Helldivers 2 Review – Glory to Super Earth

Helldivers 2 doesn’t just wear its inspiration on its sleeve, it screams it loudly and proudly.
helldivers 2 million units sold

I didn’t care for the original Helldivers. In fact, I bounced off of it so hard and fast that until this review opportunity rolled around, I had paid literally zero attention whatsoever to this sequel. Generally speaking I’m not the biggest fan of online multiplayer games either. 

I’m stating these things clearly up front, so when I say that every session I’ve had with the online cooperative-centric Helldivers 2 this past week has been some of the most outrageously fun times I can remember having in any video game in years, you understand the full gravity of what I’m saying.

Entirely simple is entirely fine 

Helldivers 2 isn’t particularly deep or complex on a storytelling or gameplay front. The galaxy-spanning human empire lies besieged on one front by Tyranid-like insectoid aliens, and by Terminator-esque robots on another. Your job is to squad up with three other proud defenders of Super Earth’s ideals of democratic freedom, climb into your bullet-like drop pods, and dive straight into warzone Hell in a cooperative quest to liberate worlds, complete daily quests, and earn a tidy chunk of XP while doing both.

Any time not spent on the battlefield is spent on the bridge of your starship, or that of whomever is hosting the group session. From there you’ll customise your weapon and armour loadouts, select what powerful support stratagems you’d like to have on call from your ship for the next mission, and spend currency on acquiring new level-gated gear, cosmetics, or improvements.

Screenshot: Jam Walker / GamesHub

The weaponry and armour options are pretty much live service game 101 – different gun types with slightly varying stats, some more capable of penetrating enemy armour, some with elemental stats. Armour types that can be tougher for enemies to pierce but make you a little slower, or that have unique perks (such as a 50% chance to survive when hit with lethal damage, being reduced to a minuscule sliver of health instead). Again, not particularly deep or complex, but that’s totally fine.

It all works. I like the visual design of it all (as unoriginal as it is), and the guns all feel great to fire. I can’t help but feel a little weary of the fact that all of this gear is gated behind two different progressive tracks – a core and a premium one. There’s also an even more premium shop with gear that completely changes every day or two, purchased using an alternate currency system more easily scored through real-world spending than in-game earning on top of it though.

Read: Helldivers 2 dev says games need to “earn the right to monetise”

Helldivers 2 is being sold at a slightly lower price than your average AAA game, sure, but this monetisation paired with its always-online nature screams ‘this was originally planned to launch on PlayStation Plus’ to me. It’s not TOO egregious in its current form, but who knows where it will go from here.

Guns and armour are well and good, but it’s the aforementioned stratagem system that really makes Helldivers 2 sing. Stratagems are support abilities called down from your orbiting starship. They operate on cooldowns, some of which are shared between the entire team, most of which are specific to the individual player.

These range from ammo and heavy weapon drops, limited teammate respawns, a whole variety of absurdly over the top orbital bombardments and strafing runs from fighter jets, and equipment from the engineering bay – such as drones that follow you around, minefields that can be spread across a targeted area, or immobile gun turrets that can be placed to defend a point.

They’re all incredibly fun, wildly entertaining, vitally helpful to make effective use of, and – as is perfectly befitting of the games humour – will indiscriminately annihilate any Diver caught in their path, just as swiftly as they do the intended enemy target. Creeping up on an intimidating enemy position spawning soldiers behind its well-defended walls, then watching your squad absolutely crater the place, is a specific kind of joy that I don’t think will wear thin any time soon.

Helldivers 2 stratagem screenshot
Screenshot: Jam Walker / GamesHub

Innovation can be overrated

If you take one look at any gameplay footage and think ‘that looks like Gears of War in a Starship Troopers/Warhammer 40,000 skin’, then you would be 100% correct in your estimation.

Helldivers 2 doesn’t just wear its inspiration on its sleeve, it screams it loudly and proudly, (and as a decades-long Warhammer fan myself, every time I boot it up I can’t help but feel that an exact copy of this game with the actual WH40k license attached would print money for years.)

Nothing about its theme, aesthetic, or mechanics are subtle or particularly fresh, but they tie together so harmoniously and are all executed with such bombastic glee that I don’t care in the slightest.

Missions operate on an aggressively ticking down timer, and even the small-scale position-defense ones that aren’t set on sprawling open-world maps feature collectables and secrets that will make you want to explore all of their nooks (while being as time-conscious as possible). Harder difficulties do not mess around, and my play group’s first experience dropping into a machine-controlled world on ‘normal’ difficulty was delightfully terrifying for us all. Enemy AI will absolutely punish you for wandering off alone too.

The galaxy is huge, with a massive amount of planets all grouped into sectors with Super Earth at the centre. The war fronts are all live tracked and constantly shifting, and I’m fascinated to think of where the battlefronts will lay a week, a month, and a year from now.

But then, with a live service game of this kind that has exploded in player numbers so quickly, I’m fascinated to think about where Helldivers 2 as a thing will be in the near future also.

Helldivers 2 is extremely silly. It’s utterly over the top, and it’s not very deep, but GOOD GOD, I have had a ball with it this past week. Its general simplicity may end up dooming it to be a short-lived flash in the pan… But what a brilliantly bright flash it would be.

Four stars: ★★★★

Helldivers 2
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 8 February 2024

PS5 and Steam codes for Helldivers 2 were provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale.

Jam Walker is a games and entertainment journalist from Melbourne, Australia. They hold a bachelor's degree in game design from RMIT but probably should have gotten a journalism one instead. You can find them talking entirely too much about wrestling on Twitter @Jamwa