded civilians across a stretch of terrain, it's difficult not to feel a sense of slowly mounting frustration at the tedium. Completing missions offers a variety of awards, at least. Experience points, in an amount that varies depending on your performance, are showered upon you at the end of each stage. Leveling up unlocks new weapons and gear to be used in your campaign, though I would have preferred for the game to denote which piece of equipment unlocks at what level, rather than being occasionally surprised.

Helldivers' one-two punch of deep strategy complementing intense cooperative combat, however, is fantastic. It is so good, in fact, that it often overshadows much of the dreariness arising from the dull missions. It is incredibly satisfying to play on a team of up to four helldivers, all relying on each other to survive while executing carefully planned strategies involving perks and equipment. Playing the game solo is possible and provides its own set of challenges, but it just doesn't offer the same experience. Choosing a planet, the squad leader picks where the group of guerilla fighters will make its landing. On the ground, the team then decides what pieces of equipment, called stratagems, to call down, and what objectives to tackle first. Equipment varies, and includes options ranging from a UAV, which pinpoints threats on the map, to gun turrets, ammunition boxes, heavy guns, and much more. New stratagems are unlocked when battles on certain planets are completed, with more equipment being offered as a reward. The enemies you face also affect your game plan: Bugs are plated in thick carapace, and charge at you brandishing massive claws; cyborgs are often strapped in bullet-deflecting armor, forcing you to carefully line your shots up with any exposed fleshy bits; and the illuminate attack with high-tech war machines, mind control, and snipers that can kill with one hit.

The stories you create will be ones that will stick with you long after you hang up your uniform, as the plot in Helldivers is one quickly lost to the recesses of space.

The combat itself unfolds organically as you make your way from objective to objective. If your landing is free of immediate hostiles, you can attempt to move through the area with stealth and haste, quickly eliminating any scouting party before scouts manage to raise an alarm. It's entirely possible to complete a mission leaving only the corpses of unwitting foes in your wake, but more often than not, you will end up hammering down your trigger as enraged forces rush to meet you. The weapons, which include a disparate array of rifles, shotguns, and beam cannons, dish out white-hot metal or plasma in gratifying thunder. Bullets rip through flesh, leaving smatterings of blood and piles of viscera in their wake. Effortlessly smooth controls make the gunplay feel terrific throughout every fight.

Helldivers is easy to jump into, depending on your familiarity with twin-stick shooters, but even if you're used to the style, you will find that the game has many factors for you to keep in mind the moment your boots touch terra firma. Chief among them is the immense difficulty, which requires all players to be at the height of their game, as one mistake can spell immediate disaster. As you travel around, research samples that dot maps must be collected in order to earn points to use to upgrade weapons and stratagems. Friendly fire is another item of concern, as it is always on and cannot be disabled, so practice keen trigger discipline. Ammo conservation is an equally high priority, as reloading will discard any unused rounds in a clip.

No Caption Provided

Death is no stranger in Helldivers, and despite your glorious, flowing cape, you are not superhuman. The game demands a sharp eye and a clever wit; otherwise, you will go down fast. And, take it from someone who knows, if your fallback procedure keeps circling back to running away as quickly as possible, then maybe it's time to rethink the battle plan. Falling in combat is hardly the end of the game, however, as you can call down a reinforcement stratagem to bring a lost comrade back onto the battlefield. But do keep an eye on where the pod (actually, any stratagem, come to think of it) is about to land. Far too many helldivers have lost their lives being crushed beneath incoming ordnance, which doesn't solve any problems whatsoever.

Beyond mission design and story, Helldivers has other issues, though some are negligible. For example, you can customize the look of your helldiver, as well as unlock new clothing designs as you go along, but the options only change from dark to not-so-dark. Since the camera floats off at a distance, it's easy to confuse one dark-armored soldier with another, often resulting in someone foolishly falling off a ledge or firing a weapon into an unrecognized ally. A friend I was playing with also mentioned that the game wasn't tracking his progress when he was playing in my lobby. This is a minor issue; one that I've been informed may be patched by the time the game releases. On the more nitpicky side: What is with the wind on some planets? More than once, during rare moments of silence, I watched as shadows of clouds moved northwest, while dust on the ground flowed to the west, and a small handful of particles lazily floated east. All the while my cape drooped, apathetic to the elements. But on the subject of capes, it's oddly amusing to spin in place and watch your cape flow in response to the motion. And I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. Before nearly every mission, I watched as so-called hardened fighters twirled on the deck of a battleship; joining the impromptu dances is almost irresistible.

The game draws its theme from current history and popular fiction such as Starship Troopers, with the latter inspiring the game's light-hearted, corny propaganda.

Helldivers is a hugely entertaining space romp, despite bearing a few battle scars. It is truly a game designed for precious water cooler moments, when you can tell stories of fights barely won, and anecdotes detailing white-knuckle flights from insatiable hordes. The deafening cheers heard through my microphone as the last living member of the team squashed a bug tank with three reinforcement pods, turning the tide back toward victory, is forever etched in my mind. Imperfect as it may be, Helldivers' focus on the cooperation of a small team looking out for each other against oppressive waves of enemies elevates it from what would have been a fun and challenging shooter, to a game that now sits at the top of my list of how I plan to spend many future evenings: with a gun in hand, my allies at my back, and a broad smile on my face.

The Good
Fantastic cooperative action
Tense combat prizes ammo conservation and careful firing
The capes are awesome
The Bad
Missions and story are lacking
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Cameron Woolsey is no stranger to playing a bug-stomping space marine. He’s always on the lookout for new planets to claim and new foes to liberate--hopefully with a big space gun. For this review, Cameron played more than 25 hours, reaching level 16, and making it all the way to the bug home planet before being kindly, but firmly, asked to leave.
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santinegrete

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Playing it on PC now, love it even with the DLC storing great weapons and equipment away from me.

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Ezioprez9709

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Right now I'm loving this game, but my god is it difficult. This game suffers from the lack of teamwork in games. Whenever I joined a group of people on their ship, they just stood there and did nothing. Plus, the SOS beacon is useless for me.

Still, I think it's a great game.

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tane100

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one of the sleepers, hidden gems of this new gen. The game I spent most hours with with my ps4

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JanembaDBZ

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Friend highly recommended it to me, so I started downloading and playing it today. Awesome co-op experience! Totally worth the money!

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Aleksa8

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I hope you didn't actually take down points because it lacks a story. I mean, not all games need a story, and Helldivers is one of those games. Although I don't see any other negatives in the review bar. It just feels wrong to actually judge a story for a game that deliberately put gameplay way ahead of it.

That said, I know for a fact that this isn't a 10/10 game, despite my love for it (I see a number of issues with itthat weren't addressed in the review) and I will especially agree that the missions are lacking, though. I hope we get more variety in a patch.

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Aloy487

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@Aleksa8: agree, i think this review is a joke, look in the positive section "the capes are awesome" cant they find anything else for the positive section??? I love this game so much, the coop is really fun! Deserve 9//10

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mixindave

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not bad if you own all three devices too. bit of cross co op which is a first between the three i believe. including cross mic chat

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weapon_d00d816

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Name couldn't possibly have come from the Helljumpers in Halo, who did the whole "drop pod from starship" thing before most other games. Nope.

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sampson3121

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@weapon_d00d816: you mean they stole the drop ship thing from starship troopers? they should be proud!

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diggergig

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First PS game that I am sorry I wont be able to play. I hate exclusives. :/

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advocacy

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There is online multiplayer, right?

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LemonTones

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@advocacy: yep

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Gallesh

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Space Marines and Dreadnought... hmm..

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Dark_Rage

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Fantastic game.

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Gelugon_baat

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I will warn anyone reading this: some reviews were based on the review builds, which have some gameplay factors tweaked to facilitate the reviewers' assessment of the content. For one, I know that GiantBomb's Brad Shoemaker said that progress towards the aliens' homeworlds had been accelerated.

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StryfeBringer

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I've read that there are cross play issues. Anyone have this game and have seen those issues? Also, can you do a two player local co-op and also go online to pick up two more players?

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sampson3121

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@StryfeBringer: yes, you can do a two player co-op and have others join you online

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loafofgame

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@StryfeBringer: I reckon you know this by now, but still: having watched the giantbomb quick look it appears that online players can join your local co-op team.

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KHAndAnime

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@StryfeBringer: I feel like the reviewer failed for not answering this obvious question. I'd really like to know this as well.

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Whiskey3romeo

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This game needs characters based on GTA's Republican Space Rangers.

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Bexorcist

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Does it have couch co-op?

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mr_azim

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@Bexorcist: yes

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BigPrimeNumbers

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This, or Magicka 2 in May?

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Aleksa8

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@BigPrimeNumbers: This is a bona fide twin-stick shooter with random generation. Magicka 2 apparently has fixed levels and is more of a hack-and-slash/dungeon-crawler. It's funny how similar they are, yet how different they are as well.

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Gelugon_baat

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@BigPrimeNumbers:

Do you like shooting the hell out of things with guns or magicking the soul-stuff out of things with sorcery?

If you ask me, I don't see anything different about their goals of gameplay.

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Banjhex

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Bought this game as soon as it was on the PSN store. I played it at PAX PRIME last year and enjoyed it. Ended up streaming it last night and at least 4 other people went and bought it based off what they seen me playing and me answering questions. LOVE IT.

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jonnyHOLLYWOOD

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@banjhex: This is PS4 exclusive right? Too bad would have liked to try this one. Enjoy!

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GamerOuTLaWzz

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@jonnyhollywood@banjhex: PS3/4/Vita

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TheFuzzyMilitia

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I didn't really pay attention to the final number for the review. If it's above six, cool, otherwise I'm more cautious


Listed game types I enjoy, few other review sites seem to agree with what's said here.

Downloaded game


..had fun!


Who cares if you agree or disagree about the review. Or the number, or how your coveted "game xxx" scored better or worse? In my opinion it won't make GOTY, but if you can get some hours out of it, awesome.


So far, I've had a good blast online matchmaking. First mission we did good, second mission I got annihilated. But it was still great up to that point, I can see griefers making this game less then fun, but we'll see how that plays out


PS3 and vita you don't need ps+ for matchmaking for those wondering. Also you get a giant robot suit! Seriously, robot suit people! Forget your petty ms vs sony debates and get on the giant robot suit movement..

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awareunlikeu

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Helldivers is fucking great so far. There is matchmaking, but better played with ones peeps!

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Centurion95

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Honestly I would be quoting Starship Troopers the whole time. "Its a bug Planet!", "I'm doing my part!", "Nuke'em Rico!" would be the top of the list.

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opossumtrot

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@Centurion95: They sucked his brains out!

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dylandr

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another to down shooter... meh...

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Torres_

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@Hicks_1: Destiny costs you like 100$, this is 20$

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Sketchy_Llama

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@Hicks_1: Yes because someone couldn't possibly like something you didn't right?

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TimmyDKJR

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@Hicks_1: I saw someone once say in one of the games that gamespot declared they scored indie and AAA games differently.


And it may look average but playing with other people (mainly friends) is quite awesome :) If you read the review, you should've noticed that the good of it is also focused on playing with friends, and the negative is the game's mission design and all.

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Stebsis

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@Hicks_1: Or, you know, two different persons have different opinions

Helldivers More Info

Follow
  • First Released Mar 3, 2015
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    Helldivers is a top-down squad shooter set in a dystopian future where you fight to protect Super Earth, where a managed democracy has blurred the lines between military and government rule.
    7.7
    Average Rating60 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Helldivers
    Developed by:
    Arrowhead Game Studios
    Published by:
    PlayStation Mobile Inc., SCEA, SCEI, Sony Interactive Entertainment, SCEE, SCE Australia
    Genre(s):
    Third-Person, 3D, Action, Shooter
    Theme(s):
    Sci-Fi
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence