Helldivers 2 Review (After 150 Hours) — Managed Democracy Shows its Cracks


Helldivers 2 is a very strong co-op extraction shooter with some excellent gameplay and mechanics. Unfortunately, a lack of endgame content or a reason to keep progressing keep the game from being the live service darling that many thought it would be at launch.

More than 3 months and 150 hours, I’ve finally come to some conclusions about Helldivers 2. Democracy takes time, alright?

For about 2 months, I maintained a (not very outdated) daily Helldivers 2 report. I reached rank 50 (the max rank at the time). I tried out everything and kept up to date with all the latest happenings, both in and out of the game. What I mean to say is that I adored Helldivers 2. I thought it would be up there for my personal Game of the Year list.

helldivers 2 review missile

And then, I took a break. Before the PlayStation Network mess that blocked players, before tons of new content and patches, before all that. I’d come back to play for a couple of hours every few weeks, but no more. Some of this was due to other releases coming along, eating up my time. At least, that’s what I told my friends, as they’d ask if I wanted to dive.

The truth was, though, I’d burnt out. Helldivers 2 just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It wasn’t any of the changes or bad news that turned me off the game; it was the game itself. Every time I booted it up and thought to play, it seemed boring. Rote. Like I’d already done what I wanted to.

Of course, I put 150 hours into it, and I’m not the kind of gamer that usually does that (with a couple extremely rare exceptions). It makes sense I’d burn out. That’s not necessarily the game’s fault, right? So, it’s just not for me.

Then I hopped back in. For the last week or so, I’ve made myself play it, and I’ve played with all my buddies who I played with before. Some of them had barely touched the game since I’d convinced them to buy it at launch, and others haven’t stopped playing since (having far eclipsed me in level by now).

And do you know what kept being repeated? Even by the random joiners that we’d come across, even by the most dedicated of my group? “Yeah, it’s just not that fun anymore.”

“It’s just not fun anymore,” repeated time and again, with different reasons every time. The balance changed. The spawns changed. The game got old. The game hasn’t changed enough. The unfair enemies are still unfair, and the game was simultaneously still too easy and too difficult. Mostly, though, the same conclusion was reached, in the end: “after you’ve played a while, there’s nothing to do.”

helldivers 2 review bugs
Gorgeous environments help the game continue to look great, even as running through them can become a chore eventually

It seems almost ridiculous, but I think that’s about right. When I loaded in at the beginning of the week after an extended absence, I felt it right away. The same objectives, the same play, the same feeling. The dynamism that the game has at the beginning, while you are still easily swarmed by bugs and calling in airstrikes on your friends, was long gone, even out of practice. Even with my friends, we hardly spoke over voice chat, and when we did, it was either to complain about the game or talk about something unrelated as we went through the motions. Go here, push some arrows, blow up some spawners, move on.

And for what? Loot that went nowhere, because I had every stratagem, every item I wanted, and even most of the ship upgrades (certainly all the ones I wanted). I got “MAJOR ORDER COMPLETED: 0 MEDALS” a couple of times, and my Requisition would never need to go up again now that I’d bought every stratagem, because I was at capacity with those. All that really went up was my level, which was nothing but a number after a certain point.

Was this the same game I sunk so much time into at launch? The same game that I’d taken a risk on and convinced EIP to let me cover on a daily basis for 2 months? The same game I spent all day playing on multiple occasions, laughing with my friends?

And I realized: yeah, it was. Like its authoritarian society, once you remove all the sheen and glamour and false progression, what you are left with is a competent, but limited co-op shooter. Fine for killing a couple of hours, but tedious once you see through it and have done it enough. To say nothing of the seemingly decreased stability and the bungling of numerous patches and content updates, which, at least according to everyone I played with, “made the game worse.” Even if I remain slightly skeptical of that, it sure didn’t help the enthusiasm across the board: an important part of co-op gameplay.

helldivers 2 review horde
Despite my new reservations, there will always be something appealing about standing against the horde

So, here’s the reality: Helldivers 2 is a competent shooter, and will be very fun for a while, especially while you are still learning the game and unlocking all the bits and pieces you want (most especially stratagems). Before around level 25, it’s phenomenal. Everything is fresh, the chaos of the battlefield is still there, there is a lot to unlock, and plenty of fun to have on genuinely exciting missions, against genuinely fantastic enemies, with excellent gunplay. I can’t take that away from Helldivers 2.

After that point, however, once you fall into a routine? It doesn’t have the same appeal as other co-op games, at least in my opinion. It doesn’t have the endless progression of most multiplayer shooters, nor their high degree of tactics. It doesn’t have the infinite things to do and find that you can see in MMOs. And even compared to other extraction shooters, it doesn’t give you a reason to keep playing or a high score to keep chasing. Instead, after you get to a certain level, the game might as well be done, at least until the next scrap of content gets introduced.

I would be lying if I pretended Helldivers 2 was a bad game. My Steam profile proves that. But what it is, is limited. It caps out. And, for a game that wants to be a live-service that people keep playing forever, that is actually quite damning. Already, player counts are down significantly (though they are still nothing to sneeze at), and community complaints are growing by the day. Mixed messages from the devs provide little hope and even less clarity to us players, and, honestly, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a true endgame to Helldivers 2.

helldivers 2 review bots
The endgame is often just repeatedly kiting heavy enemies until something you have can deal with them

I will forever applaud Arrowhead for what they achieved with Helldivers 2. There is a lot of very impressive stuff here. The game plays amazingly well (when it isn’t glitching out), the world is hilarious and enjoyable, and the first twenty or so levels make the game feel incredibly dynamic and interesting the whole time.

But, after all that is said and done, after the gameplay has grown monotonous, the constantly satirical quips annoying, and the progression stale, there just isn’t much after that. And so, leave this brief review with this message: for a while after you pick up Helldivers 2, it will be one of the most enjoyable experiences this year. After that, it will not be anymore. You’ll find yourself frustrated or bored, with a dearth of things to do in the late game (letting you really soak in the flaws). And, for a game that wants to last forever, that does matter. So, while Helldivers 2 is indisputably a good game, its limited shelf life may dissuade you.

Share this article:

Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

Articles: 522
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments