Helldivers 2 key art

Helldivers 2 PS5 Review: The Perfect Live Service Launch

Arrowhead Studios’s newest game, the bug-stomping and robot-slaying action title Helldivers 2, is finally here. The game’s predecessor was released over nine years ago, and the newest installment is a massive improvement. From the glorious visuals of combat to the engrossing gameplay loop, Helldivers 2 is a strong entry for 2024 and one that I will be diving into over and over again for a long time to come. It is a fantastic game that I highly recommend fans of the original and newcomers should experience.

“While it may seem simplistic, the game’s narrative as a whole works well, utilizing its satirical concepts to drive home its off-kilter sense of humor.”

Helldivers 2 takes place in a satirical universe where humans on Super Earth are overly patriotic. When the threats of the Automaton robots and Terminids bug species threaten the only democracy that matters, players step into the shoes of Helldivers, citizens who vow to fight for Super Earth and everything it stands for.

While it may seem simplistic, the game’s narrative as a whole works well, utilizing its satirical concepts to drive home its off-kilter sense of humor. Instances like how becoming a Helldiver will promise glory and make you a martyr, only to see you swamped by flesh-eating bugs in a matter of minutes, to the various over-the-top in-game newscasts spewing nonsensical rhetoric, provide much of the context to Helldivers 2’s story, as well as it’s Starship Troopers-inspired brand of humor.

Helldivers 2 opening cinematic
In-game screenshot

Of course, it’s not entirely surface level, and I was often compelled to wonder just how the human race has continued to exist in a universe this ridiculous. However, the narrative is hardly the game’s bread-and-butter, so for those wanting a straight-up green-gore fest shooter, you needn’t worry about extrapolating the minutiae of Helldivers 2’s story.

“While constantly dropping down onto the planets to do missions may seem repetitive, Helldivers 2 features randomly generated mission landscapes and enemies that keep each instance fresh and you on your toes.”

In Helldivers 2, players on both PlayStation and PC work to take complete control of planets before more are unlocked. You can jump down onto any of the currently unliberated planets with up to 3 other friends and complete a series of primary and secondary objectives. The more you do, the more the planet becomes liberated for everyone around the world. That shared goal alone has me striving to play, as witnessing the thousands of other players descending onto bug-ridden planets from my ship is honestly a little inspiring.

While constantly dropping down onto the planets to do missions may seem repetitive, Helldivers 2 features randomly generated mission landscapes and enemies that keep each instance fresh and you on your toes. Completing missions rewards players with requisitions and medals, and you can also find different varieties of samples throughout. All of these currencies go towards upgrading you and your ships.

Helldivers 2 Ship mod screen
In-game screenshot

You can purchase new stratagems, which are ostensibly abilities that players can call down from their ship, ranging from orbital strikes to support weapons. You can also purchase passive buffs in the form of ship upgrades that increase the power of your stratagems. This level of progression, so inherently baked into the gameplay loop, makes Helldivers 2 all the more gripping and has me coming back for more each time.

“There’s simply nothing quite like fumbling to get your orbital bombardment ready as hordes of enemies appear over the horizon.”

Each weapon in Helldivers 2 feels unique, from revolvers being accurate and slow shooting to guns like SMGs and Assault Rifles proving incredibly effective at wiping out hordes of enemies from afar. The weighty feedback from each gun is effortlessly satisfying, especially when coupled with the explosively visceral visuals. The new third-person perspective adds a lot to Helldiver’s brand of combat, offering a more dynamic view of the action and making the endless waves of enemies all the more terrifying. You can also toggle into first-person view at any time, giving plenty of options to players.

In terms of exploration, the areas in each mission are relatively large. While you’ll spend the entire time running between locations and objectives, there are plenty of enemies and loot populating each environment, ensuring that action is always afoot. Additionally, the missions are consistently great and engaging. Players will be launching nukes, evacuating civilians, destroying outposts, and much more. As things are always changing, there is plenty of variety when it comes to what missions players will be dropping into.

Helldivers 2 explosion in game
In-game screenshot

A unique aspect of Helldivers 2’s gameplay is the quick-time-esque mechanic of entering a sequence of buttons when activating stratagems and terminals. This level of intractability with your environment and abilities is incredibly satisfying, owing to the increased involvement in the gameplay and the level of tension it adds. There’s simply nothing quite like fumbling to get your orbital bombardment ready as hordes of enemies appear over the horizon. However, even with great gameplay, there were a couple of things that needed slight improvements.

“I discovered a variety of bugs here and there including floating boxes, enemies being stretched after death, and a smattering of other visual inconsistencies.”

Unfortunately, while playing Helldivers 2, I experienced numerous network connection issues in public matchmaking. This is a shame, as the game is often best played with strangers, something that often feels altogether impossible. Of course, Arrowhead is working to patch in more server capacity to alleviate this issue. However, it is still a bummer for lone wolf players looking to conquer more complex missions with others, only to be met with issues when finding a squad.

Furthermore, I discovered a variety of bugs here and there including floating boxes, enemies being stretched after death, and a smattering of other visual inconsistencies. While they are minor occurrences, they will still bother players looking for a flawless experience and are hopefully something that can be fixed. Aside from the bugs, Helldivers 2 is both visually and audibly one of the best games I have played yet.

Helldivers 2 scenic
In-game screenshot

“Every firearm sounds unique in Helldivers 2, with punchy effects complimenting the already phenomenal feeling gunplay.”

Whether it is a snow-filled planet where my boots leave a trail to more temperate locales where the sun breaks through the thick atmospheric fog, Helldivers 2 looks stunning. I played in performance mode, which runs at 1080/60 fps, and experienced no frame drops or skips. Each time explosions went off in the game, I couldn’t help but stand in awe at how they looked. Seeing the destruction of the battlefield never gets old and has stuck with me since I booted up the game for the first time. Additionally, having the green, oozy guts of the bugs drench my suit is a fun touch that adds to Helldivers 2’s unique charm.

When it came to Helldivers 2’s sound design, I was equally as impressed. When my orbital shots were launched from my Destroyer in the sky, the earth-shuddering impact reverberated around me, completely immersing me in its palpable destruction. Additionally, every firearm sounds unique, with punchy effects complimenting the already phenomenal feeling gunplay. The voice acting is fantastic, making the banter between characters while fighting and the grunts while in ragdoll endlessly hilarious. An honorable mention goes to Yuri Lowenthal, who must have had just as much fun recording lines for it as I have playing it.

Helldivers 2 glitch in game
In-game screenshot

Regarding accessibility in Helldivers 2, there are a handful of options for players, but not many. Examples include variable subtitle modes for the hearing-impaired, text-to-speech, various text and vocal languages, and over nine different difficulty settings. Although titles in the past, such as Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, have provided great options, Helldivers 2 has a decent amount for those who need them. Still, it can improve upon it, including adding the choice of color blindness filters, as it is currently not in the game.

“It is abundantly clear that Arrowhead Studious has put a lot of hard work and dedication into Helldivers 2.”

I was shocked to see Helldivers 2 retail at USD$39.99 because of everything it offers at launch. Its replayability and ability to play with others create an almost endless experience. Additionally, all content updates going forward will be free and will only extend the game’s lifespan. The price is more than reasonable, especially with newer titles such as the much-maligned Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, costing anywhere from USD$79.99 up to $90 and offering much less content.

While there are microtransactions within the game, they are mostly cosmetic-based, with weapons being offered in the premium battle pass. However, the guns don’t provide any pay-to-win advantages as it isn’t a competitive game. Also, the currency to purchase the premium battle pass can be earned in-game by playing missions and earning it in the free battle pass. Lastly, none of the battle passes will expire, allowing you to progress through them at your own pace.

Helldivers 2 free battle pass page
In-game screenshot

It is abundantly clear that Arrowhead Studios has put a lot of hard work and dedication into Helldivers 2. From its always-changing gameplay loop, engrossing gameplay, fantastic progression system, stunning visuals, and immersive audio, Helldivers 2 provides potentially endless enjoyable content that’s fun both solo and with friends. While there are public matchmaking issues and some visual bugs, it’s never enough to detract from what is ultimately an incredibly quality experience. I hope to see many others on the battlefield and remember that the only good bug is a dead bug.

Helldivers 2 key art
Helldivers 2 Review
Summary
Helldivers 2 offers players a bountiful amount of rich and engaging content, from varied and exciting missions, to satisfying gunplay and engrossing progression systems. Whether you're killing bugs or robots, the game looks, runs, and sounds beautiful and marks a strong beginning for 2024. It represents exactly what a live-service title should be and stands higher than any in the genre. While some bugs and connectivity issues are present, do not let it stop you from experiencing one of the best shooters I have played in recent memory.
Pros
Satisfying gunplay
Varied missions
Engrossing progression system
Gorgeous visuals & immersive audio
Plenty of content at launch
Cons
Matchmaking connectivity issues
Minor visual bugs
8
Great