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Helldivers Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Arrowhead Game Studios
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
March 3, 2015

When people say various forms of gameplay are “outdated” or “archaic,” claiming new technology has supplanted such mechanics with superior systems, I point to games like Helldivers . In my estimation, there’s plenty more that could be done with the likes of side-scrolling and turn-based mechanics; in the case of Arrowhead’s great game, we’re talking about an old-school top-down, ceaseless action game that is indeed reminiscent of yesteryear. And yet, given the sheer amount of depth offered by procedurally generated environments and a persistent online universe, it’s a compelling and addictive blend of old and new.

As a game that puts an intense focus on challenging gameplay, you might think it sacrifices visual quality. And while it won’t turn any heads and it won’t earn any awards for photorealistic imagery, this is a wonderfully presented production. Granted, “procedurally generated” doesn’t necessarily translate to endless variety; in my experience, it just means more of the same, only in slightly different locations. That holds true here but there’s still plenty of variety on these alien worlds, and this is combined with great special effects and some impressive, meticulous artistry and detailing. It also flows exceedingly well, despite all the insanity that can occur on the screen.

The sound matches up nicely with the graphics, giving us a complete, technically sound experience. The soundtrack consists of some surprisingly impressive pieces, although you don’t often hear them due to the often hectic nature of the gameplay. Still, even if you are inundated with baddies, you will appreciate the stellar combat effects, which make a headset doubly worthwhile (you’ll want one to talk to your buddies, too). There isn’t much in the way of voice performances or narration but I doubt anyone will call the sound in this game generic or uninspired. The developers go that extra mile with both the visuals and the audio, proving that smaller digital titles can be treated with just as much care.

Okay, so forget about the story. There is one, of course, and it actually mirrors some real-world politics here and there, but you’ll be spending 99.9 percent of your time playing and micromanaging. It’s like Destiny went into a top-down format and added about a million more enemies. It’s like an MMO mixed with an old-fashioned twin-stick shooter system. The plot, which involves a Super Earth attempting to spread “managed democracy” throughout the galaxy, is often tongue-in-cheek, as it gleans its amusing humor from franchises like “Starship Troopers.” And you’ll be going up against three different races in your constant battle: Nasty-looking alien bugs, the highly advanced Illuminati, and the cyborgs (humans with metal grafted in).

As is typically the case with persistent-world adventures, the stories you create are the ones you’ll remember. They won’t revolve around characters and plot; rather, they’ll center on your latest harrowing quest. Maybe you just barely escaped with your skins intact; maybe it was a colossal failure due to the inanity of a particularly useless teammate. Either way, the main story quickly takes a back seat and you’re left with a hugely robust, wildly entertaining action game. It’s a twin-stick shooter, which is a relatively simple and accessible format, but there’s much more beneath the surface. Yeah, this isn’t like a fancier version of Smash TV or something like that. It’s an epic, tireless cosmic war that demands vigilance and dedication.

You can view everything from the War Theater, which is on the console of your ship. The Theater is split into three sections and those sections are further broken down into smaller areas; you can conquer these and earn valuable Community and Experience Points. Completing missions nets you Points and you’ll need them for new skills and equipment. Such advancements are critical because once you’ve nabbed the smaller sectors, you have to take on the enemy on its home turf. This means traveling to the home of the bugs, for instance, and trying to conquer the entire planet…it ain’t easy, and only the most accomplished Helldivers will be able to complete the uber-difficult mission.