Helldivers 2 Review

February 20, 2024

Helldivers 2 is as close to a Starship Troopers game as you can possibly legally get, and it wears this influence among others with pride. Building upon the universe established in the 2015 original game, which was around in the PS3/PS4/Vita days, Helldivers 2 translates the original’s co-op top-down shooter gameplay into something much more epic in scope, as a full-on multiplayer intergalactic war that enhances the familiar mix of strategy, tactics and addictive fun.

The opening cutscenes make no bones about taking inspiration from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, with a satirical recruitment ad inviting players to join up to the Helldivers, the vanguard force of ‘Super Earth’ spreading ‘Managed Democracy’ on two fronts, fighting both giant bugs and mechanical forces. The bugs, obviously, are extremely reminiscent of Verhoeven’s film, as is the portrayal of Super Earth as an extreme culmination of the United States’ worst instincts, masquerading under the pretence of democracy and freedom. The robot armies are clearly inspired by Terminator and similar franchises, but also have elements of Star Wars thrown in, with familiar AT-ST esque walkers. What results is a delicious mix of sci-fi influences, which while never quite as sharp as the satire of the franchises it follows, still allows for plenty of chuckle-worthy moments, like being able to name your ship something like the ‘Fist of Family Values’.

Rather than a top-down shooter, Helldivers 2 translates the concept into a full-blown third person shooter, while retaining the multiplayer aspects. After an initial training session, you’re given your own capital ship and mandate to travel to sectors around the galaxy and take part in campaigns in Super Earth’s war. Sectors in conflict are highlighted on your war map, with the player base’s collective effort represented by a ‘liberation’ score, which you can contribute to by taking part in missions on specific planets. Helldivers are called that because they literally dive in a firey blaze of glory in little individual pods to a planet’s surface, the landing location picked by the player, accompanied by triumphant (and somewhat Insomniac’s Spider-Man-esque) music.

On the ground, the action can be fast and very quickly overwhelming. While there are big stretches of empty space, there are often optional resources or objects to discover, but the closer you get to the mission’s primary objective, the more certain you can be of encountering heavy enemy opposition. Whether they’re bugs or robots, you can count on waves of enemies swiftly overtaking you once you choose to go loud, which is where squadding up with a few buddies makes a lot more sense as opposed to going it alone. Even then, difficulty spikes are frequent, and you’ll often While you have an array of weapons, from pistols, assault rifles to huge machine guns, which all feel good to fire and helpfully accurately show your hits on the enemy, your main tool are ‘Stratagems’.

Stratagems are essentially support mechanics you can call from your ship in orbit, ranging from simple re-supply drops to defensive shields, to more spectacular area-clearing measures. These run the gamut from strafing runs with airborne gatling-guns, to cluster bombs to full on targeted orbital strikes, and even more, which are progressively unlocked as you advance your rank and collect in-game currency. Activating Stratagems themselves is always fun, almost arcadey, as you have to input a specific bottom combo (which becomes more difficult if you’re in the middle of an incredibly stressful firefight), and throw them like a grenade at wherever your target is. While Strategems have a tactical nature in when and where you choose to deploy them, you also frequently have to consider how you engage enemies – when aggro’ing them is wise, and how to effectively utilise every member of your squad to achieve your objective. Most of the failed missions I was a part of were entirely due to our own hubris, thinking we could charge in guns blazing every time.

While inevitably you’ll end up fighting waves of monsters, be they mechanical or insect-like in nature, missions are varied enough to keep things interesting. Sure there are basic mission types like destroy a particular target, but you’ll also find yourself having to protect groups of civilians as they evacuate a planet or transferring vital data from a relay while defending the area. That’s good,  because while cosmetics are available for purchase (and not in an in-your-face way), the best rewards come in the form of new Stratagems, many of the best of which don’t become available until you’ve advanced fairly far into the game, with a few dozen hours under your belt.

At the moment, that might be harder to achieve than you may have thought. The word of mouth about Helldivers 2 has been incredibly strong since its launch, and that’s translated to an overwhelming amount of players getting in on the action, and clearly overwhelming the servers. It’s not a sure thing to be able to jump on and log in to a session at the moment, which makes co-ordinating sessions with friends difficult. This is something the developer is addressing, and will hopefully scale up for appropriately as the player base expands, but it’s worth knowing right now that the game is kind of a victim of its own success, and starting and maintaining a play session can be difficult at time of writing.

However, that all said, Helldivers 2 is still a refreshingly enjoyable and addictive online shooter, largely bereft of in-game money-making and instead incentivising continued play and advancement through progressively more entertaining and awesome Stratagem. No matter how overwhelming missions can get, you’ll still find yourself having some great fun as long as you can get a good group of mates together to spread Managed Democracy across the galaxy.

This review is based on a code provided by the publisher for PS5 and PC.


-Visually impressive, cinematic battles with bugs and robots
-Surprisingly strategic gameplay, full of triumphs over the odds, hasty retreats and plenty of room for hubris
-Varied missions matched with addictive gameplay


-Server capacity is limited due to its huge popularity, and it can be tough to get in to a match, or effectively set up a session with friends

Overall Score: