Review: Helldivers

What do you get when you take a top-down, twin-stick shooter like Kill Team, add the aesthetics of Destiny, the political backdrop of Starship Troopers, the "couch co-op" of Diablo III, and the increasing hopelessness of Zombicide?

Set in a dystopian future propagandized as a utopia, you take control of a Helldiver - a space marine specializing in rapid deployment, hit and run tactics. You'll be sent in to multiple planets, each with varying mission types and rewards, to battle against one of three enemy factions: the barbaric Cyborgs, the insectoid Bugs, or the high-tech Illuminates.

Most of the missions consist of fending off waves of enemies as you desperately try to disarm mines, activate missile silos, retrieve black boxes, or rescue trapped survivors. Even waiting for the evacuation shuttle to arrive feels like a heroic last stand.

Prior to a mission's launch, you can customize your loadout (primary weapon, ability, and four stratagems). There are a ton of combinations, and each weapon and stratagem can be upgraded to be more powerful using research points (obtained by finding 10 "samples" on planets, or by leveling up). My favorite part? No weapon or stratagem is any better or worse than another - it's purely based on playstyle. The default gun, the Liberator, is just as effective at max difficulty as it was on your first Helldive.

While the primary weapon variety is satisfying, the stratagems are the real icing on the cake. From walker mech suits and APCs to automated turrets and a plethora of different air strikes, everything is useful and awesome. It's hard to choose just four of the 40+ in the game.

After your first few missions, you'll quickly realize that in order to complete level 4 or higher missions (level 12 is the maximum difficulty), you'll probably need to take some allies with you to the fight. There's an excellent matchmaking system, or up to three of your friends can join in.

The leveling system isn't typical of most RPGs where you gain additional health or damage, but instead it's used to unlock new weapons, abilities, research points, and mission difficulties. So there is no imbalance being level 27 (the new cap) while adventuring with your level 1 friend.

This week, the PlayStation Network is giving 10% off Helldivers. Normally $19.99, it comes bundled with the Specialist DLC and new expansion 'Turning Up the Heat'. There are seven additional DLCs but with the Reinforcements Packs you only need to buy three to complete the set.

That means during this sale you can get the game, its expansion, and all eight DLCs for $32.96!

And last but not least - to sweeten the deal - Helldivers is cross-play and cross-buy. As an example, buying it on PS3 allows you to play with a friend who's on PS4, or once you upgrade your console you can play it on PS4 as well.

Score: 4.5/5

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