That’s it, that is my one and only Starship Troopers reference. I want to make loads more, but I will resist. Why? Well this is essentially Starship Troopers the game, or at least a game heavily influenced by it. That is what we call a wonderful thing. So…would you like to know more?
That’s it, done now. Helldivers is essentially a brutally hard, top down twin stick shooter at its core. You, as one of the Helldivers, must protect Super Earth from alien bug scum, so that the ideals of our way of life, freedom, democracy, etc can be spread to those lowly lifeforces that are human!
To be honest, the story and the setting isn’t exactly original, but boy does it have some standout moments, that at times will leave you with a massive grin across your face, this is a very self aware game and it plays to that perfectly.
It isn’t the story or the writing that you come for though, it is the tough and testing gameplay that really helps this stand out from the crowd.
The opening tutorial is generic and slightly dull, as it teaches you the basics of movement, combat and how to call in the all important drops (which I’ll come to in a moment). So far it is all same old, same old. But then it lets you loose.
After getting a galaxy overview map, similar to what you may see in the Mass Effect games, you choose an area to play, enter that area and get going…well, not before finding others to join in with you and earning that spinning cape trophy…because why the hell not.
Now Helldivers would have been a fantastic game based off the core gameplay mechanics alone, the controls are finely tuned and it feels very satisfying moving through each level and engaging in combat. It would have been fine with that, but the developers decided to step things up a little by adding full on friendly fire and a little more to make it that much harder.
In most games with co-op features like this, the idea of friendly fire is a nightmare and often turned off by default, but in Helldivers it is a central part of why the game is so bloody good. Of why you embrace its difficulty and learn to love it.
Enemies aren’t always easy to take down, which often leads to you and your team needing to work together on one enemy, or split across numerous enemies and whilst this is nothing new as such, the fact that your mate going to town on one enemy could see him getting in your way, or trying to shoot through you means you really need to think about how you attack.
You can be revived but losing one man can make things even harder and when you lose one player, others will quickly follow. So you need to be completely aware of what is happening around you and most important of all, you must communicate. Let others know what you are about to do, do that and you might just survive.
It’s not just friendly fire from your team-mates’ weapons you need to worry about and it isn’t only the clever AI that will try and work together to destroy you. No it is your Strategems too. These are drops that are designed to help you in battle
At any moment in the game you can call in a supply or weapon drop via a series of key presses, these drops come from above and if you happen to be in the way…DEAD. One of the drops is a turret which picks up on movement; even if you called for it, you can still be hit and killed. Luckily there is a dive to ground button which will see you safe from the bullets should you be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what about these Strategems? Whilst the idea of calling for upgrades, weapons, health, etc in a game isn’t new, it is the mechanic used here that really impresses. You press a button to start a drop, then you see your option with a series of directional inputs next to them.
So for example you want to call in an ammunition refill, you press the call button and then enter the code up, left, right, up, up, down. That will confirm the Strategem and in it drops. Initially I did wonder if this was a silly gimmick and a bit of a convoluted solution to a problem that never existed, but it soon becomes second nature and you start to learn the codes, meaning you rarely need to actually look at what you are calling for and those precious seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
All the weapons, your character and even the Strategems are fully upgradable throughout the game, which once again adds a level of tactical thinking to how you play, what sort of combat style suits you best, which weapons should you upgrade, that sort of thing and it all works really, really well.
In the last year or so, gamers have seen a lot of games with promise fail to deliver, but in Helldivers you have a game that has not only delivered, but delivered in a box made of solid gold. It is an utterly joyful experience where you embrace the difficulty and beg for more.