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“Helldivers” Review


In 1997, writer and motivational speaker Richard Carlson released his now wildly popular self-help book Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff. But I really wish the good people at Arrowhead Game Studios had never read that book because it’s actually the small stuff that ruins their new game, the arcade-style, top-down, sci-fi shooter Helldivers (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Vita).

Helldivers 01

Set nearly seventy years from now,

Helldivers tasks you with invading enemy planets so you can set up automatic defensives, take over points of strategic importance, and complete other tasks that largely involve you shooting anything that moves.

Like most games of this kind, Helldivers has you runnin’ with the left thumbstick and gunnin’ with the right one. But while many top-down shooters fire automatically, this has you pulling the trigger to shoot. This, unto itself is not a problem, nor is it uncommon (though I will admit I prefer the former, which lets me go all Rambo). No, the problem lies in the fact that your ammo is seriously limited. Granted, you can call in supply drops (which I’ll get to in a moment), or you can be more precise with your shots (though that’s easier said than done), but either way it’s still rare, and thus frustrating, that you begin a mission with enough ammo to complete it.

As for those aforementioned ammo drops? Well, they certainly do help. As do the auto turrets, aerial strikes, and other helpful items you can have delivered. Except that when you want to ask for something, you have to punch in code using the D-pad, which makes this feels like busy work. It also doesn’t help that the arrow icons for these codes are small and light grey, so they often blend in with the background, while the icons for the kinds of drops available are also small, which makes it hard to distinguish the aerial strikes one from the reinforcements, especially during a firefight.

But what’s really frustrating about the shooting in Helldivers is that you have to manually reload your guns; your soldier doesn’t automatically do it when you run out of bullets…y’know, like in almost every other shooter, top-down or otherwise. And yes, it is something that many people will get used to doing. But during the heat of battle, I still often found myself pulling the trigger three or four times before I remembered to reload.

Which is why I appreciate that, when you get shot in Helldivers, you don’t always die. Instead, you’re just injured, and fall to the ground much like you did when you got hurt in the Gears Of War games and in the multiplayer modes of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare and its sequels. And while you can be recovered by a teammate if you’re playing co-op, you can also jam on the “X” button to patch yourself up. You can even crawl around, or use your pistol to take out any nearby enemies before healing yourself.

You can also avoid being shot by ducking. Well, sort of. While hitting the square button will make your soldier drop like they’re going to give you twenty, your enemies can still hurt you. Granted, you can crawl away, but since you can’t shoot from that position (unlike, oddly, when you’re lying on the ground, hurt), it really only works if you duck behind something.

Helldivers 02

Along with all the shooting,

Helldivers also has a strategic macro game. As you complete missions, this contributes to the status of the war for everyone playing. Which is an interesting idea that gives this game a much grander feel. Though, I must admit, as someone who doesn’t play well with others, I found myself wishing other people’s progress had no impact on my game.

Helldivers also has a really, really annoying map problem: You can’t see the map while you’re moving around. You can pull it up to see where you need to go, but you can’t move while looking at it, nor can you shoot, or even set any waypoints. As a result, it can be really irritating when you’ve completed your objective and are trying to figure out where the extraction point is located while enemies are shooting at you.

The people behind Helldivers also made a mistake common in games that can be play solo or with friends: You can’t pause your game if you’re playing alone, even if you set the online, uh, settings to “private.”

Helldivers is also wildly inconsistent in its difficulty. While the planets’ difficulty designations range from really easy to really hard, with multiple levels in between, the difficulty sometimes varies greatly on the same planet. For instance, on the third world I visited, the landing area seemed to be located in the middle of an alien party to which everyone RSVPed, while the second mission on that same planet had no enemies coming to see me off when I was waiting for the shuttle to pick me up.

While all of these problems apply whether you go it alone or with friends, playing Helldivers co-op manages to have its own unique issue: You can’t disable friendly fire when playing with other people. Which gets really tiresome after a while, given how people usually play these kinds of games with a “spray it, don’t aim it” kind of approach.

As for how the different editions of Helldivers compare, while the Vita version uses the back touchscreen instead of R1 and L2 to reload and throw grenades, respectfully, and the front one to run — and yes, this is as counter-intuitive as you might imagine — the game otherwise works the same as the PS4 and PS3 editions. They even look the same, though that isn’t saying much since the graphics aren’t especially detailed, while the character and environment designs are rather pedestrian.

Helldivers 03

On their own,

none of the aforementioned problems with Helldivers would’ve been deal breakers. But collectively, they turn should’ve been a fun and frantic shooter into something rather tiresome, and ultimately a lot more frustrating than fun. Which, Richard Carlson be damned, is what happens when you don’t sweat the small stuff.

SCORE: 3.5/10



16 replies on ““Helldivers” Review”

I think it is unfair to call the games design choices flaws. Having to watch where you shoot, not mindlessly shooting in every direction possible, and conserving ammo are parts of what set this game apart from the industinguishable mash of twin-stick shooters.

Not being able to distinguish between supplies, strikes etc.? The have different colors, both when they drop from orbit and as icons when you open your radio.

Ducking is not used to avoid enemy fire, but to avoid getting hit by friendy turrets.

Really, most of the review seems like you didn’t give the game a chance, or you didn’t like that the didn’t do everything for you. If you want your hand to be held you picked up the wrong game.

Okay, I get your point, but you missed some of mine.

“Having to watch where you shoot, not mindlessly shooting in every direction possible, and conserving ammo are parts of what set this game apart from the industinguishable mash of twin-stick shooters.” I get your point, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

“Not being able to distinguish between supplies, strikes etc.? The have different colors, both when they drop from orbit and as icons when you open your radio.” I wasn’t talking about after the supplies have dropped but when you are selecting them. It was then that they were hard to distinguish from each other.

“Really, most of the review seems like you didn’t give the game a chance…” Oh, but I did. Spent the whole weekend giving it a chance. And long, frustrating weekend.

Play the game with a friend in local co-op and then re-review it. It’s all about coordinated strategies and making shots count. Once you have a decent squad synergy the game becomes frantic do-or-die suicide mission after suicide mission and it feels really epic.

I agree it is better co-op, but a lot of my problems with it still stand. Plus there’s the whole friendly fire thing, which I think is interesting but wish you had the option to turn it off.

You can move with the map up.
You can select your drop zone.
Friendly fire always on was part of the niche gameplay. It is supposed to be difficult.

The only complaints i have are no key rebinds. And i would have liked to see death animations instead of just disappearing into dust when you kill enemies.

You can’t move with the map up. I tried.

You can select your drop zone, that is true, but then you still have to make your way to your objective or, if you land near the objective, to the extraction point.

And yes, I get that the game is supposed to be difficult. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is how the difficulty is inconsistent; how on an “easy” planet it can be easy but it might also be really hard or super easy.

Hope this blog doesn’t go towards the games actual review score could patch In a easy mode or somethin

Ugh. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with the game being hard. I didn’t say I had a problem with the game being hard. I have a problem with how the game’s difficulty is inconsistent; how you can land on an “easy” planet in the middle of a hard battle, or how another mission on that same planet be so devoid of enemies that there’s no challenge at all.

I really wish people would read this review before commenting.

This is becoming a trend for Phony! Poor reviews are gonna hurt them bad. Next up is BloodBoring. Watch and see!

LMAO! What a sad excuse of a review! Waaaaah! It’s too hard for me! Waaaaah! Reloading is not automatic! Waaaaaaaaaah! Grow some f**kin’ balls! Pathetic!

Maybe you should read the review again. I didn’t say the game was too hard, I said the game’s difficulty was inconsistent. And that its inconsistency and the annoying lack of auto-reloading were two of many problems I had with the game.

Come back when you have a legitimate complaint.

Well, then you’ll probably like it more than I did. Enjoy!

Oh, but the problem isn’t that it’s difficult, but that it goes from difficult to easy without rhyme or reason.

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