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The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

‘Helldivers 2’ brings life to live service games

Photo courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment
“Helldivers 2,” released Feb. 8, is a third-person, co-op action shooter developed by Arrowhead Game Studios. “Helldivers 2” is the first new live-service game in quite some time that not only comes with content that is fun and engaging but also respects the player’s time and money.

When I played my first match of “Helldivers 2,” it was with a squad of friends, and it was a disaster.

We dropped into a hot zone full of Termanids, “Helldivers 2’s” alien bugs, and we got slaughtered,spawning in over and over again, only to get ruthlessly cut down each time. By the time we finally completed the mission, our adrenaline was through the roof as we were fighting for our lives to escape and fight another day. It was one of the most stressful and action-packed experiences I’ve had in a video game in a long while.

After this experience, we proceeded to play for hours afterward.

“Helldivers 2,” released Feb. 8, is a third-person, cooperative action shooter developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game is a sequel to “Helldivers,” a top-down shooter released March 3, 2015.

“Helldivers 2” has the player take the role of a helldiver, a space soldier in charge of spreading “managed democracy” across the solar system in the name of Super Earth. To do this, the player teams up with three other players to defeat Terminids and the Automaton Collective with various weapons and tools.

The first thing that stands out about “Helldivers 2” is its tone. This game is a science fiction satire reminiscent of the film “Starship Troopers.” It’s very over the top with its humor, with political advertisements teaching the player about “doing their part of spreading managed democracy.” 

Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment

The humor is so baked into this game’s identity, and it is glorious, especially when you get into the gameplay. The player’s character will randomly start screaming about how much they love Super Earth and how “freedom never sleeps.” It is some of the funniest writing and worldbuilding I have seen in any game, and the way “Helldivers 2” uses it to justify its gameplay is genius.

The gameplay loop of “Helldivers 2” involves going to a planet that is being invaded, completing all the objectives and extracting the players out of the mission to fight another day. Although it sounds simple, the enjoyment comes with how no two games are ever the same.

The first example is the enemy variety. There are two races of enemies the player fights. There are the Terminids, which are giant bugs, and the Automaton Collective, which are killer robots. The way the game introduces the player to these enemies is hilarious and horrifying, as each of them presents their own challenges and gameplay scenarios.

For example, the Terminids tend to swarm and outnumber the player, typically leading to defeat. However, the Automaton Collective is much more defensive with its metal armor and automated turrets, causing the player to struggle to infiltrate the defenses.

The Bile Titan is a large Terminid players face while spreading managed democracy. While intimidating, a well-timed orbital strike will make quick work of them. (GIF by Ian Young; Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Due to these challenges, the player is given a wide range of weapons and tools to deal with these enemies. The player can switch out different primary and secondary weapons, grenades and armor and call in a large support weapon to deal with bigger targets. There are also options for different orbital strikes, air strikes, supply drops and more.

This range in difficulty and freedom of weaponry the player encounters is invigorating. It leads to a much more engaging playthrough, especially if played with friends. Even though there is the option to play alone or with other random players, this game is best enjoyed with a full squad of friends in a voice call.

When looking at the modern landscape of gaming, two words scare gamers above anything else: live service.

A live service game refers to when a video game publisher plans to continue providing new content that is sold to the player at incremental rates. While this doesn’t sound bad on paper, in practice, live service games have become a plague in the industry, leading to situations of companies underdelivering their games while over-monetizing them.

Airstrikes are a staple in “Helldivers 2,” as they can help give some breathing room or completely level anything in their way. (GIF by Ian Young; Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Games like “Anthem,” “Overwatch 2,” “Redfall” and, more recently, “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” all practice the “games as a service” model, and they all suffer because of it. What especially sucks is that all of the studios who have made these games are known for making far better single-player games.

“Helldivers 2” is the first new live service game in quite some time that not only comes with content that is fun and engaging but also respects the player’s time and money.

While other live service games take a long time to unlock cosmetic and gameplay upgrades, “Helldivers 2” allows the player to swiftly unlock nearly every item in the game if missions are completed to their full extent. The game also allows the player to unlock the game’s premium currency, war bonds, for free and spend it on premium items you would normally pay real money for in other games.

To put the icing on the cake, “Helldivers 2” is $40 and doesn’t sell microtransactions over $20. It’s such a breath of fresh air, and it’s monetization that doesn’t feel like it is squeezing the player out of all their money. Instead, it’s reasonably priced and can all be earned in-game without spending extra money.

At the end of every mission, players must hold out for extraction while fighting off one last wave of enemies. (GIF by Ian Young; Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)

“Helldivers 2” is a rare modern multiplayer game that does almost everything right. It gives the player a ton of freedom, feels fantastic to play and has a smart progression system that doesn’t nickel and dime the player or rely too much on a paid battle pass. All the while, it manages to keep its missions fresh by introducing a ton of enemies, modifiers and objectives. This game is an incredible time and brings life to a service model that has been killing multiplayer games for years.

About the Contributor
Ian Young
Ian Young, Staff Writer
Ian Young, sophomore journalism major, was a Staff Writer for the 2022-2023 academic year. Young joined The Shield in Fall 2021.  Young enjoys listening to music, playing video games and making his colleagues laugh. Young’s favorite show is “Breaking Bad” because of the writing, cinematography and the memes made from it.  “The Shield is one of the best organizations on campus to work as it allows me to express my voice and the voice of the USI community,” Young said. “This is paired with the incredible people who work here who apply themselves to their work and make this organization a fun and safe place to work and have fun.”