Helldivers 2 Review – A Cooperative Galactic Conquest

It seems every few months a new co-op game comes along and takes entire friend circles by storm. Everyone gets a copy and jumps in with their buddies to achieve whatever task that game demands. Usually, hype ramps up heavily and then dies down after the next big game, but for Arrowhead Studios’ Helldivers 2, that pattern has been put to rest. The title was released in February of this year and went on to exceed even its own expectations. People from across the globe rallied together in galactic conquest, and the results so far have been nothing short of awesome. The Helldivers 2 community has proven just how strong people can be if they band together. That would be a little more touching if it weren’t for the goal being to wipe out planets of giant insectoid aliens.

Helldivers started as an isometric twin-stick shooter on the PS3, where it saw a hefty amount of success. Arrowhead took that universe a step further in making Helldivers 2 a third-person shooter. Growth was so strong that servers were overloaded early on and it ended up becoming the most actively played game on the PlayStation network. It’s stayed on the best seller’s list since it released, and the fanbase keeps growing. And after my experience with it, the hype is definitely justified.


This image alone is enough to get me on board.

From the very beginning, the tone is on point, taking some cues from Starship Troopers such as its use of satire. There is an ever-changing story, dictated by the actions of all players and the factions they are up against. In Helldivers 2, humans exist on a planet called Super Earth, a planet where humanity has learned to live in peace through a new-age form of democracy. In fact, Super Earth is doing so well that humanity has decided to “spread democracy” across the universe. That’s where the Helldivers themselves come in. The Helldivers are the special task force doing the dirty work for Super Earth, going planet to planet eliminating Terminids and Automatons. The two factions are constantly trying to push the battle to Super Earth and it’s up to the Helldivers to push them back and conquer planets in the process.


Terminids are species of insect-like creatures that populate many planets surrounding Super Earth. They’re similar in size and design to Arachnids from Super Troopers. Humans once had terminal infestations under control thanks to a poison known as termicide. This chemical was able to eliminate the creatures while leaving every other form of life unaffected. But after the species developed an immunity to termicide, the only way to fight infestations became brute force. Now, Helldivers use every weapon in their arsenal to combat the Terminid threat. As of now, it appears to be an effective method.

They really look like if Arachnids from Starship Troopers came from hell.


The automaton faction is comprised of robotic entities. They range from base-level grunt robots, similar to skinless Terminators, to huge armored mechs with missile arms. Fighting them is like fighting any typical army, only they’re made of metal. And some are giant and armored. This results in chaotic missions, as the Automatons will call for reinforcements when things get shaky and use tactics to obtain any advantage available. This faction should be approached with a coordinated team with high situational awareness. And preferably some explosive ordinances. While they are a different kind of threat than the Terminids, Automatons are just as threatening.

A basic Automaton grunt.


If you’ve played a third-person shooter in the past decade, getting the hang of Helldivers 2 is a cinch. But that’s not to discredit Arrowhead Studios. They manage to take a formula that is known to work and add plenty of their own flavor. Movement feels nice and the game’s physics make for some insane and frequently hilarious moments. Getting launched 30 feet in the air is a bit stressful when it happens to you, but witnessing it is entirely different. The game’s core, its combat, makes some fun innovations as well.


Combat is, in my opinion, like a pristine resolution to the flood of third-person shooters in the 2010s. It takes the core DNA from those games and makes it its own. Gone are the simple small crosshairs in the middle of the screen, in Helldivers 2 there’s the crosshair shows both your visual center as well as where your weapon is really aiming. If you prefer to aim down your sights, you can switch the aim to your iron sights with the click of a button. There are even stealthier options in some cases that scratch an itch most Metal Gear Solid fans can appreciate. It even has a stealth mechanic, though it’s not used or mentioned as often. In addition to typical combat options, there are also air support options.


You can purchase and use different support weapons such as airstrikes, defensive turrets, and special weapons. These extra weapons and air support are called Stratagems, and they are one of your greatest assets. To use them, you simply hold L1 and enter a series of commands on your directional pad. It adds a level of intensity to the combat, forcing you to stop attacking and focus on the inputs. With time it can be easier to utilize, but it still won’t always be a walk in the park, especially in the more difficult missions. You can easily acquire more stratagems through a computer on your ship through one of the in-game currencies.

No need to pre-select a Stratagem, just input the d-pad commands and let it rip.

Graphics and Sound

Heldivers 2 aces it in the graphics and sound department. As soon as it opens up, you are presented with jaw-dropping realistic graphics. It immediately gave me the feeling of playing a next gen game for the first time. There are insane levels of detail. This allows for many breathtaking moments, such as the first time I looked out my ship’s windshield and saw other players’ real vessels. You can see bombs exploding on the planet from here as well, and that immersion is not broken when you’re on the ground. The views and sounds make an experience that is engaging and atmospheric.

The audio is well crafted and almost perfectly mixed, with the sound of combat and terminid screeches echoing across the battlefield. The only moments of reprieve come in the form of the characters’ dialogue, sprinkling in phrases such as “Have a nice cup of liber-TEA,” among other, equally hilarious ones. It finds a perfect balance and runs with it well. Though different in tone, I haven’t felt this immersed in a third-person shooter since Spec Ops: The Line.


With an ever-evolving narrative and dozens of planets to explore, there’s never a shortage of things to do. Players have daily personal objectives to complete, as well as the major orders mentioned earlier. All this combined with a steady stream of unlockables and progression gives this game extensive replayability, even for the most casual of players. Even if you decide to lay off the game for a while, you will most likely find yourself booting it up at some point in the near future, whether it’s to dive in solo or to get your friends together for a firefight-laden hangout.

Elephant in the Room: Battle Passes

Now, there’s something in this game that is a hot topic for me: the battle passes, a.k.a. Warbonds. You can progress through the warbonds using the game’s basic currency, medals. To purchase a new Warbond, you must spend Super Credits, the premium coin. Luckily you can earn enough in each Warbond to buy another, and you can find both currencies on the battlefield. That’s an aspect where Helldivers 2 stands out among a lot of current AAA games. Many people, myself included, aren’t the biggest fans of battle passes and premium currency in a paid game. But making it all obtainable through just playing and exploring the planets makes it feel less like a greedy ploy. It turns using real-life money into just an option.

The Warbonds are pretty straightforward, and don’t punish players for not wanting to buy premium currency.


Live service games are becoming more and more commonplace these days, but Helldivers proves that it can be done right. It combines aspects of four-player co-op and third-person shooter games with some MMO elements to craft a live-service title that could last for years. And with Arrowhead adding content and updating the story regularly, it may take just as long to get completely stale. There could be new factions, there’s definitely always going to be new weapons, and we’ve already seen a few new enemy types since the game’s release. Helldivers 2 is, to put it simply, a modern example of an insanely fun, well-rounded game that’s even better with friends.


  • Fun, neonostalgic third-person gameplay
  • Numerous picturesque environments and landscapes
  • Perfect satirical yet gruesome atmosphere
  • Constant community-wide progression


  • Unexplored stealth mechanics

Helldivers 2


Helldivers 2 elaborates on what makes co-op and third-person shooters fun and stands out in the process.

Trevor Walker
PS5 Version Reviewed