Year:  2024

Director:  Arrowhead Game Studios

Rated:  MA

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Running time: Ongoing live service game

Worth: $17.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

… an experience that leans harder into the concept of sheer fun than any other live service experience in recent memory.

In 1997, mad Dutch director Paul Verhoeven unleashed the satirical sci-fi epic Starship Troopers on a slack-jawed audience who were too busy reading Harry Potter or necking pingers (probably) to understand the pure cinematic masterpiece that was presented to them. In the years since release, it has found a deserved cult audience who applaud the anarchic sense of humour, spectacular battle scenes and subversive social commentary. It’s an endlessly quotable, hectic spitfire of a flick and well worth your time.

And Helldivers 2? Is basically if someone said “hey, let’s make Starship Troopers a game” and then bunged in some Terminator as well. And a bit of Warhammer 40K. It’s a whole thing.

Helldivers 2 is the story of Super-Earth’s forever war with the forces that fear our right-thinking human democracy and insist on resisting our militaristic advances. At time of writing, our brave and heroic soldiers are fighting two flavours of evil: the wretched Terminids (big, nasty bugs) and the vicious Automatons (stroppy robotic wankers).

To succeed in their battles, players command vessels full of grunts who they deploy all over the galaxy, outfitting them with weapons, armour and various stratagems that can be called down, like orbital strikes, laser drones, heavy weapons and auto turrets. Players will drop onto various planets in teams of up to four players and complete various objectives to slowly push back the advance of those who hate our managed democracy.

If this all sounds like a slight story to base a game on, you’re right. There’s not a lot of meat on these bones in terms of narrative direction. Where Helldivers 2 shines is in the gameplay and, goodness, how it shines. Helldivers 2 is one of those perfect, multiplayer co-op games that includes enough systems and emergent depth that you’ll end up having hilarious, violent fun almost every time you drop down to a planet.

The gameplay is fast and frenetic, but there’s also oodles of strategy to be aware of. Friendly fire is on at all times, so you can’t just blast unthinkingly, and the difficulty, particularly at higher levels, requires you and your team’s full attention. The result is an experience that leans harder into the concept of sheer fun than any other live service experience in recent memory. After the drudgery of Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, the predatory cash shop of Diablo IV and the diminishing returns of any number of recent GaaS titles, this can’t help but feel downright revelatory. With a cash shop where the transactions are genuinely micro and a lower starting price because it’s a multiplayer game … What a pleasant blast from the past.

Not everything is explosions and freedom, mind you. Due to the game’s unexpectedly stratospheric success, the servers are copping a beating and actually getting into the damn game can be a bit of a challenge. Also, some of the higher level Automaton fights are tuned so savagely, they cross the line of enjoyment and become a bit of a slog (which is reflected in most players taking on the Terminids instead). But this is pretty typical early release stuff, which is being patched as we speak, and doesn’t detract from those spectacular, chaotic and utterly deranged moments you’ve probably seen shared all over social media.

Put simply, Helldivers 2 is a blast. Simple, enjoyable, utterly addictive fun that will have you laughing your arse off even when you’re getting butchered by something with mandibles the size of the local RSL, and with more charm and character than any of the AAA live service games in recent memory. It’s also proof, if you needed it, that prioritising a good time for players can actually lead to financial success. Hopefully the larger devs the world over are paying attention.

And trust us, when it comes to Helldivers 2, you want to know more.