Helldivers isn’t the prettiest game on PS3 or PS4 and it looks smeared on Vita. Put graphics aside and you have yourself one of the best four player co-op games ever made.
A key component of Helldivers is that friendly fire is always on, and the catch is there’s no setting to turn it off. Friendly fire in this game surprisingly doesn’t hinder the experience, it actually strengthens it. While I have my index finger gently pressed on the right shoulder button to fire my weapon, I’m also acutely aware of my teammates at all times. To me this is special. I’ve never played a game that forced me to be so conscious of my entire surroundings, otherwise objectives and an entire mission can go to hell — pun intended. Helldivers learns from other great co-op games such as Left 4 Dead and has improved upon the formula and, for me, has redefined what a co-op game should be.
Guns obviously are present in the game, but there’s nothing special to them. They’re your typical arsenal of weaponry seen in any shooter. The same thing goes for perks (any Call of Duty player knows what that is), and loot called “samples” which are items found on the map that can be turned into “research points” (upgrade currency) at the end of a mission. What stands out in Helldivers’ gameplay are its “stratagems.” You use the d-pad to enter in what’s essentially a cheat code to call down items from ammo packs to an exo suit. These can be saviors to help finish off a mission or killers depending on where you place it upon activation.
What bothers me with Helldivers is how uncertain it is to be able to join a muliplayer match. Say you want to join a match with three people in it, the room becomes full the second you try to enter or there’s a connection problem. This forced me many times to play solo, which creates an entirely different game. It becomes less co-op guns blazing to stealth action. A neat part of the game’s overall package that it has to offer, but is the lesser game of the two halves.
When I first heard about Helldivers last year, I thought it looked frustrating. That’s where it deceived me and maybe even you. I can’t begin to tell you how many times its friendly fire mechanic sent me to my death by losing focus for a split second by accidentally — there’s a stat actually called “accidentals” — walking in my teammates’ line of fire and using your own stratagems to then be squished by it a few seconds later. My personal favorite moment came when I dropped into an active multiplayer match and literally crash landed on top of my entire party, automatically failing the mission. Moments like these are absurd yet hysterical.
All in all, that’s Helldivers.