Helldivers 2 Review: Democracy Never Felt This Good

As a gamer, I have noticed that recent game launches have reaffirmed the foothold of survival and co-op games in the gaming community. A good example of this is Lethal Company, a game I thoroughly sank my teeth into last year. So it is natural when Helldivers 2 was announced, I awaited its release with bated breath. A four-player co-op game where you play as a member of the Super Earth’s last line of defense, Helldivers 2 takes the ideas presented by movies like Starship Troopers and puts its spin on the concept.

Thanks to a copy provided by Sony, we’ve been rampaging through the various planets in the name of democracy, but did we find it at last? Equal parts chaos and equal parts fun, the game is a worthy follow-up to the ideas from the first game but in overdrive. Here’s how:

Freedom Comes at a Cost

The first thing you should know about Helldivers 2 is that it has no overarching single-player storyline. The game relies on a live-service multiplayer model. However, we have just enough lore to make sense of it all. The backdrop features Super-Earth, a totalitarian government harping “democracy” for everything under the sun.

After most of their immediate space gets overrun by alien bugs called Terminids and robots called Automatons, it falls on the shoulders of Helldivers, a team of elite soldiers, to free their galaxy of these immediate threats.

From here on, the stories created are about you, the player, and your experiences in the battle. Helldivers 2 emphasizes the player experience to make compelling and memorable stories. This is paired with procedurally generated levels that add more substance to it.

Anyone who has watched movies like Starship Troopers will strongly relate to the world here. The overly encouraging emphasis on freedom, the uncanny narrators, and the consistency of it all sent me back to that time. So even though there wasn’t much story attached to it, Helldivers 2 had just the right amount of all the good things I was looking for.

Fighting for Freedom Requires Big Guns

While Helldivers 2 might not have a solid single-player plotline, it compensates for that with the fantastic gameplay. For a title that is live-service in nature, the game reinvents the genre well (oh unlike Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League). The developer understands that spectacles and fun gameplay loops create a memorable gaming experience. As such, it doubles down on them.

The gameplay has been structured to keep a strong focus on player contribution in mind. As such, we must ensure the Terminids and Automatons are kept away from the Super Earth. This progress is noted by player performance worldwide and the percentage of the area that has been cleared of our enemies.

At the time of writing, Terminids are having a rough time reaching the home of humanity. However, Automatons are mowing down our forces too. These high stakes compel you to invest another hour and play that extra match of Helldivers 2 before hitting the bed.

The first step to winning against your enemies is owning a ship. This is the command center for your fight against freedom, where you do most of your pre-launch prepping. The starship enables you to unlock and customize your loadout and access the mission map, where you can join the numerous terminus systems to contribute to the war effort.

The ship is a hub for you and your friends to prep for missions on hand. And the best part is that it is not littered with intrusive items. The vessel contains just the right information with a handy hub that comes in use when you hot-drop into the warzone.

Fight the Forces of Enemies Together

Once you land in the war zone, it is all on you and your team to finish the fight. You have a time limit within which you have to execute your orders and return home. The missions are randomly generated and can feature something as simple as taking out Terminid eggs to major students, like launching a nuke on the bugs.

The gunplay and movement mechanics are fluid and carry the game very well. I played the entirety of the game on my DualSense controller, which was an amazing experience. You can dash, jump, crouch, and prone your way out of problems.

The weapons themselves pack a strong punch and are extremely satisfying. I had an amazing time pumping the Terminids full of lead and hearing them squirm with my growing collection of Assault Rifles, Shotguns, and Snipers.

However, while guns and movement are refined, Stratagems is the showstopper. A dedicated support hotline to the company, these are the main deal of Helldivers 2. Remember your orbital spaceship that also doubles down as a hub? That’s exactly what comes to your aid. You can bring over four of them at a time, and they range across various types.

Some Stratagems will drop mine clusters around the called-in area, while others will drop air rockets on a hoard of enemies. Depending on your immediate situation, using stratagems will turn the tide of the war. Seriously, I found them extremely fun to use, and your whole team using them creates some of the memorable experiences in Helldivers 2.

The gameplay of Helldivers 2 is, without a doubt, a stark evolution from the first iteration. It takes the concepts that the first Helldivers had and flips them over to a third-person scenario.

My only gripe with Helldivers 2 is the game’s inconsistency going solo. The game feels unbalanced for solo sessions in-game. I can’t fault it too much for that, though, since it’s made to be played with friends. To be fair, the random matchups have given me some of the friendliest bunch of people in an online game, so it’s all good.

This is just my experience from the Terminids encounter. I could tell you all about Automatons, but I can tell you that you won’t like it. I still get flashbacks from one horrible encounter I had with them. Especially when the game has team-kill, and you are in an overwhelming environment that is no different than the World War. But that’s just me and my eternal horrors.

Get Your War Requisition Accounted For

If you finish the main objective, complete random side objectives on the map, and successfully exfiltrate, you receive requisition points and level XP. Achieving both of these does two things.

For every level up, you unlock more Strategems. These further give you more options to mix and match, creating a unique Stratagem build. You’ll still have four options to pick during dropoff, but you’ll now have other ways to commit extermination.

The second thing you receive is a requisition point. You can use this to purchase the unlocked Stratagems and ship modules. The more requisitions you have, the more you can purchase.

And, of course, given this is a live-service game, you have a battle pass. However, Helldivers 2 does it a little differently. Currently, two battle passes exist. Called Warbonds, one is the free battle pass that you unlock using medals earned by completing missions. Completing the free battle pass gives you around 800 super credits, which you can use to unlock the premium battle pass.

The best part about Battlepass is that it will never expire. So, you have ample time to enjoy the game and complete the battle pass at your own pace. If more games followed a similar model, I’d be the happiest gamer alive.

Overall, Helldivers 2 was created with enjoyment and gaming in mind. Be it the subtle story, the gameplay, the combat, or even the management system, it’s all quite satisfying. The best part is that the game is self-fulfilling, so the more you play, the more you get out of it. This is a stark change of pace for a live-service game and something highly welcoming.

Performance

We played Helldivers 2 primarily on our designated desktop PC, with some playthroughs done on a PlayStation 5. These are our system specs:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600, @ Base Clock
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 4070 Ti
SSD: Western Digital SN570
Running at 1080p

For starters, we couldn’t find any upscaling tech in the graphics settings. However, upscaling does exist in the rendering tech under display settings. You get around eight different settings to choose from, depending on your visual requirements. However, I ain’t sure what upscaling the game uses.

During my testing, Helldivers 2 used around 56% of the GPU and 75% of the CPU throughout the gameplay. For frame rate, the game delivered an adequate 86-107 frames at all times. These varied depending on the crowd density. However, throughout the game, we never saw anything below 82 frames, so I would say it was quite satisfactory.

Verdict: Is the Fight for Freedom Worth It?

Helldivers 2 is a beautiful and heartfelt love letter to movies like Starship Trooper, Terminator, or any sci-fi media from the 90s to 2000s. It does simple things in such a presentable format that you won’t stop getting addicted on a weekend. Be it the Terminid campaigns or the Automaton saga, the gameplay and multiplayer experience, everything is super fun.

My only gripe with the game stems from its lesser focus on a solo experience, and my criticism ends right there. This is a solid live-service title that doesn’t enforce the usual behavior on its player base and ensures you have a good time. We at Beebom highly recommend trying the game out and hope it prospers for years to come.

Pros and Cons
The Pros
Brilliant procedurally-generated missions.
Solid gameplay loop that never becomes dull.
Player focused experience lets you create your own stories.
Non-intrusive live-service features.
Lots of bug and robot killing.
The Cons
A little unbalanced while playing solo.
Final Verdict
4.5
Helldivers 2
Helldivers 2 takes the foundation laid by its predecessor, and ramps it up to 10x chaos. While the single-player experience can be a little lacking, the game excels in almost every front possible. Rest assured, even if you don't have friends to play this game, you'll enjoy some bug-slaying and robot-slaying experience.
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