Arrowhead Game Studios has given us the honor to review their newest game, Helldivers. This game is fun, every moment of gameplay feels action packed and the story gives the player a sense of urgency to save our Earth from invaders. I can already tell, even just by playing by myself, this is going to be an awesome game to play with your friends. Before you keep reading, I should mention that I’m reviewing the Press Beta version and any of my complaints here may be fixed in the Official version.
Those who look for fun and constant action in gameplay, look no further. Helldivers is filled with action and a sense of urgency, even while in the loading screens. You encounter constant waves of enemies to defeat, objectives to complete, and your health is always running low. I found that, even on the easiest level of difficulty, I often died because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of everything. This made for exciting gameplay and I found that sometimes I couldn’t put down the game.
The gun play in the game is very well built, very well built. The guns feel powerful, but also equate to the enemy’s firepower, which made for fun firefights while in the field. I was usually able to kill my foes easily, but when I became cocky and careless I found that I could be killed quite effortlessly. This feature quickly taught me to pay attention at all times so I could live for longer than five seconds. The fact that you spawn with very limited ammo gives the game a strategic feel because, if you run out of ammo in the middle of a fight, you die unless you think quickly. I loved the fact that we didn’t have much ammo because I didn’t have the option to always rely on my primary weapon. In fights where I ran out of ammo, I was forced to use my secondary weapon if I wished to kill my opponent. The reloading took a long time to complete so, if I used my whole clip carelessly, I would suffer the consequence of possible death. I should also mention that I was only able to play with the first few weapons you earn in-game. The other guns available in the game might not be as balanced.
The enemies were creative in many ways, but most fall into two categories: Scouts and Bruisers (names I came up with, do not quote me). The Scouts always search for your presence on the field, and they will set off an alarm when they find you and continue to attack you. The Bruisers come into play when the Scouts set off the alarm. The Bruisers attack you continuously and inflict much more damage than the Scouts. The Scouts and Bruisers come in three different species: the Bugs, the Illuminate, and the Cyborgs (the game’s names, not my own, this time). The Illuminate are the weaklings of the bunch and much easier to kill than the other species. The Illuminate have low armor, low attack, and low amounts of troops, which makes for a semi-easy fight in this game. The Bugs are a swarm-type enemy with a low armor rating, but a high attack rating and more numbers than the Illuminate. If you’re looking for an extremely difficult challenge, the Cyborgs are the enemy you want to face. The Cyborgs have a high armor rating, high attack levels, and swarms that are extremely fast–even faster than you are in-game. These types of enemies made me think of a vast array of strategies to use while fighting a particular type of enemy.
My favorite part of the gameplay is what makes this game unique, Stratagems. Stratagems are special ordinances that give the player a strategic advantage against the endless waves of enemies or an advantage that allows them to complete an objective more easily. If the player becomes surrounded by enemies, he or she can call in a turret, an airstrike, or a powerful machine gun to destroy foes. This may seem over powered from the way I’ve stated it, but Helldivers always finds a way to make the battle fair. You must enter a code on your arrow keys while calling the ordinances in and, if you call in one while in combat, you won’t be able to attack anyone. To effectively call in ordinances, you must be incognito or far away from any attackers. Stratagems may seem like a hassle to call in at first, but will make your life much easier while playing (and it’s awesome to watch a turret mow through crowds of enemies). The addition of Stratagems makes for fun strategies and makes Helldivers feel very different from other games.
Now after all those great things about the gameplay, here are my complaints. For a game that looks to pride itself on the amount of chaos on the battlefield, the movement is clunky and slow, which makes certain situations that would normally be stressful seem lackluster because you feel like you’re a snail running from another snail. For me, this one flaw really impacted the fun of the game, but I enjoy fast gameplay. Others may think differently. The customization is a bit limited for a multiplayer game, which makes for a less enjoyable experience overall because you look almost like everyone else in-game. Enemy detection also felt a bit off while in the field. Sometimes I would be far away from an enemy but it was still able to detect me, and sometimes I would run right in front an enemy but it would not detect me. This inconsistency made for some annoying situations where I would be punished for my genius or I would be rewarded for my foolishness. Overall, the gameplay is pretty solid except for slow movement, limited customization, and inconsistent detection.
On the story front, I’m a sucker for a good story and have always been a good judge of what a good story isn’t and is…which definitely made me sad to see the lack of story in Helldivers. The story (such as it is) is about how humans have discovered a ‘Super Earth’ and now other species of aliens wish to eliminate us from our utopia. There, I already explained all you need to know about the story in one sentence. One sentence! This angered me due to the expansive story arcs I could see in the Helldivers universe, but no. There are no memorable characters, no amazing plot lines, and no surprising twists and turns. There isn’t even a section for story on the game’s own wiki. Let that set in. A website dedicated to everything about the game and there isn’t a section for the story. Embarrassing! Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on the game though. Helldivers isn’t meant to be played for a story, but for the gameplay. If you’re like me and want a good story in a game, then Helldivers may not be the game for you sadly. It’s still worth the cash to play, in my opinion, if you’re curious.
It’s a bit rough to judge this game’s multiplayer because, in the Press Beta version, there were only a few other players but, just by playing through the single-player mode, I can see that Helldivers will be a fun game to play with your friends. There are all sorts of community things to do together, various missions to complete with your pals, and a well-built sense of camaraderie with a cool feature in-game.
The game features a special type of campaign, which resets once the community has completed it, called the ‘Galactic Campaign’. This campaign shows three sectors surrounding our new ‘Super Earth’, one for each type of enemy species found in the game. Players will complete missions in the sectors to advance towards the species’ planets by gaining something called ‘Influence’ and then destroy the planets, which will make it so the enemies of that sector won’t be able to fight for the rest of the war. Players will continue to gain ‘Influence’ and destroy the alien planets until they either win or lose. If we lose the ‘Galactic Campaign’, players will see a cutscene with ‘Super Earth’ in ruins and spaceships retreating to find a new ‘Super Earth’. Players who participated in the war will be granted a ‘Veteran’ armor set for their character. If we win the campaign, players will be greeted to a cutscene of us celebrating the victory of the war. Players who participated in the war will be rewarded with the ‘Ceremonial’ armor set for their character. The ‘Global Campaign’ adds an interesting element to the enjoyment of the game.
I expect Helldivers to be a game you want to play with your friends because of the laughs and excitement you feel while playing the game. You might feel happiness and triumph at times, but you’ll also encounter sadness and defeat at times, which in the end makes all the players feel more connected to each other.
Sound usually never matters to me in a game, but Helldivers is the exception. Immediately, on the title screen, you hear what sounds like triumphant battle music that I promise will make you more hyped to kill aliens than any other soundtrack in any other game. The sound was on-point in every part of the game, even during loading screens! When you fight with the enemies in the field, the game plays battle music that makes you never want to stop firing into the crowd of alien hordes. The loading screens include intense fighting music as well, but in a more exciting tone. My favorite sounds, though, were on the battlefield. The gun shots sounded like they flew true every time you shot, the landing of ordinances crashed with a noise that was pleasing to the ears, and the sounds of the wilderness that surrounded you felt just utterly satisfying in every sense. Overall, the sound in Helldivers is phenomenal in every sense of the word and is definitely worth a listen, even if you don’t end up playing the game.
In short, this game is amazing. The gameplay feels solid, with its unique usage of weaponry and Stratagems to complete goals while fighting the hordes of Illuminate, Bugs, and Cyborgs. The entertaining gameplay makes up for a weak storyline. Multiplayer will most likely be one of the most fun things here. The addition of the ‘Global Campaign’ seems like an ingenious way to make players work together towards a common goal, which will make for an overall better experience for everyone. The music is pleasurable for the ears, and the sound is extraordinary to listen to everytime you open the main screen. Helldivers is most definitely a game worth playing–fun, enjoyable, and overall just really fun to play.