PC Games

Published on February 18th, 2024 | by Marc Rigg

Helldivers 2 PC Review

Helldivers 2 PC Review Marc Rigg

Summary: A fun, action packed, interstellar space romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously.



‘Democracy simulator’, ‘Robot Vietnam’, and ‘Starship Troopers simulator’. These are just a couple of the ways I’ve seen Helldiver’s 2 described lately, and all three are pretty damn accurate, in the best possible way.

Developed by Arrowhead Game Studios, Helldivers 2 is a sci-fi, co-op third-person shooter that sees the Helldivers, a barely defined military unit of Super Earth (yes, really) spreading freedom and democracy throughout the galaxy.


If you’re picking up on some subtle hints that Helldivers 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously, then you’d be right. Tongues are buried firmly in cheeks, so much so that they’re in danger of tunneling out of the other side. As mentioned in the opening of this review, Starship Troopers is a very big influence on Arrowhead Studios and Helldivers 2, with their marketing material paraphrasing a lot of the famous lines from the first movie.

The concept of the game is similar to that of the movie. ‘There are some bugs (and robots) in space, and they’re coming after our planets, go kill them all’, about sums it up. This takes the form of an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter. You drop onto a planet within the vicinity of a mission objection, at a place of your choosing and complete various tasks before calling for extraction and leaving. This makes it sound like a lot of extraction shooters on the market, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair to call it that.

Extraction shooters tend to have a heavy emphasis on finding loot, and anything found is lost upon death. Helldivers 2’s mission structure is almost entirely opposite to this. There is loot to be found in the missions, it’s even lost on death. Where it differs though, is that death doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a mission, and anything dropped can be reclaimed.

A team has a set number of respawns per mission based on the number of members. When someone dies, a new soldier for them to pilot can be drop-podded onto the battlefield and resume play. It’s a surprisingly effective mechanic that allows for mistakes and some hilariously unintentional gameplay. On more than one occasion I’ve seen a respawning player land their drop pod on someone else, killing them in the process. This kind of emergent comedy is central to Helldivers 2 narrative and gameplay.

Missions have on the surface at least, a decent amount of variety. However, when examined a little more closely, it’s mostly a superficial difference. Almost every mission can be boiled down to going to a place and either destroying a thing, defending a thing, or killing a thing. The ‘thing’ in question can differ, sometimes it’s defending an ICBM while it prepares for launch or sometimes it’s defending a player while they’re uploading data, but the core gameplay is the same.

Where things get mixed up a little are the enemies themselves. The two enemy factions, Terminids and Automatons are quite different both visually and how they’re encountered. Terminids are a race of bugs, not dissimilar to the Tyranids of Warhammer 40k, but in name and how they look. Being animals, they tend to make a b-line for players and don’t stop until there’s none left. Using melee attacks and close-range charges for the most part, with a few variants that shoot acid from a relative distance by comparison.

The Automatons are very different, most of them have guns which adds managing a foe at range into the mix, which can be surprisingly difficult to accomplish at first. Keeping your distance is no longer a guarantee of staying alive. Missions on Automaton planets have a distinctly different feel to them, despite a lot of them having the same objectives. They feel a lot more oppressive and there’s a vibe of the future war scenes from Terminator 2.

Missions are presented in as a Galactic War, a system that’s eerily similar to the galaxy map from the Mass Effect games. Numerous planets are scattered around the map, each with a meter showing how liberated from the alien menace it is as a percentage. If that percentage is anything other than 100, it can be landed on, and missions undertaken.

It’s a constant tug-of-war between players and the AI to control the galaxy. It’s a neat concept that should easily allow for new content to be slotted in over time. The only downside to it is that once a planet has been liberated, it can’t be revisited anymore. At least not yet, the player base hasn’t lost a planet yet so it’s difficult to say whether or not that will change.

The moment-to-moment gameplay is fairly standard folly for a third-person shooter. Where it stands out is the stratagems system. At the start of each mission, all players can pick from whatever stratagems they’ve unlocked and use them in the field. These range from extra heavy weapons to orbital bombardments, and deployable turrets.

Only a limited number can be taken, and the pool is somewhat shared between everyone. You can only call in your stratagems, but they share a global cooldown, meaning that if two players have the same one once it’s used it’s locked out for everyone until the cooldown is reset.

It’s occasionally annoying not having something available that you need, (mainly the resupply stratagem which gives everyone access to more ammo), but it’s probably the right call to maintain balance.

So, it’s pretty great on a gameplay level, fun, often hilarious and there’s plenty of content to engage with. Where it starts to fall apart a little though, is the nature in which it’s shipped. You see, Helldivers 2 is a live service game and as such, is always online. If the servers are down, you can’t play, and since launch, it’s had a whole host of server-related issues.

Logging in can be difficult, especially during NA primetime. Helldivers 2 has become somewhat of a hit, frequently having over 200,000 players online. This is great, both for the health of the game and for Arrowhead, but you get the feeling they were a little unprepared for the success.

This has gotten better as time has progressed, I haven’t found myself waiting to get into the game anywhere near as much in the last few days, but what hasn’t gotten better, are the matchmaking issues.

Matchmaking is completely broken at the time of writing. Getting into a match can take anything from seconds to upwards of ten minutes, if not longer. A certain failure to join error message becoming ubiquitous at this point.

Arrowhead is patching the game regularly and has addressed a lot of the issues so far, up until a few days ago crashes to desktop were frequent. Thankfully now they seem to have been all but eliminated, at least for me. I have no doubt matchmaking will be fixed, and probably sooner rather than later, but it’s unacceptable for it to be as broken as it is at launch.

A vocal minority have been calling the game pay to win, due to the premium battle pass having seemingly more powerful weapons in it. I don’t feel like this is the case though. I’ve unlocked a few of the said weapons and didn’t notice much difference, and most people I managed to play with didn’t seem to use them at all, and we generally still came out on top of a mission. It’s possible that unlocks from higher tiers may change the balance somewhat, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m not convinced.

For the most part, Helldivers 2 runs well. I was able to max all settings at 1440p and get between 80 and 90 fps for the most part at native resolution. There are upscaling options, but honestly, unless you absolutely need them to maintain a decent framerate, I wouldn’t bother with them at the moment. It doesn’t explicitly say what upscaler is being used, but it’s believed to be FSR1. As a result of this, the image is very soft and blurry and there are visual artifacts, even when using the ultra-quality preset.

When everything comes together, Helldivers 2 can look quite striking. Weather hammers the planets and the visuals generated by the constant explosions can be a site to behold. When things calm down though, and the landscape is less cluttered, it can be less flattering. Distant objects use very low LOD models, there’s a lot of aliasing and generally doesn’t look great. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often.

Final Thoughts?

Helldivers 2 is a lot of fun, assuming you can get into a match to actually play it with other people. If you’re not interested in the co-op aspect of the game, then it might be a tough sell. You can technically play solo, while still being online, but there are no bots to assist, and the difficulty curve is largely designed to be tackled by multiple people. I can’t guarantee the game would be anywhere near as enjoyable played like this.

If you can put up with the current issues and don’t mind another live service game, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Helldivers 2 and it’s very easy to recommend.

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