Helldivers 2 Review – Stepping stones to victory

Reviewed February 19, 2024 on PC




February 8, 2024


Sony Interactive Entertainment


Arrowhead Game Studios

Becoming gaming’s latest online sensation, Helldivers 2 is an instant success story. Releasing from Swedish developer Arrowhead Game Studios, this sequel evolves on the ideas outlined in the original, turning a loved IP into something with more mass appeal without losing its edge. This Starship Troopers-inspired shooter embraces the chaos of cooperative gaming and delivers everything you’d want from a live service game, except for stable servers.

The game’s tutorial and opening cutscene set the tone perfectly. A satirical take on American patriotism that values capitalist ideology over people’s livesthere’s so much cheeky fun Helldivers 2 is able to convey. Reinforcing that style with loading screen tooltips, in-world documentation, and gameplay tomfoolery simply strengthens that tonal identity. It’s a game that lets you live out that ludicrous power fantasy of carving through threats with your bullets, reigning down mortar strikes from above, and high-fiving for democracy over the carcasses of your fallen comrades. Providing aggressive catharsis whilst also making fun of it makes for a brilliant duality. 

The general gameplay loop involves dropping down onto a planet’s surface to fight back against an insectoid (or robotic) force alongside 3 other players. Bullets are your diplomacy as you move across the planet’s surface, complete side objectives, slaughter never-ending waves of enemies, and utilise all the tools in your arsenal to survive. Helldivers 2 isn’t a super easy game. Tactics are needed as your squad plots a path from point of interest to point of interest, communication is required to coordinate the best plan-of-attack, and choices have to be made as to what goals are worth pursuing and which need to be ignored in order to successfully extract in time and alive.

“Bullets are your diplomacy as you… slaughter never-ending waves of enemies and utilise all the tools in your arsenal to survive.”

At times it can feel like a fairly generic third-person shooter, but it’s those strategic choices and communication elements that help set the game apart. Having a good team is crucial, which is why playing with friends is always optimal. However, I’ve had great times simply teaming up with random people online as well. This is particularly impressive because Helldivers 2 doesn’t shy away from potential griefing threats like friendly fire. Yet, it’s the engaging gameplay and cooperative elements that encourage harmonious play. Well… harmonious enough.

The game’s shooting mechanics feel satisfying. The visual and auditory feedback given on bullet impact is second only to the visceral feel of explosive mines and airstrikes. This leads to very engaging moment-to-moment gameplay, though, admittedly, I do find myself wishing the movement felt equally as compelling. The game is perhaps by design somewhat sluggish when it comes to traversal, but it does leave you yearning for more fluidity when the most acrobatic thing your character can do is awkwardly flop forward in a swan dive.

Missions are somewhat generic in nature, such as ‘kill the eggs’ or ‘destroy the nests’, though they are also varied and enjoyable enough to leave little impact on the frivolities. Not to mention, most objectives are optional, meaning you’re never funneled into circumstances you don’t find fun. 

Where gameplay differs from other third-person shooters is in the game’s strategems. These are unlockable tools you can equip at the start of a mission and will range from weapon drops to sentries, mortar strikes to jetpacks. These strategems combine with your weapon choices to create your arsenal of attack and can be deployed on a cooldown by inputting a series of commands much like an old-school cheat code. It’s a really interesting layer of required player skill to quickly tap out the string of keys required to issue a command before being overrun by foes. At some stage of play, muscle memory will kick in for your more commonly used strategems, rewarding those with sharp memories, quick fingers, and fast-decision making skills. 

“It’s a really interesting layer of required player skill to quickly tap out the string of keys required to issue a command before being overrun by foes.”

Helldivers 2 is a live service game, meaning you’re always connected to an online server and playing through a series of theoretically never-ending content drops. The game will be remembered as a really fantastic example of this model, with progress feeling meaningful and achievable, and online functionality feeling connective rather than unnecessary. I like seeing the global efforts of the other players in achieving our shared goals. I enjoy how seamless and easy it is to connect to other players globally regardless of platform. I appreciate seeing how other players tackle given situations, learning and collaborating as I play.

Notably, the game avoids a lot of the worst trappings of the microtransaction or live service economy. Whilst non-cosmetic things like new weapons or strategems can be unlocked and purchased, it never feels unfair or unsatisfying. Refusing to succumb to greed, Arrowhead Game Studios have made a product with longevity, and one that’s perhaps collapsing slightly under the weight of its own success.

It’s undeniable that Helldivers 2 has been subject to server issues amongst other online errors. During my playtime, I’ve witnessed missions not granting experience, server instability and downtime, menus not responding to my inputs, and other peculiarities. There’s a certain leeway granted to new online games when it comes to server issues, especially ones made by smaller studios, but nearing 2 weeks from release and there still appears to be very little stability. It’s unfortunate and at times a little disappointing, but ultimately a minor blip in what I have no doubt will eventually be a tremendous legacy.




  • Amusingly satirical tone
  • Satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay
  • Incredible cooperative and crossplay functionality
  • Strategems add a charming layer of additional depth
  • A great live service model


  • Some movement sluggishness
  • Continued server instability

Helldivers 2 proves a basic ideology: create something special and the players will come. Built on a foundation of cheeky satire and visceral gunplay, this cooperative shooter is engaging, charming, dynamic, and at no point feels greedy or unnecessary. It’s live service done right, with appropriate progression and a feeling of global connection as you fight toward a shared goal. Server issues still impact this game’s release and they aren’t insignificant, yet they are still a mere minor inconvenience when compared to Helldivers 2’s many triumphs.