Helldivers 2 Offers an Amazing Cooperative Multiplayer Shooter Experience

Helldivers 2 is the latest game to rocket to success. Seemingly in the time it took for a muzzle flash to follow the discharge of a freedom-loving MP-98 Knight SMG, it gained millions of players engaging the enemies of humanity on all fronts. And because cross-play is enabled, even within squads you can have a mix of PlayStation 5 and PC players through Steam working together to support Helldiver 2’s so-called Managed Democracy. On the Steam charts, it usurped the also amazing Palworld as the number one best-selling game there, and also topped the charts for PlayStation 5 players.

There is good reason for its success. Whereas the original Helldivers was a competent twin-stick shooter, Helldivers 2 offers a fully third-person interface that is every bit as good as most standalone, single player shooters. I was sure that it was running on the Unreal Engine 5, but apparently the developers used an obscure Swedish graphics engine that was discontinued in 2018 to make the title. However, they heavily modified it to the point where it presents a really good-looking environment for nearly any planet you end up fighting on, while also offering smooth performance, even when being swarmed by enemies, which happens a lot. For PC players, you will need a pretty powerful machine to enable all the bells and whistles, with the specs on Steam recommending a Core i7 level processor with a modern graphics card. PlayStation 5 players should, of course, have no trouble as Sony is the publisher for Helldivers 2, and it was made natively for the PlayStation 5 console.

The biggest hook for Helldivers 2 is, of course, the cooperative multiplayer. We don’t get good co-op games very often, and the emphasis on squads fighting together makes the title lean into that even more than something like Destiny with its shared world where everyone nonetheless kind of acts independently outside of a raid. While you can take on missions by yourself in Helldivers 2, doing so is extremely difficult. Plus, in my experience, working with a squad and trying to accomplish some pretty difficult objectives together is not only much easier, but also a lot more fun. And thankfully, the title does a good job of matching players up with other squad members that have similar experience levels to place into difficulty-appropriate missions. You are also free to manually pick where you want to go and fight if you choose.

The plot of Helldivers 2 is kind of silly in an over-the-top, patriotic kind of way. It basically mirrors the Starship Troopers movie where people who serve in the military are granted super-citizenship status in a hyper-patriotic world where democracy looks an awful lot like fascism. But it is such a parody of that kind of environment that it’s almost comical, just like the movie. Even one of the main enemies of humanity, the bugs which are called Terminids, look like they were pulled from the extras pool of a Starship Troopers flick.

There are actually two main enemy groups in Helldivers 2, the aforementioned bug-like Terminids and an army of terminator-looking robots called Automations. Both enemies seem to be fighting on different fronts, and players can choose which ones they go after and which missions to take on. Personally, I found the Terminids missions to be more fun and also a bit easier since the bugs don’t have guns and generally just try and swarm you, something that a good squad can normally counter if everyone is working together and doing their part. Fighting the Automations requires a little more strategy, and I dare say a bit more skill.

In addition to the standard weapons that you would find in other games like machine guns, pistols, grenades and things like that, you also have access to really powerful powers called Stratagems which can be used at will, but with sometimes long cooldowns. The Stratagems are normally deployed from orbit via a massive star-destroyer. Stratagems can do things like trigger orbital strikes, send down pods of more ammo, equip your entire squad with heavy weapons and things like that. They can really turn the tide in a battle, especially if a squad communicates and uses them effectively.

Regarding that star destroyer that is sending down the Stratagems, every single player is issued one right after basic training. Yes, that is right, you are made the captain of a massive destroyer with a full crew and plenty of heavy weapons. You can pilot your destroyer to whatever theater of operations you want and take on missions anywhere in the galaxy. Sure, giving every grunt and new recruit access to a massive star destroyer is probably the most inefficient way possible to deliver a single soldier to battle, but it’s also pretty darn cool. And like your character, you can upgrade your ship with new capabilities and modules to make it even more powerful, and to allow it to provide even better support for you in combat. You can even name your ship by combining titles from a series of choices. I christened my destroyer the Knight of Starlight, because it kind of rhymes.

When selecting what mission or even what theater of war to fight in, the scale of the universe of Helldivers 2 becomes readily apparent. Looking at the galaxy map, you will see reports of hundreds of thousands of players fighting battles on multiple planets. And when you warp into a new area to fight, you will briefly see all of the other destroyers parked in orbit. From there you can choose an individual mission which can be something like escorting civilians to safety, pacifying a strategic area, defending territory against a counterattack or quite a few other choices. You can pick one and launch the fight, or you can choose the quickplay option which will have Helldivers 2 put you with a squad that has similar experience levels. I had great luck with that option, and almost always selected it. Once selected, you load yourself into a giant battleship-like shell and get shot down to the planet, hence the name of the title, since that process is accurately named a hell dive for sure.

While not required, voice chat is highly recommended when inside a mission. That will let your squad mates talk with one another, relaying vital information like “bugs are coming in from the West side” or requests like “can someone send down a support Stratagem because I am almost out of ammo?” Again, I don’t know if I got incredibly lucky, but I was almost always paired up with a great squad. Most of the time they were in pretty good spirits too. When I almost fragged one of my squad mates with grenades (friendly fire is always on) during a massive bug attack, they just laughed it off and said “Easy, Tex, I think you got them!” I am sure it’s possible to get grouped up with a bad squad too, but generally, I found the Helldiver 2 community to be really supportive. And it seems natural to quickly form a sort of brotherhood among fellow squad members who are outgunned and outnumbered far behind enemy lines, which probably helps to push the cooperative nature of the game.

Once most missions are complete, there is an extraction scene where you need to hold a landing pad for a few minutes to wait for a shuttle while the enemy swarms your position to try and stop you. That is a great way to end an epic mission, and we often had some great firefights during those extractions, punctuated by orbital strikes and other Stratagems getting called down in rapid-fire session as we gave it all we had to try and survive.

Helldivers 2 is one of the best cooperative shooters to release in years. And now that most of the post-launch server capacity problems have been resolved, access to the new universe of amazing cooperative-oriented combat is pretty seamless. Given the massive scale of the game, the number of players defending democracy and how fun the missions are, it’s a safe bet that Helldivers 2 has a long road ahead of it as the quintessential cooperative shooter for a long time to come.

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