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Helldivers 2


Release Date

ESRB Rating




Bob Hoose

Game Review

Helldivers 2 is an über-popular third-person shooter that’s taking the online gaming world by storm. In fact, gaming industry sources have reported that as of this writing, this recently launched title has sold more than 8 million copies, and it’s also smashed records for all-time highest player count on online servers. 

So, what’s the draw? Well, this game features a combination of cinematic art design and an emphasis on tactical teamplay, paired with tongue-in-cheek satire and ticking-clock strategy.

First of all, there’s no solo story mode to play through here. Helldivers 2 is comprised of a series of increasingly difficult co-op missions on large expansive maps of alien worlds. That said, you are still making your way through a story together with others.  

The game ushers you into a satirical, sci-fi universe where a powerful empire, Super Earth, is sending out destructive armies and weaponry to spread “democracy” across the galaxy. (“You will meet and immediately kill all kinds of exotic life forms for the glory of mankind,” one spokesperson for the government announces proudly.)

Everything tends to lean very heavily into the jingoistic winking humor of director Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 cinematic satire, Starship Troopers. The game liberally sprinkles in tropes from other recognizable movies as well. And with its engaging art design, there are times when it feels like some of the game’s scenes were actually choreographed or lifted directly from one sci-fi pic or another.

In this setting, you aren’t a super soldier or Master Chief. Your role is that of a hapless young nobody who’s been handed a powerful weapon and then sent out to deal with swarming hordes of giant, alien bugs (Terminids) or various Terminator-like cyborgs (Automatons). Each mission against these two factions of baddies has several difficulty levels and various time limits in which it must be accomplished.

For example, you might choose to find and transmit research data, which carries a 40-minute timer for exploration and enemy battle. There’s a 12-minute mission that involves finding and defeating an Automaton fabricator. Or you could opt for a ten-minute mission focused on destroying a specific number of Terminids. (There are, of course, scores of others.)

Your choices will be based on the number in your team; the types of weapons you currently can access; your current character level (which impacts your available weapons and armor); and just how swarmingly tough a battle you want to wade into.

Players can call in new weapons and ammo from their ship (including special tools such as an auto-turret) or order up a destructive airstrike on swarms of foes. The various assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, energy weapons and explosive guns that gamers can unlock all unleash their own unique destruction on the many armored bugs, tanks and thick-skinned creatures that players face.

Each mission ends with an “Evac” period in which players or teams must fend off a flood of remaining foes while awaiting extraction. And if their character is killed in battle, they have a limited number of respawns that will allow them to retrieve their weapons and continue on.

As noted, but worth saying again, this is online-only game. You can play solo or with up to three friends. Players can set up missions with their own group of friends or join in with random groups.


There is a leveling up aspect to Helldivers 2, but the game doesn’t feel “grinding” in its play. Instead, the weapons and armor available fit the challenges on hand. And the missions have a very quick, film scene-like quality about them. Teamplay feels fluid and fast without being overwhelming for new players.

Because of each mission’s ticking clock, gaming can be limited to shorter bite-sized chunks, if you choose. And every mission has its own adrenaline-pumping moments. The winking humor of the game works without being obnoxious or overstaying its welcome.


Frenetic, trigger-pulling combat is constant here. And that means messy, guts-spewing carnage is simply an unavoidable part of the play. Laser cannons, futuristic shotguns, flamethrowers, electric arc rifles, machine guns, antitank missiles and many other weapons are part of your arsenal.

Not only are gamers using myriad different weapons to goopily splatter and eviscerate enemies, but they themselves will get splattered repeatedly as well. The creatures you face can sometimes be an overwhelming flood of hacking, razor-sharp pincers and gun-blazing doom.

And then there’s the friendly fire. Rifle blasts from any direction, for instance, can bring a teammate down, as can detonated bombs and airstrikes. (During one mission I played, for instance, a team member was crushed by the incoming evacuation aircraft just seconds before the end of the mission.)

Let me also remind you of this: Even though Helldivers 2 is game you have to purchase, it still packs in microtransactions in the way that many “free” games do these days. Players can play on free battle passes, but paid passes offer perks. And real-world currency can also be used to unlock weapons and armor more quickly—which could be a temptation for undisciplined players who are looking for instant gratification.

Solo play is, theoretically, possible; but can be extremely difficult and generally more frantically panicked than fun. This is a game designed with co-op play in mind. And some swarming missions are quite literally impossible without someone at your back.

Finally, though Helldivers 2 has been out for more than a month, the game still has some glitches that some will deal with, from overtaxed servers to game dropouts.


It’s not hard to see why so many critics and fans have dubbed Helldivers 2 the next great online shooter. It definitely features some stand-and-salute charms. That said, this hit game remains drenched in visceral trigger-pulling brutality and bug-guts-oozing moments, too.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.