With a game of Helldivers going, shouts, curses, and laughter are never far behind. Arrowhead’s top-down shooter is coming to PS4, PS3, and PS Vita this Summer, bolstered by brutally difficult missions and gratifying multiplayer design. This is a game about outfitting an elite squad, dropping into procedurally-generated battlefields, and fighting to survive. The high level of challenge and the “always-on” friendly fire make victory all the sweeter.
But at a PlayStation event last week, I had more time to watch groups of four players (including Arrowhead’s own Designer Patrik Lasota) tackle the alien menace together. The results showcase just how smartly Helldivers has been put together, and how players must, must, work as a team.
For those that missed our original hands-on of Helldivers, the basics are easy to grasp for any passing fan of twin-stick shooters. Move with one stick, aim with the other. Each soldier in the squad had a default loadout of a primary weapon, sidearm, and grenades. There’s plenty of tactical options when building these loadouts, but doubly so when dealing with “strategems.”
These abilities allow each player to call in additional support from orbit, be it an ammo drop, auto turret placement, or even replacement troops for fallen friendlies. These strategems are activated by holding down L1 on DualShock 4, for example, and inputting a series of d-pad inputs. This demands additional precision and a palpable sense of calm when calling in urgent support during a heated firefight.
But watching players fight together through procedurally-generated environments (and mission objectives) and learning how to cope with the vicious enemies is its own special treat. Newcomers will inevitably kill their teammates with stray assault rifle fire or an ill-placed grenade, which — surprisingly — leads to a lot of laughs.
But then an instinctual sense of cooperation and survival begins to emerge, especially under the presence of strong leadership — like Lasota, who was ever present in battle. Players would begin to arrange in a line against incoming enemy waves, creating a powerful torrent of bullets concentrated in one direction. Players would rush to a downed friendly in the thick of battle to pull them up. Teams would arrange turrets and aerial bombardments along chokepoints. Anything and everything to stay alive and complete the next objective.
Arrowhead’s decision to keep friendly fire on at all times forces players to stick together, play carefully, and think about positioning. These necessities lead to more interesting battles, since players can’t kick back and shoot away with no concern for where they — or their teammates — are standing.
Helldivers employs rich strategy and requires constant cooperation. And fortunately, Arrowhead plans for cross play between the three versions, as well as any mix of online and local multiplayer.
Of course, even a well-coordinated team may still get obliterated by the enemy — Helldivers is no joke, after all. But being killed by a friendly supply pod drop is still too funny to get angry about. Feeling up to the challenge? Join the Helldivers community today.