Helldivers was such a cool surprise. We didn’t really know about it before it came out a couple days before PAX East, on pretty much every type of Playstation there is. On the earlier difficulties - the difficulty I crave, the difficulty that consistently reinforces my own godhood - there are periods where you’re just waiting for a timer to tick down, and you may be sort of checking your watch, like, okay. I guess this is what I’m doing now. But those spaces completely evaporate on harder levels, and you will long for those Good Times, times when you had nothing going on and were not being sliced into useful parts in the manner of a stolen Maserati.
Oh! And just because you beat the level, that doesn’t mean you can stand anywhere you want. You learn this one very quickly.
It’s from Arrowhead, which you may also know as the Magicka people or even as the Gauntlet people. It’s basically Starship Troopers, the funny movie one, with a metagame that incorporates everyone’s play. But it also makes some decisions that are oblique to the norm that really give the game its spine. Twin Stick shooters in multiplayer can tend to feel a little mushy because there’s no friendly fire - they feel less real. That doesn’t happen here: even automated friendly turrets will cut down your whole team if you don’t hit the deck. So when somebody opens up the squad automatic weapon right over your prone body, cleansing a world with fire, it feels pretty fuckin’ real.
It does another thing I didn’t like at first: you can make requests of the carrier in orbit, defensive emplacements, drones, weapons, ammunition, that kind of stuff. You do this by inputting a code similar to those of the Konami variety. This twist didn’t feel especially necessary to me and felt like they were gilding the lily, or ungilding it, like maybe taking the gild off. Whichever one is worse. But that was because I learned to do it in an environment where managing this input was trivial. It was like having a combination lock on your zipper. I’m just trying to get in here, guys. It felt very, very nominal. It’s the sorta thing I gotta do all the time, in every game, and at first it felt like the most rote fucking don’t forget, you’re playing a videogame! type shit.
But when you are being one hundred percent encroached on by cyborgs, or the warrior caste of some kinda space insect, that “nominal” interaction you need to get more bullets because you are out of bullets is a very different story. They extruded a very specific state of mind from people with that bit of design, the madness of a man in a trench screaming into a radio which may or may not work.