How to beat Helldivers 2's new defense missions that are so impossibly hard they seem bugged

Helldivers 2
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Helldivers 2's newest Major Order has everyone attempting to defend planets from the fearsome Terminator-like Automaton faction, but the game's new defense missions are so hard that players think they're bugged.
  • The issue with the levels is that they relentlessly spawn in dropships full of enemy units faster than even the best players in the game can destroy them, resulting in the inevitable collapse of defenses.
  • Most are hopeful that Arrowhead will nerf or fix these missions soon, but in the meantime, there are two strategies that will help you achieve victory.
  • One involves the use of Recoilless Rifle rocket launchers against the dropships, while the other aims to slow and blind the Automatons with smoke and EMS crowd control. The text below goes into these tactics in more detail.

During its launch week, Helldivers 2 asked its community to liberate two worlds from hordes of alien Terminid bugs. Now, though, there's a new Major Order directing everyone to staunchly defend several planets from an invasion by the Terminator-like Automatons. To do their part and carry out the order, players will have to complete eight defense campaigns by completing tons of defense missions — including new levels called "Retrieve Essential Personnel" that take place in a small compound and involve providing cover for 30-40 scientists as they load onto a shuttle.

There's just one issue, however: these missions are impossibly hard, to the point where even many of the game's most hardcore players think they're bugged. The top of the Helldivers 2 subreddit is full of memes and posts about their difficulty, with their replies and posts on social media sites like X (Twitter) flooded with comments from fans desperately trying to find an effective strategy.

The ultimate problem with these missions is that they relentlessly spawn dropships full of dozens of Automaton units — a good portion of them armored Scout Striders, Devastators, and, eventually, Hulks — every 15-30 seconds or so, which is enough to quickly overrun even the most defensively equipped and positioned teams. The bots come faster than you can call down automated sentries or anti-armor weaponry to blow them apart, and the only way you can even survive is by running laps around the map until your extraction dropship arrives after the time limit runs out.

I have not completed one extraction mission from r/Helldivers

I love a good challenge, don't get me wrong. But clearly, these levels are either significantly overtuned or outright broken — one fan points out that they could be dropping 40 minutes' worth of robots in 15, as the mission's timer is shown to be the former but is actually the latter — and there's no way Arrowhead will leave them as is. With that said, my squadmates and I have figured out two strategies that'll make beating the missions much easier (you'll need full four-man teams and VoIP/Discord communication).

The first method, which is the one I prefer, requires two players to get to the highest position they can and use Recoilless Rifle rocket launchers to target the thrusters of each dropship (the engines on their corners) as they fly in. Hitting them here with a rocket is a one-shot that instantly destroys the dropship as well as all the units they're carrying, and by reloading each other's launchers with support backpacks and using a Resupply stratagem to keep those backpacks stocked with ammo, the rocket team should be able to destroy almost every dropship without trouble. At the same time, the other two players should be directing scientists to the evac zone as quickly as they can, fending off any Automatons that manage to deploy in the base.

You can also beat the missions by using a ton of Eagle and Orbital Smoke Strike stratagems to cover the base in smoke, then calling in EMS Mortar Sentries to hit the bots with crowd control slowdowns. This will effectively blind most Automaton units and slam the brakes on their advance, allowing the scientists to run to their shuttle in relative safety. I find this method to be a bit less reliable since gaps in your smoke cover can lead to a collapse of the situation, but if you've got a very well-coordinated team, it can definitely work.

The Automaton faction in Helldivers 2. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

Regardless of which strategy you're trying, I recommend having everyone also bring along some Machine Gun Sentries and Gatling Sentries if they can. These will help you mow down any Automatons that make it through your rocket defenses or smokescreens, and are particularly helpful for defending Recoilless Rifle duos that need to focus on incoming dropships. Note that Mortar Sentries, which are generally strong against the bots, are a poor choice here since their large explosions will likely kill fellow Helldivers or scientists whenever they fire at enemies that get past the base's perimeter.

Arrowhead will hopefully nerf or patch these insanely hard missions ASAP — I'd love to complete more of them while Helldivers 2's 50% bonus XP and Requisitions weekend is going on — but until it does, these two methods of beating them are your best bet. Good luck, and godspeed. 🫡

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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.