HELLDIVERS 2 is an impressive conversion of Arrowhead Game Studio’s twin-stick formula into a third-person experience. It’s more visceral and immersive, placing you closer to the action – but it’s still a sequel built on the same basic framework.

You dive into procedurally generated maps alone or with up to three others; complete several mandatory and optional objectives before triggering the extraction; and destroy waves of enemies by calling down supplies and orbital weapons that can be just as lethal to you. Survive and you can invest your hard-earned resources into new armour, weapons, support stratagems, and cosmetics. Yes, this sequel has live-service elements – like multiple digital currencies you can buy and a battle pass – but it still feels balanced for causal players unwilling to sink all their time into just one game to experience some semblance of progression.

Now Sony have long established their dominance publishing narrative-heavy cinematic games, but those unfamiliar with this IP should know that’s not what’s on offer here. HELLDIVERS 2 has a great Starship Troopers-inspired introduction and tutorial mission, your Super Destroyer crew offer some light exposition to help with world-building, and you’ll find one-sentence lore items on some planets for flavour. It’s all narrative context with no actual narrative progression.

For those curious, Super Earth emerged victorious in the last galactic war a century ago; the Terminids were contained and farmed for a substance used to power FTL travel before eventually breaking loose; and now automatons are also pushing in from the galactic west to take advantage of the chaos. Cue a new Helldiver initiative to push both forces back and establish a lethal Terminid control network across colonised space. It’s a solid premise but, in practice, it’s just you and your squad, some AI-driven community objectives, a galactic map you need to turn a shade of Super Earth blue, and emergent gameplay scenarios. By way of example, it’s not uncommon to complete an intense mission only to watch the liberation percentage shift upwards on the fourth decimal place.

All that said, HELLDIVERS 2 nails the cinematic element – and not just because the Terminids are straight out of Starship Troopers and the Automatons channel Terminator vibes. I wouldn’t call it the best-looking game by current gen standards, but it has a soft filmic look, coupled with a strong focus on pyrotechnics and atmospheric effects.

HELLDIVERS 2 Automatons

Planet biomes feel wonderfully realised, with super destroyers visible in the sky above raining hell down on targets. Explosions, plasma rounds, and acid sprays are vibrant and striking as they tear through the air, while explosions can rip apart and deform the terrain. Bugs splatter apart, automatons loose limbs in a spray of sparks, and explosions or gunfire toss your hapless and bloodied Helldivers around. This visual spectacle is all accompanied by the satisfying roar of gunfire, booming explosions, alien screeches, and a suitably epic soundtrack that swells with the on-screen action.

Although there’s been some debate around the performance impact of the anti-cheat software on PC, I found it surprisingly scalable on a 3-year-old 8GB RTX3070 gaming laptop, running at a mostly stable 4k/60, using high settings and the “balanced” temporal upscale setting. You can dial visual settings way down, so any gaming PC from the last 5 years should offer a great experience, and I’d have been curious so see how a last-gen port would have fared to bolster sales numbers and the player count.

HELLDIVERS 2 Terminids

Of course, a smart premise and stylish presentation can only take you so far – but HELLDIVERS 2 has an engaging and addictive gameplay loop at its core. For fans of the original, the shift in perspective is mostly for the better, with few caveats. For newcomers, it’s much easier to get up to speed given how ubiquitous third-person shooters have become.

You start onboard your Super Destroyer (or that of party leader), where you can unlock and tinker with your load-out. The party leader selects a mission and difficulty, you step into your drop pods and select stratagems, pick a landing spot on the procedurally generated map, and hurtle towards probable doom. It’s an inherently satisfying and grandiose start to each mission – even if the logistical support the Helldivers receive makes no sense for a seemingly disposable army!

HELLDIVERS 2 Mission Loadout Screen

Once planet-side, you’ll be tackling a half dozen mission variants. Most involve wiping out facilities, troop concentrations, or an elite enemy – but there are optional tasks like activating radar stations, destroying outposts, and disabling enemy artillery – all of which can reduce resistance while tackling primary missions or while waiting on extraction. Simple in theory, but rarely in execution as Helldivers – even in heavy armour and with several squad boosters equipped – are inherently squishy. Being caught off guard by a patrol, flanked by an elite enemy, stepping onto a mine, or getting caught up in an artillery strike are often instantly fatal – even on the lowest difficulties.

Planning, coordinated teamwork, and the intelligent use of stratagems is needed to tip the odds in your favour and with full friendly fire is the only setting, there’s little alternative if you don’t want to burn through all your reinforcement tokens. You’ll need to move as a team, communicate by voice chat or pings, ensure someone always has the high ground or flank, decide on whether to engage or avoid patrols, and ideally bring several specialised weapons to deal with infantry rushes or armour.

The thrill of playing HELLDIVERS 2 comes from watching all the pieces fall into place as someone takes up over-watch and drops turrets on your flank, another player calls down heavy strike on troop concentrations or enemy fortifications, followed by the remaining squad members tossing grenades and advancing under a hail of fire to clear out stragglers at close range. Of course, what follows next is usually semi-organised chaos as plans falls apart and you’re then forced to think on your feet.

For those who played the first game, the elevation changes and shift to third-person drastically reduced the likelihood of friendly fire when it’s easier to shoot over or around other players, but it feels like explosive damage has been ramped up to compensate. With the new perspective offering far less situational awareness, being able to trust your allies feels even more important than ever, and if you’re playing with randoms, make full use of the “block player” function to isolate team-killers.

HELLDIVERS 2 Fly by explosion

Successfully extracting – ideally after tackling some optional objectives and recovering a few alien samples – rewards player experience, requisition points, upgrade materials, and medals. Mercifully, the upgrade structure feels suitably brisk and rewarding, with the free battle-pass tier offering new weapons, armour, and boosters across all 10 levels – alongside the usual assortment of cosmetic and emote tat that adds little to the experience. Missions are so chaotic and full of explosions, you’ll be tracking your allies by their name tags, not their attire.

Levelling up unlocks new offensive and defensive stratagems to purchase with requisition points – with the higher level options usually a more effective variant rather than something situational. Meanwhile, alien samples are invested in new ship modules, which enhance stratagems further and add some visual flourish to your super destroyer. It’s a simple enough progression system that allows you to become a more self-sufficient Helldiver, but never to the point teamwork feels unnecessary. On that note, solo play is possible on easier difficulties and can offer tense fun that forces you to engage less, but the emergent moments you get from multiplayer sessions are less common.

HELLDIVERS 2 Stratagems

Wrapping up, it’s worth reiterating that HELLDIVERS 2 is very much a social game designed to provide players quick missions to blast through with friends or randoms – every mission guaranteed to offer mechanically satisfying gunplay, chaotic entertainment when plans go awry, and so many explosions. As a long-time fan of the Gears horde mode, Deep Rock Galactic, and recently Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, HELLDIVERS 2 is up there with my favourite PvE experiences and, aside from the first few days, the player-base seems consistent and supportive.

Of course, HELLDIVERS 2 has become a live-service game, there’ll no doubt be frequent content drops like a third enemy faction, and it’ll die when servers go offline – but unlike so many of its ilk, Arrowhead Game Studios have not designed it as mechanically dull make-the-numbers-go-higher experience or implemented unbearably tedious progression systems that favour grind over entertainment. That alone makes it worth praise these days.

HELLDIVERS 2 was reviewed on PC using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PS5.


8 10 0 1
Total Score

The Good

  • A more visceral and immersive experience in the third-person
  • Satisfying gunplay, lethal stratagems, and so many explosions
  • An addictive one-more-mission gameplay loop that thrives on emergent multiplayer experiences
  • A cinematic visual style, booming audio effects, and a solid soundtrack
  • A gear and stratagem progression system that still feels satisfying for casual players

The Bad

  • Watching the galactic war progression bar tick up slowly is not a particularly satisfying reward for your efforts
  • The live-service structure is just a way to make more money without adding value
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Post

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth (Xbox Series) Review

Next Post

Tomb Raider I Remastered Retrospective Review

Related Posts