Helldivers 2 review: Brutal bug brilliance

Jessica Filby
Helldivers 2 promotional image

Ten years after its predecessor, Helldivers 2 is finally here, bringing chaos and destruction to players’ screens – but does it live up to the original, or perhaps even surpass it?

Helldivers 2 has large shoes to fill after the success of the original. That game garnered a passionate community behind its top-down chaotic shooter with unforgettable multiplayer experiences. Sequels, especially ones that make major changes to design and perspective, are usually received with a touch of skepticism behind them.

That’s what Helldivers 2 does too, changing the overhead perspective to a more traditional third-person action game. This pushes Helldivers 2 under a microscope, as Arrowhead Games have messed significantly with a formula that worked. 

Nevertheless, Helldivers 2 has dropped and brings with it key alterations, all while paying homage to its predecessor. But does it hold up and match any prior expectations?

Helldivers 2: Key Details

  • Price: $39.99 / £34.99 / €39.99
  • Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
  • Release Date: 8 February 2024
  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC

A shooter in the most tactical form

In any shooter, having a good variety of weapons is instrumental. Thankfully, Helldivers 2 has exactly that. It’s awash with shotguns, pistols, machine guns, railguns, and anti-tank weapons galore. That variety isn’t its defining trait though – it’s what they provide that sets this experience apart.

Using a plethora of grenades, guns, and unforgettable Stratagems is arguably one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. It heightens the action and ramps up the destruction to soaring heights, providing all the satisfying shooter gameplay many are attracted to.

The Stratagems themselves are a game-changer, using a classic code system, reminiscent of cheat codes of old, to summon ariel strikes, robot dogs, sentries, and powerful weapons. While they’re certainly useful elements, such an addition provided an innate sense of power while still feeling tactical due to the different options and slower timing of their release and reactivation. Despite the risk, few things were as satisfying as watching an Orbital Precision Strike blow up countless bugs in one go.

Vulnerable yet indestructible

Helldivers 2 stratagems

Thanks to the cocktail of weapons, enemies, planets, Strategems, and challenges, the battles of Helldivers 2 are frankly just a load of fun.

After playing ten games in a row, I was still eager to jump into each mission refreshed and ready to battle in the name of democracy – even if the fight ahead was tough. No matter the situation though, each mission felt challenging yet rewarding, and the consequential level-ups, unlocks, and cosmetic rewards keep you feeling powerful yet vulnerable. It’s a delicate knife’s edge which is vital for a game like this.

That vulnerability is an extremely interesting notion. In other shooters, it’s easy to feel infallible with quick respawns and no explanation as to why you keep getting back up again. In Helldivers 2, that’s explained. It almost feels realistic as well as increasingly tactical, especially during an intense battle where putting in the respawn code to bring someone back is no easy activity.

Collaboration is key. It makes for a thrilling experience every time you jump onto a new planet whether that’s enjoying one of the many game modes, exploring the secondary missions, or just letting loose on a few bug nests.

However, while exploring is enticing, it’s tough to fully enjoy the world given to the players thanks to the always present timer reminding you to get the main objective done so you can exfil. It’s understandable to place a limit on an adventure, but it’s hard to ignore how freeing it would be to simply wander these new planets destroying everything you wanted to, then watch as they get increasingly liberated thanks to your work.

Community-coded chaos

Helldivers liberated planet

As you go through missions and battle enemies, your chosen planet gets liberated for every player, giving the entire multiplayer experience a strong community focus. It feels like you’re contributing to a living universe, rather than just your own.

In fact, just like the original Helldivers, this experience is filled with collaboration, some well-thought-out teamwork, and breadth to enjoy the game as you see fit. The entire experience just feels fantastically community-coded and promotes a positive atmosphere in every battle you take part in, especially when you succeed in missions.

Those successful missions feel all the more rewarding as a group, with respawns feeling fast, tactical, and efficient – so no player gets left out of the game for too long. That is unless you run out of respawns and have to wait two minutes to drop back into the action.

That said it works perfectly for single players too, allowing you to quickly jump back into the action without missing out on any content. Most challenges end in success too, leaving you wanting more.

Straight out of an epic movie

Helldivers 2 battle

The multiplayer aspect adds thrilling energy to general gameplay, and the game’s missions are a ton of fun to take part in. That’s only exaggerated by the epic visuals engrossing each planet, bug, robot, and explosion.

No matter where you drop or what you choose to explore, there’s something new to check out and each planet feels epic in scope, even if you can’t explore every inch of the world around you. When you do find a nest of insects or a base of robots, the battle commences and the chaos begins to unfold.

Everywhere you look there are explosions, bullets, bug goo, and enough chaos. Exactly the kind of environment you’ll be craving as you spread democracy across the universe. Combine that with the music that feels straight out of Star Wars and you’re out there feeling like a badass superhero with some seriously satisfying weapons at your disposal.

Crippled by loading screens

In a multiplayer online game like Helldivers 2, servers are imperative. Any issues can result in a considerable amount of frustration and ultimately stop the game in its tracks. Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s been happening with Helldivers 2. We experienced multiple disconnects, quickplay problems, and a considerable amount of waiting times when trying to load into games.

Naturally, this will likely be fixed by Arrowhead Games. However, it does impede gameplay and can be relatively frustrating, especially when the problems result in a loss of rewards, XP, or more.

The Verdict – 4/5

Thanks to chaotic battles, a variety of gameplay styles, and an epic environment, Helldivers 2 is the perfect amount of brutal satisfaction. While it may be let down by server issues and slower wait times at launch, this multiplayer shooter is a guaranteed laugh and brings with it all the enjoyable nature of just blasting a few bugs into oblivion – for democracy of course.

If you click on a product link on this page we may earn a small affiliate commission.

Sign up to Dexerto for free and receive:
Fewer Ads|Dark Mode|Deals in Gaming, TV and Movies, and Tech