Video game review: Helldivers - blast the bugs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 10:57am


Enlist with the Helldivers, a super-soldier squad of gun-toting freedom fighters. Destroy hideous bugs, cyborgs and misunderstood aliens! Shove democracy down the throats of all who dare challenge it.

Numerous games have taken influence from the cult sci-fi film Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven's thinly veiled and incredibly violent take on America's fascist-like foreign oppression. But few have been so blatant in their imitation. Helldivers is not as clever in its satire - despite a number of tongue-in-cheek cut-scenes and one-liners - but it recreates the horrific battles and grand us-versus-them campaigns.

Like the film, it shows a disregard for even the slightest political correctness. Using an appropriate top-down viewpoint, the game is a simple series of loud, brash battles, over-the-top, blood-soaked skirmishes and an indifference to life except as a body count.

Players are thrown headfirst into the war between Super Earth, and the three factions threatening our blond-haired, blue-eyed existence. There's the Illuminate, with their mastery of technology; gun-wielding cyborgs; and finally, arachnid-like creatures known simply as bugs.

On our side are teamwork and futuristic warfare. Battles involve choosing appropriate weapons and unlocking new arms: anti-tank devices, troop carriers loaded with 1,000-round railguns, and "the scythe", an infinitely powered laser that melts everything in its path.

But where Helldivers delivers is how it takes these components and channels them through a clever multiplayer sphere. Whether it's side-by-side on your couch using the co-op mode or harnessing the power of online play, the game uses team players in the best possible way: giving each soldier a sense of purpose in the larger campaign.

That could be as modest as being the second gunner feeding bullets to the rifleman - or more appealingly to long-term gamers, the squad that nets new equipment and conquers uncharted planets.

Helldivers might not be original. It isn't innovative and there's not much beyond its top-down, team-battle formula. But what it does well is audaciously build on a tried-and-tested concept. Future-tech weapons, remorseless beasts, red mists popping up every which way, and multiplayer buddies to enjoy it all with - it might sound like the makings of a video game stereotype, but casual gaming is rarely this fun.