Review - Helldivers
Spreading Managed Democracy
Enhancing its twin-stick shooter gameplay with deep tactical options and varied sandbox missions Helldivers trusts its players enough to let them figure the best way to murder everything with your comrades and ill-timed supply drops. When your team’s firing on all cylinders against hordes of enemies there’s simply nothing more exhilarating.
In the dystopian future, the citizens and nations of the world have come together to form one all-encompassing force – Super Earth. Super Earth is besieged on all sides by three enemy races; bugs, cyborgs and the illuminate. Luckily for Super Earth, there is a spearhead force for humanity’s defence against the perpetual alien threat – the Helldivers. The Starship Troopers influences are front and centre, with the tongue in cheek tone set from the opening cinematic and continued with every jingoistic one-liner your marines shout while on their missions.
You and up to three mates are Helldivers, dropping onto a foreign planet of your choosing to begin spreading ‘managed democracy’ - one squishy enemy at a time. Straight away, the gameplay controls exceptionally well. The controls are responsive and fluid with no input lag. The controls are pretty standard for a top-down shooter – left stick to move, right stick to aim, face buttons to take cover and melee. However, the real ingenious controls come in the form of the stratagems system. These stratagems come in a wide variety of explosive ordinances and war supplies that are called in by entering sequences of directional buttons. It seems tedious now but in the middle of a pitched firefight when you’re the last man standing, needing to enter the sequence instead of just pressing a button ratchets the tension up another notch.
Playing with your mates online or in couch co-op is recommended over playing by yourself or with strangers online as there is no type of system to discourage griefing. You will need mates because even though you can get through some of the easier missions by yourself, eventually they become insurmountable playing solo. Playing in a team also gives you more flexibility with your loadouts, which is a must when playing as each race throwing their own unique and deadly units. The Bugs swarm in large numbers with shotguns being a must to keep the herd at bay. The Cyborgs carry small calibre arms that necessitate heavy armour and weapons with high penetration. The Illuminate uses a mix of psychic powers and energy weapons requiring exceptional teamwork to manage.
Each online mission you successfully complete feeds directly into the three different war fronts with the end goal being invading the enemy homeworld and claiming the planet for Super Earth. Of course, if the tide of the war is against you then you’ll be fighting a desperate last stand to protect Super Earth. These are both timed events so even if you lose the war, it resets giving you another chance to take up the fight. It’s an awesome system that lends every single mission a sense of purpose and urgency that keeps you wanting to come back every day to contribute to the war effort. The highest contributors for each conflict are immortalised in the leader board cleverly positioned as ‘The Heroes of The Front’.
The game isn’t the prettiest to look at but that hardly matters when you’re looking at the action through God Vision. While the graphics aren’t much to write home about, the sound design is decidedly top notch. The simple yet motivating theme injects the game with an undertone of subtle humour that keeps the tone light-hearted despite the swathes of enemies you murder for your questionable war that was most likely started by Super Earth in the name of “Democracy”.
The sound effects pack so much punch, from the rounds of a heavy machine gun to the hiss of enemies spotting you as the alarm goes up to the thunderous roar of an artillery strike as it obliterates a screen full of enemies. This is easily my favourite part of the game, with the sound effect that plays when you’re out of ammo being a standout.
With no option to turn off friendly fire, each and every weapon is deadly to friend and foe alike. In roughly three hours of gameplay here are the different ways I’ve died for the glory of Super Earth.
- Downed by enemy: 150 times
- Shot in the back by a teammate: 80 times
- Killed by friendly ordinance: 25 times
- Killed by drop pod: 15 times
- Killed by end of level dropship: 5 times
- Killed by own grenade 3 times
- Killed by friendly turret 2 times
That’s Helldivers, a frantic, tense, hardcore co-op shooter that’s best played within punching distance of your friends.
Helldivers is available for PS4, PS3 and PC.
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