There are three things that Arrowhead game studios seem to exalt:
- Cooperative, action multiplayer
- Satirical humour
- Friendly – fucking – fire
On average, I accidentally shot my companion in the back once every mission. And considering that the mission times range between five and twenty minutes, that’s a lot allied blood on my hands.
Helldivers is an isometric, top-down, cooperative multiplayer shooter from the same people who made Magicka. You play a freedom soldier of Super Earth travelling the galaxy spreading “managed democracy”, and defending the good people of Super Earth from alien doom-bringers.
Armed to the teeth with guns, grenades and strategic-armaments called Stratagems, you launch yourself down to a planet, complete a series of missions in a small area, spread the freedom, and then signal your ship to come pick you up. The missions might include destroying a nest of bugs or a cyborg fortress; sweeping an area for mines; initiating a SAM s or just capturing a point.
There are dozens of weapons and power-ups to choose from, each of them actually different (not just the same 3 guns with slightly different stats). Before launching yourself, you can choose your load-out of Stratagems which can include a special weapon drop, ammo-resuply, aerial strike or even a turret. You only have limited slots for Strategems, but as long as you have the one that drops down a copy of your recently deceased ally (whether by your hands or an alien’s), you should be ok.
There’s no story campaign so to speak. Instead you’re a small part of a galactic campaign against three enemy races. Every mission your successfully complete adds points to the region. Get enough points and the region is conquered and then everyone moves onto the next region.
I found this surprisingly immersive, the acknowledgement that I am one of millions of “Helldivers”, just a grunt fulfilling my duty. You don’t play the hero or the saviour of the universe. “Cannon-fodder” would be a more appropriate word for what you are. This ties in well with the overall satire of the game. I would be surprised if the game wasn’t inspired by the movie, Starship Troopers. Once you start reading the lore, the overall “fascist utopia” nature of Super Earth starts to bleed through.
But you shouldn’t care … because spreading freedom and democracy is really fun. Killing bugs by the dozens as they charge over the landscape towards you is incredibly satisfying. Then suddenly, your friend is knocked down and you frantically shoot your way over to them to help them up. But you don’t get there in time as they are torn apart by cyborgs. You then have to run away while even more frantically trying and defend yourself while punching the buttons to call another clone down. And then all is saved as the dropship impacts with a whole group of aliens and your ally waltzes out already shooting.
Helldivers is a new take on fairly old genre. Alien Swarm did it before, but Helldivers adds enough of its own flavour to be original. The use of Stratagems and the collaborative campaign set it apart from other action shoots of this style.
This is a very well-polished game which plays smoothly. It does what it’s trying to do very well. The only bugs I came across were immediately shot in the head.
Helldivers is a great game for picking up and putting down. The easy missions don’t go for more than ten minutes and you’re still contributing to the galactic effort. It’s also a great party game because nothing renegotiates friendships like the ability to shoot the only friend you have in the back.
|Helldivers is currently available on Steam for US$19.99 and the Playstation Store for AU$29.95
|The next review in about 4 weeks will be on Contrast