Helldivers 2 Review – Democracy Manifest

Helldivers 2 Review - Democracy Manifest

When you’re on the battlefield in a game, there’s an element of trust. You trust your friends, or the randoms you dropped with have you back; that you’re working together toward the same goal. Helldivers 2 tests this trust. A stray grenade or worse, air strike will send your squad on a trip to the afterlife, quick-smart. As reinforcements are limited and your gear and samples drop when you die, this adds extra pressure to each death; someone needs to spend time summoning a drop pod, and then you’ll potentially need to get your gear again, and they’ll be a person down during this time. Teamwork is key, bringing democracy to the galaxy lies in your hands.

As Helldivers 2 opens, a video plays faux military propaganda at you, absurdist in its message whilst still trying to be true to real life recruitment videos. It’s also very similar to the “I’m doing my part” video from Starship Troopers. This tongue-in-cheek jab at the military rings true throughout the entire game, oftentimes making me laugh out loud at how ridiculous it is. This is a funny game, and intentionally. The messages shown in the game echo that every soldier is important, and as you go through training, a great general revels in how excellent you’re doing. But it’s hollow. It’s all prerecorded and when you die in a mission, and you’ll die often, you’re replaced by another random soldier with no fanfare. You’re just disposable, never remembered. In the grand scheme of things, you don’t matter.

The galactic map is where you’ll plan all your missions. Pick a system to join the war in, pick a planet that is currently contested, then select an operation to join. Usually these are 2-3 missions, varied based on the difficulty. There’s so many options here that if you hate a planet, or a style of mission you can just skip them. I think this is one of the ways that Helldivers 2 shines. These options keep the game fresh, and the scaling of difficulty adds even more options.

It’s so rare that a game (and admittedly I was on the fence about the always online nature of the game) actually makes you feel like you’re having an effect on the outcome. Helldivers reminds you of this every time you complete a mission. Hell, just looking at the mission map shows how things are going. The tide of war is constantly ebbing and flowing, and this gives players something to come back for.

Leveling also has a tonne of options. The battlepass (both free and premium) have myriad options for how you can spend your currency. It’s also not too hard to earn this in game. The progression here is great, but each level up to 20 also has new strategems (strategic drops) to unlock, so you’re never left behind in terms of having options.

Speaking of the Battlepass, it also seems like it’ll be permanent, so you won’t have FOMO by coming into the game late. For all intents and purposes this has all the hallmarks of the live service model people hate, but because it’s all done with the player-first mindset, people are ok with it. This is how live service should actually be. It’s not trying to squeeze your wallet dry by hitting with you Skinner Box dopamine traps and limited events to trigger people’s compulsions. It’s just sheer, good fun and the player numbers prove that.

There’s a ‘movie-like’ feel to the missions too. Whilst the objects repeat and the maps are pretty small, they have the signs of tight, action-packed scenes. Everyone will have a different “oh I get it” experience here, but for me it was cresting the hill on a flaming planet and just seeing a huge bug nest, filled to the brim with baddies. As they started coming toward me, napalm started dropping from a squad mate, and the nest turned into a sea of fire. These epic scenes happen quickly and often, so the action never gets stale.

Helldivers 2 shouldn’t work in the current era, but it does because they made smart decisions about the live service model instead of trying to make a service that will try and offer you mobile-esque in-game purchases. Ironically, this has actually caused some of my friends to spend extra on the game, and has encouraged people to participate in the ongoing war struggles. Butts on seats, if you will.

This is an extremely tight experience. Missions feel epic, and as you go up through the difficulty both the rewards feel worthwhile and you really feel like it’s a war that you’re taking part in. There have been myriad server issues due to the fact the game is way more popular than they expected, but you know what? If you make a good game, people will play it. Every month for a while now has had a game in the zeitgeist and Helldivers is the flavour of the month. I think this will be a flavour that has lasting appeal for quite a while, so maybe it’s time you took your first bite.

Helldivers 2 Review Box

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