Helldivers Review: Cooperative Play You Can’t Put Down

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The galactic team based top-down action shooter offering an addictive cross-platform gameplay experience across the PS4, PS3 and PS Vita has arrived in the form of Helldivers from developer Arrowhead Game Studios.

Set in a procedurally generated universe, player take up arms as Helldivers sworn to protect Super Earth from the three enemy species within the galaxy. After a brief training sequence players are thrust into the action where the experience becomes increasingly hard to put down.

At first glance it is clear Arrowhead Studios was not looking to win a beauty contest with Helldivers as the game is all substance with an interesting art design choice. While Helldivers has decent visual appeal, you truly could care less about the superficial once you’ve braved the Cancri System, home of the Bugs, tackled the turmoltuous terrain of the Gellert Region, the Cyborg homeworld or championed the Prometheus System, the Illuminate homeworld. To be honest, though we have laid waste to thousands of enemies from all three systems, there are still more planets to be conquered.

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After over 27 hours of gameplay and counting, Helldivers has raced near the top of my cooperative play excitement meter, and for obvious reasons. Though simple in its presentation, Helldivers is anything but simple. Starting out you are tasked with completing planetary objectives ranging from capturing areas, activating S.A.M site or retrieving black boxes. As the tempo builds, Helldivers will be charged with destroying Bug nests, destroying cyborg AA’s to activating truth transmitters and more. Ultimately, you are a planet liberator and you will love it…especially while playing alongside your fellow Helldivers.

Starship Troopers Meets The Guardians of Destiny

Tearing through bugs in the Cancri System waiting to be evacuated to safety has a strong reminiscent vide of Starship Troopers as these bugs can get nasty. Helldivers borrows quite well from other popular game influences and cinema. For example, Helldivers have the appearance of Guardians from Destiny – through gameplay progression player rank is increased with the addition of acquiring new gear such as helmets, torso clothing and stylish capes for your male or female Helldiver combatant. Like Destiny where players can orbit space in their non-playable spacecrafts, before coordinating their next planet destination, Helldivers also come with a rather sizable spacecraft outfitted with service men who await your questioning for intel, an armory codex which contains your player profile, weapons, strategems and perks. The spacecraft also contains a dedicated encyclopedia which overviews tactical maneuvering, a field manual, along with enemy insight and behavior. In addition, your ships two main areas of engagement: the Galactic Campaign table, ala Mass Effect and Warframe – where players decide which enemy system and then planet they will begin to liberate. The second area is called the Multiplayer section of the ship where players can begin matchmaking with fellow Helldivers already in heat of the action.

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Helldivers are assigned a primary and secondary (sidearm) weapon, in addition to strategems which are additional weaponary and battlefield resources you must radio in. Like the Helldivers who enter pods just before being quickly released down to the planets surface, strategems come in hot the same way, so you better get out the way or else. Adding to your list of strategems, before going into battle players can determine which strategems they want to equip. Also, the liberation of planets grants players new strategems and thankfully this is not the luck of the draw. The new strategem is displayed near the unliberated planet as a dangling carrot of enticement.

The cooperative play shines in Helldivers and the execution of cross-platform co-op play is brilliant. I’ve yet to find a random copperative game where all four players are playing on the same platform. I’ve come across game sessions where I was on the PS4 and two others were on their Vita’s while the other was enjoying our romp on their PS3, or I was playing the game from the Vita and the other three players were on the PS4. The only difference of playing the game from the various Playstation platforms I found was in the graphics department. On the Vita playing in the snowy terrain Helldivers don’t leave footprints, while the PS4 does. Small differences yet highly insignificant when you’re having a blast working together with your buds.

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Helldivers is an exceptionally deadly game peppered with reality awesome sauce. Friendly fire is always on, there is no automatic reload (you must do it yourself), if a Helldivers needs to check their map that player stops moving to looks down at their forearms digital map display. Once a player is wounded he can still fire his or her sidearm before their fellow Helldiver picks them up. If a player is standing under a pod when it is quickly racing to the surface of the planet they will die. Strategems are also very dangerous. Throw out an airdropped anti-personnel mines drop and you and your teammates better steer clear of the mines once they are scattered about, the same goes for your trusty mini-gun turret. If you are in the line of its fire as it detects the enemy, you better quickly take cover. Playing Helldivers is not about getting the most kills, it about working together for a common goal. Regardless of you player rank if your team liberates a planet you share in the glory and the spoils.

Coordinating which strategems each Helldiver should equip, choosing where to be dropped on the planet, to working with your team as you comb the map looking for those important ‘samples’, all while sharing ammo, constantly being aware of your teammates positioning when aiming your weapon, becomes a thrilling good time each time your pod is released.

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Helldivers is great! Whether you pay the regular price or take advantage of the PS Plus discount, once you sink your teeth into this struggle for liberation, the buddy involvement will captivate. Cross-platform cooperative play works as advertised. Though you will not be singing its graphical praises, you really wont notice. Helldivers team based eco-system is refreshing, promoting a level of teamwork and communication not seen from many of today’s big budget console shooters.

If you’re looking for a co-op shooter demanding of a team-based approach, Helldivers is that game.

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