Helldivers 2 – Cloud Gaming Review

Spreading democracy like butter, while taking a sip of your liber-tea.

Freedom, Justice, The American Decay

PlayStation Studios has started their splash into more multiplayer/live service games with Arrowhead Game Studio’s Helldivers 2 available on PlayStation 5 and Steam – and playable in the cloud on Boosteroid via the (not officially sanctioned) “Install” catalog of games. It’s also available on services like Shadow PC.

The original Helldivers was a compact, top down, procedurally generated action. Helldivers 2 throws away the top down perspective in favour of a 3rd person view, along with a massive graphical overhaul. This independent game studio spent over 8 years in the development oven, and now the bread is ready for players to feast on. Is this tongue in cheek, online co-op shooter worth spreading the butter of democracy on? Let’s helldive in and talk about terminating alien bugs with your best pals to save humanity. 

What’s The Story Morning Glory?

Terminds (alien bugs) and Automatons (scary robots) have run amuck in the galaxy, taking over Super Earth colonies scattered across the galaxy. It’s up to you to defend democracy, liberty and the capitalist human ways of living from extinction. Signing up to become a Helldiver quite literally places you into the forces of hell on different planets to exterminate bugs and robots. This isn’t a typical PlayStation Studios story though… the narrative is more of a side dish to the gameplay. The story doesn’t directly unravel as you play, rather it presents itself to you through computer logs or notes left behind by previous inhabitants of the planets. They are completely optional to read, which means the story is completely optional to enjoy.  What is at the forefront of the story, is how awesome democracy is. Throughout your time playing, you’ll get a good sense of the driving force for these soldiers, and what’s at stake, through their fun quips “How about a nice cup of LIBER-TEA.” The intro/tutorial also sets the stage for a fun and endless romp, killing freedom hating enemies across the lands. The reality is, most of the meat on the bone comes from the gameplay and multiplayer fun.

Gunnin’ Gameplay

At a first glance, players will see a very familiar looking title and might even wonder what makes this title worth the price of entry. The original Helldivers, while fun in its own right, felt compact, and limited to what could fit on your small overhead view. You may have been overrun by bugs, you knew what was behind you, and the square field of vision could only get so full. It felt like an indie game. In Helldivers 2, the perspective is expanded to 3rd person. This changes the scope of the game drastically. After finishing the tutorial, it was clear to me that this already felt like a triple A multiplayer gaming experience at a fraction of the price. The game plays cleanly and care has clearly been put in by the developers to make sure players feel confident with the control scheme before jumping into a hellpod for a mission.

Players control a destroyer ship and are able to name it and customize it at a base level. This is more fun in the naming of it than anything else, and travelling to other ships to join multiplayer games always made me chuckle with the clever pre generated ship names people combined. The single player game ends with the tutorial, and gameplay centres around a multiplayer co-op experience. 

It’s important to note here that if you are looking for an online solo game to play, Helldivers 2 would not be my first experience. The bulk of the fun comes with playing with friends. I’ll explain…

A typical gameplay loop for a Helldivers 2 player has them arriving on a ship, gathering around a wartable, picking a mission, and discussing complimentary load outs for the 2-4 person squad. Playing alone completely eliminates the team based strategizing which is a massive part of the tactical fun (although playing single player is an option if you so choose). After loading out, players pick a place to land and complete the objective. Each mission comes with either a 40 minute, 12 minute, or defend-the-objective-until-it’s-safe time limit. As you play, you have main objectives to finish before you are able to extract to safety. There are also secondary objectives, and random little goodies scattered around the map to entice to you explore a bit more.

Loadouts come in the form of weapons, and “strategems.” The weapons available to you are a pistol and a long gun (like a machine gun, rifle, or shotgun). For the most part, these are very basic tools to get the job done. What is a bit surprising is that, as a live service game, it doesn’t lean into weapon variety and min/maxing stat lines. You want a shotgun? Here, this is the one you get. No worries about upgrading. Just have fun with it.

On the other side of the spectrum, strategems are what make each mission and team composition unique. Strategems are abilities your soldier has at their disposal to help turn the tide of battle. They are unlockable abilities that are purchased with earned in game currency and level combinations. A player can have 4 of these loaded per match in any combo. There are many different types like defensive, supportive, and tactical approaches. One strategem will bring a more powerful weapon down for the player but another will call in an aerial bombing attack to control the hoardes of alien bugs coming to attack the player. These all have cooldowns that force players to consider when the best time to use them will be in the game. It also becomes a discussion with your squad when determining what each person should equip and for what kind of mission each strategem will be best suited. The best part about this is your build can change every round you play, or you can decide to stay consistent. It really leaves gamers the ability to play however they want. 

Further, there’s also armour, abilities, and aesthetic looks to play with in Helldivers 2. It can really be overwhelming, but the tutorial simplifies the actual gameplay for players and allows for an easy set in. The rest is just butter on a really delicious piece of bread (I’m really feeling the bread metaphor. Sorry, not sorry). 

Audio is cut from the video, but here’s a quick clip of what gameplay looks like online in a full squad…

Popping Presentation

It needs to be said again that this game is not a full priced title. This is impressive for many reasons. The game looks beautiful. Textures are varied, and overall, the game runs smoothly. The narrative points in the beginning is an easy hook for players to become interested in the game, but the gameplay is frenetic and strategic enough to keep players locked and loaded in. The optional, click of a button in game map is great to have, and the loadout screens all feel clean. Nothing gets overly complicated in Helldivers 2; casual and core gamers can both enjoy the presentation points Arrowhead has provided. 

The music; though repetitive, fits the tone of the game epically. With blaring notes, players triumphantly win their missions and emote and pose in a victory formation. The theme of the game rings in my head now constantly. It really is a catchy tune. 

THE BUGS HAVE INFILTRATED THE SERVERS!

Me trying to play on my PlayStation Portal. When the game runs, it runs flawlessly on the Portal! Cloud Gaming Greatness!

While the game itself is an amazingly fun time, a specific note has to be made to the current state of the servers. As of 10 days after launch, I still have frequent connectivity issues. Arrowhead Game Studio has been working tirelessly to keep up with the high demand of players, but unfortunately I’ve had about a 50% success rate logging in. Some days it’s as if nothing is wrong, but other days I have to just accept that I won’t be able to log in to play Helldivers 2. Even when I do log in, there’s a good chance the experience and currency I’ve earned in each mission won’t be available until a day or two later.

That being said, server issues are usually sorted out sooner rather than later, so this will not apply in the weeks/months ahead.

Should You Helldive In?

There isn’t much to be said about Helldivers 2 other than extremely positive things. If you’re looking for mindless fun, that is surprisingly deep, look no further. It’s one of those rare games where you stop mid play session and realize you’ve been grinning ear to ear for longer than you can keep track of. Even with the bugs plaguing the launch, it’s clear that defending democracy is a runaway hit in Helldivers 2. 

Helldivers 2

Reviewed by Joe Rino @ImprojoeGaming

Helldivers 2 Cloud Gaming Review
Gameplay
Presentation
Performance
Fun Factor
Value

Summary

Helldivers 2 is a nearly perfect live service multiplayer co-op shooter. It’s a ton of fun with friends, provides a comfortable challenge for casual gamers while still having the option to crank up the difficulty for core gamers. Servers are incredibly overloaded at launch, making it difficult to actually play the game at times which hurts the performance and fun factor of the title. But other than the game being too successful to handle itself, Helldivers 2 is absolutely worth any gamer that enjoys third person shooters’ time.

4.5

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Joe Rino

My Name is Joe Rino and I’m a Drama Teacher Gamer. I love a good video game that also helps me learn and grow with the characters. Storytelling, Gameplay, Action, and good times with friends are super important to me from a video game and life perspective! Let’s play!

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