I grabbed a copy of a game I’ve been curious about for a little while today: Helldivers, from Arrowhead.
Helldivers is a PS3, PS4 and Vita game (cross-buy, cross-save and cross-play, thank you very much!) in which you take on the role of one of the titular dropship troopers, blow shit up and then get extracted. Except it’s rather more likely that you will die in the process.
Arrowhead, you may recall, also developed Magicka, which is a gloriously chaotic “cooperative” multiplayer shooter in which friendly fire is well and truly turned on. In Magicka, a significant part of the fun comes from seeing what happens when your spells interact with other players’ spells — there are often unexpected consequences. Helldivers is less explicitly ridiculous than Magicka is, but there’s a lot of the same magic — no pun intended — in there.
Yes, friendly fire is turned on in Helldivers. Yes, things that you do supposedly to benefit the group can end up killing them. Yes, it’s a rather good time despite the somewhat generic premise of “space marines go places and kill stuff” — the mission objectives and maps are varied and interesting enough to keep things enjoyable. Or so it looks, anyway; I’ve only played for about half an hour so far, but I enjoyed it a lot.
The interesting stuff in Helldivers, it seems, will come in the form of “Strategems”. These are a rough equivalent to the spells in Magicka in that using them requires you to input a particular string of button commands, but the difference is that they don’t take effect immediately. Powerful attacks like air strikes take time to reach your location, for example, meaning you’ll need to hold off enemies while you wait for support. And then when support arrives, you’d better make sure you’re not standing where you dropped the beacon, otherwise the thing you requested will indeed drop on your head and kill you.
There’s something understatedly ridiculous about the multiplayer that makes it a joy. Earlier, I played a game with two random people in which one of our objectives was to disarm some unexploded armaments. No further information was given than that, aside from a location on the map that didn’t seem to have anything there. Then several of us realised that we had a “metal detector” strategem available, allowing us to call in a supply drop containing a metal detector. When we’d acquired this, we could then sweep the area for the (apparently buried) bombs. Unfortunately, while we were doing so, our beacons attracted the attentions of the Bug hordes, so my two comrades had to fend them off while I was methodically searching the area for unexploded bombs. The juxtaposition was hilarious.
There’s also a really interesting metagame going on, too. The concept puts the Helldivers at work in wars on three fronts, with control of sectors and systems being determined by players succeeding in missions they challenge. When the player community as a whole has pushed the front to the alien homeworld, the ability to assault it becomes available, and consequently an opportunity to win that particular war. Then every so often things reset and start again, from what I understand; I’m interested to see how the current war (the 4th, apparently) unfolds over time — it’s a really cool idea and a great use of online.
So yeah. Helldivers. It’s a good time. And if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, it’s cheap right now, too.