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I can’t stop using turrets to kill my friends in Helldivers 2

Arrowhead Game Studio’s third-person shooter is chaotic co-op brilliance

Helldivers 2 gives you a big gun, points you in the direction of an alien horde, and tells you to make them go boom. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m your typical introvert who gravitates toward single-player games with a heavy emphasis on story. If I’m going to play a multiplayer game, it has to be something that my friends will be willing to give up their busy schedules to play, and allow us to chat while playing. Many online games these days demand your full attention, requiring proper in-game comms to play effectively. But sometimes you just want a game that’s an excuse to catch up. Something that’s simple, satisfying — and occasionally rage-inducing.

The sales pitch for Helldivers 2 is simple. You’re a soldier from Super Earth spreading managed democracy by annihilating insect and robot scum from the galaxy. You and three squad members dive to the surface of a planet to complete a series of simple objectives while fending off swarms of enemies with buckets of bullets and explosions galore. Each mission places you on a planet with an open map, allowing you to tackle the objectives—and optional side objectives—in any order you see fit. And while teamwork can be beneficial, your squad members will probably be your biggest obstacle.

Big guns. Bigger explosions

One of the best parts of the game — or worst, depending on your tolerance for chaos — is that there’s no way to turn off friendly fire. Heck, your own turrets will mow you down if you get between them and the enemy. And if you call in an air-strike while your friends are in the area, they will explode into tiny democratic pieces. In other words, it’s set up to cause as much mayhem as possible.

Depending on your friend group, this could be a trait that brings out the best moments, or leads to frustration. I’ve played with a couple of groups now and the experience varied wildly depending on the personalities involved. For players who embrace the insanity, Helldivers can lead to fits of laughter that only stop when the mission ends. But for players who are more goal-oriented and want to get the best score possible, the experience can be demoralizing. While it can be played seriously, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the game and arcade stylings of the gameplay lend themselves better to lighthearted sessions in my experience.

The developers at Arrowhead Game Studio have given players the tools they need to take on dozens of aliens, but they’ve also made sure to never stack the advantage too heavily in the favour of the players. While you can call down a napalm strike to wipe out an approaching wave of enemies, if you aren’t careful with your placement, you may be running for your life to avoid the incoming fire. When you have four players all calling in airstrikes, laying out mines, tossing grenades, setting up turrets, and firing blindly into hordes of aliens, you’re bound to kill an ally or two.

I love this. As long as no one in the group begins purposely killing the team, death happens in the most unexpected and hilarious ways. The game is very generous with revives, so despite the constant disarray, there’s rarely a threat of outright failure, except on the highest difficulties.

Now quickly punch in the Konami code

At its core, Helldivers 2 is a really solid third-person shooter with a clever inventory management system. The shooting feels great, especially on PlayStation 5’s DualSense controllers thanks to the haptic feedback. There’s satisfying feedback to the pop of the aliens, and the audio for each of the weapons packs some serious heat. Even if you’re just hopping in for a mission in single-player, you’ll probably have a decent time laying waste to alien outposts.

The weighty combat is a draw in and of itself, but it’s the way the game weaponizes its limited resources to constantly keep players on their toes that keeps me coming back. I wouldn’t say you’re always out of ammo—especially after you unlock supply packs—but you’re always teetering on the edge of needing to call in a resupply. When you’re down to your last bullets and you’re running away from an alien that’s the size of two tanks stacked together, you’ll be wishing you memorized the Konami code all those years ago. To call in reinforcements, you need to quickly use the D-pad on your controller or WASD on your keyboard to punch in a string of directional inputs. It’s another crafty way to keep players engaged, even when they’re out of supplies.

Outside of the satisfying combat mechanics, the game keeps things fresh by offering a wide variety of mission objectives. Whether you’re gathering nuclear missile codes to launch a strike, taking out radio towers that are spreading propaganda, or clearing out insect hives, you’ll be kept on your toes. And each world presents different environmental obstacles, such as ice, exploding mushrooms, and rocky terrain. They’re mostly cosmetic, but they look great and save the experience from just switching from a blue world to a red world.

Another game your dentist will hate. The grind is real

Variety is lacking in other areas though. With only two enemy species and a limited roster of weapon types that fall into the usual SMG, assault rifle, and shotgun variants, once players have burned through the available items that can be purchased with the earnable medals, there’s not much to do other than grind the same missions. And though the game is only $50 at release, it’s still disappointing to see microtransactions in the game. They aren’t necessary to get the full Helldivers experience, but I’d have loved to see Arrowhead take the paid expansion route instead.

It’s also worth mentioning that Helldivers 2 has suffered technical issues ranging from matchmaking to server connection errors. While I haven’t run into many issues on PS5, speaking with others playing the game, the problems appear to be more severe on PC. It’s completely understandable that the game has some launch woes given that the game has been setting records, surpassing the studio’s wildest expectations, but it’s still worth flagging. On the other hand, it’s great to see Sony embracing both cross-play and day-one PC launches.

As with most games, Helldivers 2 won’t be for everyone. Depending on your tolerance for chaos, snarky patriotic puns, and repetition, you may bounce off it. But if you’re someone who enjoys third-person shooters, mayhem, and serving cups of liber-tea, this might be just the game you’ve been waiting for.

My sincere apologies to all of the players who have been felled by my poorly placed turrets. May we all die for managed democracy.

If you’re ready to join the mission, you can purchase Helldivers 2 for $49.99 at Amazon, Best Buy Canada, the PlayStation Store, and Steam.

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Image credit: PlayStation

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