Helldivers Review: To Hell and Back

Arrowhead's Helldivers offers a uniqe co-op experience both in your living room and around the world. Find out what makes this game worth saving the galaxy for in our review.

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Democracy is a powerful thing. A number of nations have been enjoying for hundreds of years, while some others would rather do things their own way. In the dystopian universe of Helldivers, all of mankind is ruled by a “managed” democracy by 2084, and it’s up to Helldivers to help fight for humanity (and democracy), against three formidable alien races. How exactly this war began is completely unknown. All you know as a Helldiver is that Super Earth needs you to fight for it, so you’re tasked with defending it.

Helldivers is developed by Arrowhead Game Studios, best known for Magicka and last year’s revival of Gauntlet. The developer has some experience in developing co-op games, and in Helldivers, you’re going to need all the help you can get in order to survive the countless aliens you’ll be coming across.

Helldivers! To your pods!

The majority of your time in Helldivers will be spent completing missions across various planets. You’ll first need to select a warzone, which will dictate which one of three races you’ll battle: Bugs, Cyborgs, or Illuminates. You’ll then choose a planet, each of which have their own environments as well as difficulties. Helldivers allows you to choose from a wide range of difficulties, which is extremely helpful as first-timers will want to brush up on the game’s mechanics before attempting to complete missions with a higher difficulty.

Helldivers uses a progression system, research points, and successful missions to help in acquiring new gear for your soldier. As you gain experience, your Helldiver will be able to unlock either cosmetic customizations, new weaponry, or perks. Gaining Stratagems, which are military ordinance that can be called into battle, is done by unlocking them via completing a planet’s set number of missions successfully. Upgrading weapons and Stratagems can be done through the use of research points, which are awarded to Helldivers for either leveling up or returning valuable samples from alien planets. These three methods come together harmoniously, as it always feels like I’m making progress to something significant each time I complete a mission.

Stratagems play a very large role in Helldivers as having the right ordinance for your missions is extremely important. Calling in ordinance  can be done by holding down the L1 button and mashing in the designated D-Pad combinations. You’ll be able to call in airstrikes, giant mech robots, a resupply of ammo, turrets, and more through the use of Stratagems. The D-Pad combinations for each Stratagem is different depending on what a Helldiver wants to call in. Things can get a little hairy if you need a Stratagem to be dropped in while there’s a swarm of enemies making its way to your position. I’ve had a number of situations where I had to give up on calling in certain ordinance due to being completely bombarded by a swarm of enemies.

Trust everyone while trusting no one

Helldivers relies heavily on others to drive the experience, whether it be through direct co-op while playing through missions, or through indirect influence that is tallied up from everyone’s efforts in its Galactic Campaign feature. This gives the game a unique dynamic that requires players to trust one another to work together for a common goal, although at the same time, it requires players to be wary of other Helldivers.

A total of four Helldivers can play together in both online and offline co-op play, and that help will be invaluable during more difficult missions. While I experienced many Helldivers that were very helpful in completing my objectives, there were a handful of times when I was teamed up with players that were completely useless and either impeded my progression, or straight up got me killed with their inexperience.

When other Helldivers weren’t getting me killed, my deployable equipment was. Helldivers has a friendly-fire policy for everything, so that means other players can cause damage to me as well as my own devices. Turrets I set up to defend me can suddenly swing around in my direction if there’s an alien coming up behind me. Mines I forgot about can be detonated by accident, and ordinance I call in can come down and completely crush me if I don't pay attention to landing points.

While it may sound like I’m complaining, I really enjoyed how unforgiving Helldivers can be. Not only do players need skill in order to complete their mission objectives, but they also need to be aware of their surroundings as anything and everything can kill your Helldiver seemingly at any time. This is what makes the Helldivers experience such a unique one, and one that I found myself completely engrossed in as soon as I started playing.

Give 'em hell

Helldivers is the kind of game all co-op titles should strive to be. Not only does it offer a very rewarding top-down twin-stick shooter experience, but it's co-op goes beyond your own game. The experience is one all Helldivers will share together as well all work within a unified community in order to bring democracy to the galaxy. I for one will continue to play Helldivers well after its initial release to make sure the galaxy is rid of Bugs, Cyborgs, and Illuminates, or I'll die trying.

Senior Editor
Review for
Helldivers
8
Pros
  • Top-notch twin-stick shooting action
  • Global co-op experience
  • Enemies and locales are quite varied
  • Variety in Stratagems
  • Cross-platform play and chat
Cons
  • Expect to die often early on
  • Vita controls aren't as tight as PS4 or PS3
From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 3, 2015 12:01 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Helldivers Review: To Hell and Back

    • reply
      March 3, 2015 12:30 AM

      Nice sounds awesome, I had this on my list and it even has single player too which works well for me, don't think you can go wrong with it.

      Also I am a fan of the dev they make good games.

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        March 3, 2015 5:45 AM

        I'm familiar with their work with Magicka, and I really enjoyed Gauntlet. Like I said in the opening paragraph, they've done some great things got co-op gaming, and this is yet another hit if you enjoy that kind of game.

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      March 3, 2015 2:37 AM

      looks like this is PS/vita only then? does anyone know if they have plans for releasing on other platforms at a later date or is it exclusive?

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        March 3, 2015 4:20 AM

        It's PS4 & PS3 as well

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          March 3, 2015 4:25 AM

          And by many accounts I'm seeing, the Vita version is no good, so you should play it on the PS3/4 instead (though it's crossbuy, so this only matters if you only own the Vita).

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            March 3, 2015 5:21 AM

            The Vita version was good just to get a few missions in, but I wouldn't recommend attempting more difficult missions. The controls aren't as good as the console versions, but I think that's due to the Vita's analog sticks more than Arrowhead's programming.

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      March 3, 2015 5:28 AM

      Isn't it amazing? A few years ago a game like this would have been eaten alive for the things its being praised for now. Guess I've been playing games long enough to see things go full circle.

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        March 3, 2015 5:53 AM

        "would have been eaten alive for the things its being praised for now" like what?

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          March 3, 2015 7:38 AM

          Having your own team mates be able to kill you, and have your ordinance kill you. If this was a "feature" 10 years ago, it would have been lambasted. Now its all the rage. Thanks to the growing popularity of rouge-likes and Dark Souls type games and of course harking back to the beginning of gaming. When you got to the end of the game lost your last life and it was back to the start of the game.

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            March 3, 2015 7:39 AM

            You mean like Counter Strike and Rainbow6 had?

            Most games had friendly fire 10 years ago. Removing it is something that was done recently, and only for certain series (Halo, for example).

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            March 3, 2015 7:46 AM

            It certainly feels "rogue-like," but it isn't so brutal. If you fail your mission, you just have to start it over. You won't have to start from being a level 1 Helldiver, which makes its brutality easier to stomach.

            Mind you, it isn't anywhere near as difficult as Dark Souls (to me), although when you take on more difficult missions, you're going to need some serious help to complete them.

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            March 3, 2015 7:47 AM

            This is just their shtick. Magicka was the same way with friendly fire and someone getting bored and destroying the team. The system can work fine but can also get old if you have someone who is just out to grief everyone else.

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              March 3, 2015 8:33 AM

              I'm not sure if Magicka has this, but Helldivers allows you to report or commend your fellow Helldivers for their work. You can also kick players out of your game if they're being complete a-holes.

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        March 3, 2015 12:18 PM

        A few years ago valve came out with that alien game that seemed a lot like this, and I am almost positive it had friendly fire.

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      March 3, 2015 7:32 AM

      Never heard of this before today, but now I'm interested. Is this out now?

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        March 3, 2015 7:43 AM

        It's releasing later today once the PlayStation Store updates itself.

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      March 3, 2015 12:08 PM

      Aww...no cross buy???? Well I guess I'll get the ps4 version and just remote play it... :(

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      March 3, 2015 3:27 PM

      I've played it for the past couple hours. Definitely seems worth 18 bucks. Reminds me a lot of the valve top down shooter from a while back, but with more persistent upgrades and cosmetic unlocks and stuff.

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      March 8, 2015 6:15 AM

      Quote from metacritic has a slight grammatical error. "It's" instead of "its".