Helldivers 2 Review – Beautiful, Crushing Chaos

Helldivers 2 Review

Though my time with Helldivers 2 has been sporadic – stemming from a sea of server issues – I can at least say that when it works, it is tremendous. It’s a shining example of what all developers should strive for when creating a sequel. Helldivers 2 bursts at the seams with style, offering a blisteringly fun gameplay loop that requires skill, strategy, and determination. Many will crumble at its steep difficulty curve, but if you can come to terms with that, Helldivers 2 offers one of the finest gameplay loops in a long time.

If you haven’t been caught up to speed, Helldivers 2 takes place a century after the first game’s events. Having pushed their foes to the brink of extinction, Super Earth’s elite task force, the “Helldivers,” was disbanded, ushering in an era of peace for the once war-torn planet. Eventually, the Terminids that the Helldivers valiantly fought all those years ago return to wage another destructive campaign. The Helldivers are reassembled, and away we go.

We’re Here to Shoot

If you’re looking for Shakespeare when you first launch Helldivers 2, you may want to keep your expectations in check. However, a strong narrative has no bearing on the overall quality of the experience. We aren’t here to listen to monologues and have our heartstrings pulled. We’re here to infiltrate planets, shoot aliens, and blow a bunch of stuff up. And Helldivers 2 delivers all of that and then some. Much like the first game, the story is pushed forward by the collective efforts of every player logging in to Helldivers 2. It’s as interesting a concept as it was in the original and one that truly encapsulates what PvE is all about.

First and foremost, the gunplay found within Helldivers 2 is utterly excellent. Each weapon has a distinctive feel, catering to every play style you could ever hope to have access to. If you’re into heavy artillery, you’ll feel right at home. If you prefer to stay back and pick off enemies from a distance, you absolutely can. Or, if you’re more of an all-around aficionado of up close and personal assaults, you can be precisely that. Every round fired rings out into a satisfying symphony of chaos, creating an atmosphere of combat that some of the most popular shooters of today don’t come close to emulating.

You’re In For a Hell of a Time

Just bear in mind that Helldivers 2 comes with a steep difficulty curve. Anybody should be able to tackle the easiest difficulties independently, but missions devolve into catastrophic punishment quicker than a hiccup. It gets so rough that, at times, I couldn’t fathom completing a mission without a competent four-man squad. Helldivers 2 is the new poster child for what it means to take no prisoners. I can’t help but feel like this will turn off a large portion of the audience that isn’t expecting something so blazingly aggravating, but time will tell.

When it’s time to lay your weapons down and get a little R&R, Helldivers 2 offers a solid number of customization options to encourage different playstyles. While on your ship, you can purchase upgrades paid for by the spoils of your incursions. Strategems are the key to your success, and with dozens of different options to choose from at launch, you and your squad are guaranteed to find something everyone can enjoy. I had a blast figuring out which combinations of upgrades would work best for the mission at hand. It’s not hard to imagine Helldivers 2 living and dying by how the developers handle the inclusion of new stratagems. Still, plenty’s already here to keep anyone satiated for a long time.

Growing Pains

Be forewarned, however, that even if you’re ready to go toe-to-toe with some of the most formidable foes in gaming today, you may end up waiting on “server full” screens for a long time. The success of Helldivers 2 has caught the development team at Arrowhead Game Studios off guard. More often than not, while reviewing the game, I found myself unable to log in or even launch to the main menu. With no end in sight, the server issues have become a massive pain in the ass for nearly the entire player base, and it could be some time before we have any clue as to when this will no longer be the case.

Regardless of the early-day technical issues, Helldivers 2 is an absolute blast… When it works. The high-octane, exhilarating, take-no-prisoner approach to fighting off horde after horde of enemies is utterly fantastic. Tight gunplay, excellent coop, varied and rewarding missions, and a fun upgrade system all come together to create a perfect blend of shoot-em-up chaos that I simply can’t get enough of. While server issues continue to be a considerable nuisance, I can’t help but wonder what Arrowhead Game Studios have cooking for Helldivers 2 in the years to come. Now, step forth, Cadet. The day ahead is uncertain without you.

***A Steam key was provided for the purpose of this review***

The Good

  • Exhilarating combat
  • Excellent coop
  • Fun upgrade system

The Bad

  • Severe server issues
  • May be too difficult
  • Weak narrative