Review: Helldivers (PlayStation 4)

Helldivers: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 2,716 views 5 likes 5 comments
Reviewed by Jakub Kowalski, posted Mar 16, 2015
Helldivers combines two things I really enjoy - an isometric perspective and a traditional 90's sci-fi setting - I was looking forward to this game ever since it was announced. Needless to say, I was excited to try this one out, it's been a while since we've seen a good twin-stick shooter. Is Helldivers just that? Read on and find out!
Mar 16, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): March 3, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): March 4, 2015
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
  • Genres: Isometric Twin-Stick Shooter
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Helldivers is an isometric twin-stick shooter by Arrowhead Game Studios, published by Sony Computer Entertainment and available on the PSVita, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
Jakub Kowalski

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Story - It's a Good Day to Die and it Doesn't Really Matter Why

There was once a little movie called "Starship Troopers" by director Paul Verhoeven - you might've heard about it. This masterpiece of sci-fi depicted a future where humanity ventured into space and began colonizing new planets, meeting no resistance, quickly becoming a Federation. All was well until they've encountered alien life, the Arachnids, colloquially called the "bugs". Of course the newly met creatures were hostile and there's only one answer to hostility - a burst from a Morita II Assault Rifle... lots of'em... and grenades... and orbital nuclear strikes. Did you like that movie too? Ha! Fool! That story was way off! Earth? That's lame, we call it Super Earth in the future, it's the capital of Managed Democracy, the best system of government in the universe!

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Become more than you are! Enlist now!

The game begins immediately after you've made the best decision in your entire life - you've enlisted as a Helldiver, a member of the most prestigious branch of the military. Who are the Helldivers, you ask? Why, they're the biggest heroes in the universe, of course! Your job involves several things every little boy dreams of - touring the universe, dropping from orbit in shock trooper pods, accomplishing heroic deeds and... blowing things up, both living and dead, with a massive arsenal of weaponry. You've just passed... well, "survived" your Basic Training, you've been assigned to a dropship, you've met the crew, now it's time to do what's right - spread Managed Democracy and secure the future of Super Earth... by shooting everything that's in its way, get to it!

 

Gameplay - When You Battle 6 Trillion Enemies That Will Eat You Alive, There Are Only Two Rules: Everyone Fights. No One Quits.

The core concept of Helldivers revolves around conquest of the galaxy - you travel from system to system, dropping from orbit and administering justice, one planet at a time. Once you and your fellow Helldivers have conquered all of the planets in a given sector you can strike at the heart of the enemy's home planet to deal the decisive blow. The current state of affairs is tracked in real time by the game server. Each victory and defeat affects the balance of power between the warring factions - the Super Earth's Helldivers, the Bugs, the Illuminates and the Cyborgs. This mechanic allows blending singleplayer and multiplayer skirmishes into one overarching experience, similar to that of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer co-op mode.

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Talk about getting off on the wrong foot... or lack of thereof

After finishing Basic Training which familiarizes you with the game's controls you find yourself on-board of your dropship and you're quickly introduced to your surroundings by the ship's staff. This area is your main base of operations and it's where you purchase your weapon upgrades, select your loadouts (at the station to the left), read up on game lore (at the station to the right), join ongoing multiplayer skirmishes (using the elevator in the back) and, of course, select missions you wish to embark on (at the war table at the helm of the bridge). Once you've chosen your equipment and destination, it's time to board your pod, prepare for orbital drop and bite into the meat of this game.

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The crew of the Vigilance is vigilant!

The gameplay is very simple to grasp - as soon as your Hellpod lands at the dropzone of your choice you have to complete objectives and reach the evac site - simplicity itself. Objectives vary between activating SAM sites, oil refineries and other installations, de-activating or destroying enemy structures (with orbital nukes - how cool is that?), capturing and protecting outposts, escorting survivors to bunkers and so on.

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Me? Oh, don't mind me, I'm just sending some rockets up your bee hive

Of course while you're at it, be sure to collect samples from all the desert, snow and forest planets you visit - those can be used to upgrade your equipment. Every time you complete all the missions on a given planet, you're rewarded with either new equipment or an experience boost. You're doing exactly what you'd expect to do as a shock trooper - you're cannon fodd-- I mean, a valuable asset and a hero of Super Earth, a shining example of the virtues of Managed Democracy.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to drop! Try not to land on anyone, alright?

As a Helldiver you have quite the arsenal at your disposal - the weapons range from your simple sidearm pistol through various rifles and shotguns to the big guns like the flamethrower, machine gun or rail gun. The guns in this game all feel great, they have a sense of weight to them, a great "oomph" factor and they don't seem to go obsolete as soon as you unlock another weapon. It's the best level of variety, one that allows you to really invest in the weapons you like without fearing that they will become useless later on. Your boomsticks of all sorts are accompanied by standard issue grenades and stratagems - a whole separate class of items.

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Love me some desert camo!

Stratagems are essentially requests you can send in to command during battle by using your radio. Out of ammo? Call for a supply drop. Need to protect an area against hordes of bugs? Request a turret and drop to the floor as a hail of bullets decimates the pests. Need to blow up a nasty pack of cyborgs? Why not with an air strike? Want to deal some serious damage? Better get the mech ready! This simple yet unique mechanic makes the game special, adding to the feeling of being a shock trooper on an alien world, keeping in contact with HQ at all times. It also adds another layer to both co-operation and solo strategy as during the radio call you have to punch in button combinations, leaving you defenseless.

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10 seconds? No, no, I'll hold, I'm sure it's hard to get a nuke delivered from orbit.
Don't mind the racket, I'm just being chased by two enemy walkers, nothing to worry about.

Worse yet, drops won't just magically appear - the requested stratagems take time to reach the planet's surface, so not only you have to defend the landing zone, you also have to make sure the package doesn't fall right on your own head... or on your teammates... or the NPC's you might be escorting. It can land on enemies thought - that's both hilarious and incredibly satisfying.

 

Co-operation - Meet Interesting People, They Said

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I see what you did there, game

Helldivers is a twin-stick shooter from hell, it's shameless about it and it's not afraid to hurt the player in a multitude of gory, usually hilarious ways. When played solo it almost feels like a stealth game where avoiding enemy patrols as you complete objectives is often more reasonable than attacking head-on. This changes as soon as you're joined by other players - drastically so, as the game quickly becomes complete mayhem - bullets rain hell from every direction, laser beams slash flesh and steel alike, turrets and mechs blow the endless waves of enemies up with their deafening cannons and the screen is showered with blood and gore as your jolly group of shock troopers blasts its way across the map - that's how the game is intended to be played and it's quite a spectacle to behold. As long as your match is set to Public, other players can jump into your session and help you slaughter your enemies in the name of Super Earth.

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Chillin' by the watercooler in-between galactic conquests is an essential part of building team spirit!

The co-op of Helldivers is just buckets of fun, and it comes as no surprise. After all, Arrowhead Games is the studio behind Magicka, another isometric game that revolved around co-op gameplay. There's another aspect of gameplay Helldivers shares with Magicka - friendly fire. This is a feature that cannot be disabled, it's intended to be an intrinsic element of the game, so get used to it. Often times it's not your adversaries that'll pose a threat to you - it'll be your teammates, their Hellpods and their supply drops that'll cause you much grief... which will be followed shortly by laughter because really, there's nothing more hilarious than getting squished by a tank someone called in for in an attempt to "help" the team. Of course if this frustrates you, you can set your match to Private which will prevent any uninvited players from joining, but really, you don't want to - the game shines when played Online. Besides, it doesn't really matter if you get blown up by a stray grenade thrown by your teammates or by yourself - a grenade is a grenade. That, and if you run into a Helldiver who's out to spoil your fun, you can always kick him or her out of your game with a few clicks.

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I love the smell of napalm in the morning

Another welcome addition in terms of multiplayer is local co-op which you don't get to see very often these days. This feature is available on the home console ports of the game and all your friends have to do to join you in battle is turn their controllers on and log into their user accounts. Naturally due to the nature of this game a good session of Helldivers can quickly ruin friendships, but what's life worth if you never take any risks, right?

Conclusion - I'd Buy That for a Dollar!

I had great fun playing Helldivers, both Online with strangers and Offline with friends or on the go on my PSVita, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Some might complain that the story isn't much to write home about or that it's an arcade title and not some grandiose production, but you know what? It doesn't have to be. There is a wonderful, charming bluntness about simply shooting hordes of enemies with an ever-increasing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and in this respect, Helldivers is very honest about what it is. This game is a lot like a trip down memory lane, a trip to simpler times when games weren't about a cinematic experience or overcomplicated plotlines, but rather about simply having fun. With great arcade-style gameplay, strong multiplayer mechanics and cross-platform compatibility with automatically synchronizing save files that allow you to dive into Helldivers wherever you are, the title is guaranteed to give you hours of entertainment. If all this sounds like something you're looking for, Helldivers delivers and you might want to visit Super Earth, traveling at warp speed.

Verdict
Pros
+ Strong arcade feel reminiscent of the good 'ol days
+ Great co-operative experience for fans of multiplayer
+ Local multiplayer - a feature you don't get to see very often these days
+ Cross-buy with synchronizing save files allowing you to play the game both at home and on the go
+ A large variety of weaponry, vehicles and stratagems keep the game interesting
+ Three completely different races that don't feel like carbon copies of each other
Cons
- The PSVita port is a visual downgrade and the controls are initially clunky due to the lack of L2/R2 buttons
- The field of view can be too limited at times, especially on the PSVita. Often times you can get spotted by patrols that aren't on the screen yet which necessitates using the radar at regular intervals
- The first few missions in the game are a little bit too easy and repetitive - the real fun starts when you receive multiple and varied objectives
8 Presentation
I love 90's sci-fi, I love humour, I love over the top gore and I love explosions - Helldivers delivers all that with flying colours. The game really comes alive when you're in a four-player squad fighting off hordes of enemies, it's almost like a fireworks show. My only complaint as far as presentation goes is the visual downgrade of the PSVita port - I feel that more could be done to make the game look better on the platform.
9 Gameplay
Arrowhead Game Studios once again showed the world how to make a great co-op game. The gameplay of Helldivers is fantastic and you'll no doubt spend hours playing the game with your friends, both laughing at their misfortune and cursing under your nose at your own. There's lots of fun to be had in the galaxy, that's for sure.
8 Lasting Appeal
Helldivers has a lot to offer - there's dozens of unlockable weapons, costumes and gear, so regardless of whether you're playing online or offline it will keep you busy.
8.3
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Helldivers is a great title, I was hyped for it since it was announced and in my eyes it lived up to the hype. If you're a fan of arcade titles, this is a game you should definitely try, especially if you own more than one PlayStation platform and especially if you have friends who'd like to join you on your quest to spread managed democracy - the best system of government there is.
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