Helldivers 2 PC review: A co-op triumph that delivers maximum fun in every way

Arrowhead Game Studios delivers a stellar co-op experience on all fronts, but server stability needs improvement.

Helldivers 2
(Image: © PlayStation Studios)

Windows Central Verdict

Helldivers 2 is a fantastic co-op game where anything can and will go wrong, thanks to several clever design choices. Calling in orbital bombardments while laying waste to alien swarms and robot armies has never been more fun. However, server capacity remains an ongoing problem for anyone looking to get in.

Pros

  • +

    Solid third-person gameplay

  • +

    Near-seamless background loading

  • +

    Fun, unscripted emergent events

  • +

    Premium currency can be earned in-game

Cons

  • -

    Underwhelming image quality

  • -

    Ongoing server problems

Why you can trust Windows Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

As my squad falls to the unending bug hordes overwhelming our extraction zone, I make a desperate call and bring down a Gatling barrage around me. Miraculously, I survive as the Terminids around me are shredded, giving me a split second to board the escape shuttle and make it out. 

So goes the average mission in Helldivers 2, a live-service title from Arrowhead Game Studios and PlayStation Studios. Solid co-op assignments are more engaging by zany physics and friendly fire options, all wrapped in a setting that rides the line between parody and inspiration from classics like Terminator and Starship Troopers. No two matches play out the same way, and the constantly-evolving Galactic War is a galvanizing way of doing an ongoing story that players can care about while quickly jumping in.

Overall, Helldivers 2 is an absolute blast and a game worth playing, provided you have friends to play with...and you can get in for a meaningful amount of time. Here's my review.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by PlayStation Studios. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.

What is Helldivers 2?

Automatons are overrunning Super Earth's worlds. (Image credit: Windows Central)
Helldivers 2

Helldivers 2

(Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

Price: $40 at GreenManGaming
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher: PlayStation Studios
Genre: Third-person shooter
Install size: 78GB
Playtime: 20+ hours
Platforms:  Windows PC, PlayStation 5
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Release date: Feb. 8, 2024
Xbox Game Pass: No

Helldivers 2 is a third-person co-op shooter developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by PlayStation Studios on Windows PC and PlayStation 5. In Helldivers 2, the human residents of Super Earth and their democratic way of life are under threat from alien monstrosities, so citizens need to sign up and join the Helldivers. 

Players take on the titular role of these ostensible freedom-bringers, spreading high-caliber democracy across a galaxy filled with teeming hordes of Terminids and Automatons, races of arachnid monsters and cybernetic war machines, respectively.

Joining squads of up to four, players can take on missions across the galaxy, like shutting down Automaton factories, evacuating civilians, and burning out Terminid nests. As more upgrades are unlocked, players can take on more and more dangerous missions, with better rewards weighed against increasingly certain annihilation by un-democratic claws and lasers. 

Helldivers 2

Helldivers 2

Squad up and drive back the enemies of Super Earth across war fronts that are constantly changing. Helldivers 2 supports cross-play on Windows PC and PlayStation 5, so players can team up and unleash firepower together.

Buy from: <a href="https://greenmangaming.sjv.io/c/221109/1219987/15105?subId1=hawk-custom-tracking&sharedId=hawk&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.greenmangaming.com%2Fgames%2Fhelldivers-2-pc%2F" data-link-merchant="greenmangaming.com"" target="_blank">GreenManGaming (Steam)

Helldivers 2: Story and Galactic War

The war is ever-changing. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The story in Helldivers 2 is extremely simple, and that's for the best. It'd be very easy for this writing to feel eye-roll-worthy, but because everything is so utterly ham-fisted, it ends up working. Propaganda for democracy — which doesn't actually appear so democratic when you look below the surface — is everywhere, with plenty of small details that reinforce what an autocratic, fascist society Super Earth really is. 

That's amplified through the ongoing story of the Galactic War. Instead of having only a handful of set planets for mission locations, the locations where players can deploy change over time. Victory or defeat has a tangible impact, contributing to the "liberation" of a world from its alien attackers or defenders. 

At the time I'm writing this, the world of Malevelon Creek is seeing some of the fiercest fighting as Helldivers try futilely to halt the Automaton advance. Meanwhile, Terminid worlds are constantly falling, with older planets locked off and new fronts to attack almost every couple of days. It makes things feel fresh because players aren't endlessly grinding for loot. Instead, they are contributing to a war, with their success at a personal level building into success for everyone. 

Helldivers 2: Gameplay and customization

More firepower means more success. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Helldivers 2 is a third-person shooter. Across numerous planets, players can handle a variety of ranged weapons that dismantle, burn, obliterate, shock, and otherwise pulverize any bug or robot within range. By earning credits and finding rare samples out on missions, you can unlock upgrades for your personalized ship — I named mine the Leviathan of Benevolence — that can improve your performance in the field with specialized support gear like a laser cannon or a heavy turret emplacement.

A key design choice for Helldivers 2 is the inclusion of friendly fire. Players can (and will) hurt each other with mistimed artillery barrages and melee attacks alike. If your position is being swarmed, you might have to quickly make a call between safety and clearing the area with napalm. In almost any other setting, this would be extremely irritating, but the tongue-in-cheek tone for the setting means I never got too frustrated when it happened. 

That adds to the "anything can happen" dynamic nature of the game, and the focus on physics allows for some wild scenarios that keep missions feeling fresh no matter how many times I play. From reinforcements taking down giant monsters by dropping on top of them to freaking out when an orbital strike beacon gets stuck to the back of a charging foe, there's rarely a moment in combat where something isn't going awry, and that's part of the fun. 

The co-op presentation is sleek, with player ships orbiting a planet before everyone takes a Hellpod down to a mission. Loading is fairly seamless, with any background loading hidden by small cutscenes after players choose their kit for a specific mission.

..everything you see in the in-game store can be earned, even if you're intent on not spending any extra money.

Unfortunately, right now, even just getting into the game is fraught with difficulty. Helldivers 2 is finding unprecedented success early on, with far more players than were anticipated, but the result is that just getting into the game is extremely difficult, and the quickplay option — a necessity if you don't have friends online at the same time as you — has been flat-out broken for a week. The developers are working hard to fix these issues, and it's all completely understandable given the situation the team is in, but it's worth keeping in mind before you buy Helldivers 2 right now. 

As a live-service game, there are also paid microtransactions available for cosmetic items. Players can also buy premium Battle Passes called Warbonds, which provide alternate weapons but are not pay-to-win, being balanced against the starting equipment available for everyone. There's also a free Warbond with new guns, skins, and gear that everyone can access. 

On top of all that, it's possible to earn the in-game currency by finding small deposits of it on missions. As a result, everything you see in the in-game store can be earned, even if you're intent on not spending any extra money.

Helldivers 2: Visuals and audio

Alien environments. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Helldivers 2 looks solid enough, with some great art direction doing the heavy lifting. The image quality is a bit lower than I'd like, with some distance effects breaking up even with everything set to Ultra on PC. Performance is rock-solid, though, and the focus here is clearly on powering the massive hordes of creatures and robots you have to destroy, with dozens upon dozens visible on screen at once. 

The game's audio design does a lot for the experience, and learning the distinct sound of an Automaton dropship or waiting for auditory cues that Terminids are passing by is easily done. The soundtrack is fairly subdued, but the music revs up whenever your team is extracting from a location, making for some awesome in-the-moment final stands as you call down everything you've got to keep safe for just two more minutes. 

Helldivers 2: Accessibility and approachability

Swarms can overrun even the most entrenched positions. (Image credit: Windows Central)

There are some accessibility options in Helldivers 2, with difficulty settings that can allow players more time to learn the game's mechanics in safer, slower-paced missions. You can also reduce screen shake and customize various HUD (heads-up display) elements, which can help make the game more pleasant to play in longer sessions. 

Outside of these options, Helldivers 2 is not the most accessible experience, and anyone with hand issues, in particular, should note that you'll be doing a lot of rapid inputs with your WASD keys or controller D-Pad. These are necessary to call down stratagems and complete objectives, meaning your options are going to be somewhat limited if these motions cause physical discomfort. 

Should you buy Helldivers 2?

Worlds are waiting to be conquered. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Helldivers 2 is a fantastic co-op game. I've had a blast playing innumerable co-op and multiplayer titles in the last decade, but it's been a long time since a co-op experience has gripped me this way, to the point that I'm eagerly looking forward to hopping on whenever possible. It feels like I discover some small new detail every time I play, which is no small feat for a game based around a mission structure that's extremely simple on paper. 

Of course, live service games live or die by content, a word that gripes me even as I completely understand its necessity. Right now, the team at Arrowhead Game Studios is focused on clearing out the server problems and ensuring everyone who wants to play can actually play. Once that is sorted, I hope we'll see a roadmap of what's coming in the future. I love the Galactic War setting, and as long as I've got new reasons to fight, I'll continue to drop in with my friends. 

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.