Helldivers 2 guide: 7 tips and tricks I wish I knew before I got sent to the galactic front lines

Helldivers 2
(Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

Since its explosive launch on February 8, Helldivers 2 has won the hearts of countless gamers around the world, and I've fallen in love, too. The intense third-person PvE co-op shooter has some of the most thrilling teamwork-driven gameplay I've ever experienced, and its hilarious blend of Starship Troopers-esque satire with gritty sci-fi warfare reminiscent of the Terminator films ensures I'm either cracking up or feeling unbelievably cool at any given moment. 

The game's tutorial covers the basics for those donning their Helldiver cape for the first time, but there's a lot more you should know before you're shipped off to the galactic front lines. However, Helldivers 2 doesn't explain much outside of those brief "Brasch Tactics" clips that play on your ship's video monitor (pay attention to those), so many players end up dropping into missions without valuable knowledge that can save their life and help them achieve victory for Super Earth.

I've put nearly 50 hours into Helldivers 2 at this point, and have learned quite a bit since I first played last weekend. Thus, I've put together a quick list of seven essential tips, tricks, and mechanics I wish I knew about then in the hope that it'll help you start off your Helldiver career on the right foot.

You can aim down your weapon's sights

Aiming down your sights is particularly helpful on weapons like the R-63 Diligence DMR. (Image credit: Windows Central)

While Helldivers 2 emphasizes that you can aim down sights (ADS) when you drop in with a sniper rifle or call in an Anti-Materiel Rifle support weapon, it's important to note that this is something that can be done with every gun in the game. To toggle this first-person view, first begin aiming in third-person as you would normally and then press down on the middle mouse button (PC) or the right joystick (controller).

While you'll always want to fight in third-person at close range, using ADS is extremely helpful when you're trying to target weak spots at medium range or effectively hit enemies from far away. It's particularly valuable on the R-63 Diligence DMR weapon, but also comes in handy with assault rifles, the Expendable Anti-Tank and Recoilless Rifle rocket launchers, and the Autocannon.

Make sure to tweak your gun

Many weapons have adjustable scope zooms and fire rates, and some even have a flashlight you can tweak. (Image credit: Windows Central)

It took me way too long to realize this, but Helldivers 2 allows you to make several nifty adjustments to both regular and support weapons. Guns with optics on them can have their zoom tweaked to make them easier to use at longer ranges, and you'll often be able to raise or lower fire rates or change firing modes, too. Some weapons even have flashlights that can be switched on, off, or left on an auto setting that turns them on whenever you're in dark surroundings.

To do this, simply hold down the reload input to open up the adjustment menu for the weapon you're holding. It works just like Battlefield 2042's "plus system" and is just as intuitive, so you can easily make your desired tweaks as you play.

Scope adjustments are a must whenever you're taking potshots with an assault rifle or DMR, and toning down a machine gun's firing rate or switching a rifle to semi-auto or burst fire will both make their recoil easier to control and save on ammo. The latter becomes very important on harder difficulties, so try to be conservative as much as you can.

Run and gun with hipfire

You can hipfire with anything, including support weapons. In this situation, you'd want to hit the Charger with a rocket this way. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Knowing when to hold your ground and when to retreat and kite enemies back is important, especially when you're fighting hordes of Terminid bugs. Luckily, you can hipfire your weapons both in front of and behind you when you're doing the latter, which is extremely useful in situations where it would be inadvisable to slow down and go for the usual over-the-shoulder aim. 

You can do this with your primary and secondary weapons, as well as heavier ones like machine guns and rocket launchers. You won't get a reticle to guide your aim, sadly, but as long as you keep your target centered and use your bullet tracers to make adjustments, you shouldn't have too much trouble.

Target those weak spots

You can take out Automaton dropships by hitting one of their four thruster engines with an anti-armor rocket. (Image credit: Windows Central)

While using explosive armor-piercing support weapons like Expendable Anti-Tank launchers or the Recoilless Rifle is the best way to take out heavily armored targets, many of them can also be damaged effectively by hitting their weak spots with lighter types of attack like small arms fire and Autocannon shells. For Terminids, this means aiming at the flesh beneath their armored carapaces, while most Automaton units are weak to headshots or damage to the glowing yellow areas on their rear side.

Also, keep in mind that even if thickly armored Terminids like the Charger survive being hit with rockets, a significant portion of their armor will have cracked off. This exposes the skin underneath, which is vulnerable to rifle rounds and grenade shrapnel.

Another tip: you can one-shot Automaton dropships by hitting one of their four thruster engines with a rocket, which instantly destroys all the bot units it was about to drop onto the battlefield. Notably, this tactic is one of the only ways to beat Helldivers 2's new impossibly hard defense missions, which I suspect Arrowhead will nerf soon.

Airstrikes can take out nests/fabricators

An Automaton Fabricator in Helldivers 2. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Chucking grenades into Terminid nests and Automaton fabricators is the best and least resource-intensive way to take them out, but depending on the type and number of nearby enemies, it might not be possible to get close enough to make an accurate throw. Thankfully, these objectives can also be blown up with explosive air or orbital strike stratagems as long as you throw the beacons for them near your target.

Two of the best stratagems for this are the Eagle Airstrike and the Orbital Precision Strike — both of which you get access to at the start of the game. The former is a large carpet bombing that hits perpendicular to the direction you threw it, and is a great way to take out multiple nests/fabricators at once. The latter, meanwhile, is a smaller, more direct strike that should be thrown right next to the structure you want to destroy.

Diving and going prone will save your life

When the going gets tough, hit the deck. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The tutorial drills this one into you with two vicious minigun turrets aimed at torso-level, but it bears repeating: diving and going prone will get you through lots of situations that you probably wouldn't survive otherwise. You can avoid incoming attacks like melee strikes, cannon shots, and grenades with dives, and they also come in handy when you're trying to dodge a Charger.

Dropping into a prone position, meanwhile, makes you a smaller target and allows you to fully hide behind smaller pieces of cover. It also stabilizes your aim and makes you less susceptible to being blown apart or sent careening by explosives, which is useful when you're up against Automaton tanks or one of the randoms you're playing with decides to call in an Orbital 380mm Barrage a little too close.

Don't ignore points of interest

One of the many points of interest you can find in Helldivers 2's missions. (Image credit: Windows Central)

In Helldivers 2's large 40-minute nonlinear missions, you'll often come across small outposts marked on your compass with a question mark icon. These are points of interest (POIs), and typically either have a supply pod you can open, shipping containers you can blow open with a grenade, or small loot-filled bunkers two players have to open simultaneously.

You won't get any XP or Requisitions at the end of the mission for interacting with these, but even so, make sure to do so when you can. You'll only run into a few, if any, enemy units near them, and they're often stocked with tons of ammo, grenades, and stims, as well as Samples to collect for upgrades and a handful of Requisitions, Super Credits, or Warbond Medals. If you're lucky, you might even find a free support weapon.

Bonus: The Autocannon is OP, use it

With the Autocannon, you can easily shred lightly armored units like Scout Striders. (Image credit: Windows Central)

One last thing: I strongly recommend unlocking the Autocannon as soon as you can. Out of all of Helldivers 2's support weapons, it's got the best overall balance of handling, reload speed, damage, armor penetration, and ammo economy. It's effective against all but the heaviest units used by the Terminids (Chargers, Bile Titans) and Automatons (Tank, Hulk mechs), and it can kill even these with just a few shots if you hit their weak spots (the massive cannons at large Automaton bases can be destroyed with it using the same tactic).

Helldivers 2 is available now for $39.99 on both PS5 and PC, and so far, it's one of the best PC games of the year. Notably, the game also supports cross-platform play between PS5 and PC. 

Helldivers 2 — $39.99 at GMG (Steam)

Helldivers 2 — $39.99 at GMG (Steam)

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.