“Join the Helldivers!” A voiceover implores you at the beginning of this game. With a background clearly taken straight from Starship Troopers, Helldivers is set in a very similar dystopian world where individuals are encouraged to join a fighting force and set off to the stars to fight the enemies of ‘New Earth’. In fact, the games setting is so disturbingly similar to that of Starship Troopers it is surprising that the lawyers and poised over Helldivers, ready to strike like the ‘bug’ enemy that Helldivers also includes.
Luckily then, that following the introduction, story plays very little part in Helldivers or your potential enjoyment of this title. In many ways, this multiplayer shooter is like ‘Destiny’ but distilled down to its rawest essence.
Once you have completed your basic training, you will find yourself on a starship which acts as your ‘hub’ in the now traditional way. There is a portal where you can select missions for yourself, a portal where you can select a multiplayer mission on the go that you can drop yourself into, and an armoury, where you can go to improve your weaponry, or update your stratagems (more on these later).
When you go to the portal, you will be asked to select a field of battle in which to fight. These are populated by three different races including the aforementioned ‘bugs’, and a race of cyborgs. You will have a chance to ‘influence’ the war in each sector depending on the missions that you select and your success rate. You can choose a mission based on the difficulty level. At this point you will be asked to go to your drop pod and await despatch to the mission!
The missions are top down shooters, fundamentally, as you wander around a map trying to complete certain objectives. You carry an armoury of two weapons, plus a sidearm and some grenades. These will aid you in your quests which are quite basic. Go to objective, complete objective (normally by inputting sequences of arrow keys), return to a location where you will call shuttle, wait for shuttle, leave.
It’s all quite mundane stuff really and would make for a fairly unspectacular game were it not for one factor, the fact that this is one of the most fun multiplayer experiences you will have on any PlayStation device, let alone the PS VITA. You see, when you are in mid-game, up to four other players can join you, and come to your aid. You can also find multiplayer games quite easily using another portal which explains fairly helpfully where a mission is being played, how many people are playing it, and what the difficulty level is.
Once you have started to play with other players the game transforms into a fantastically fun experience. Missions are uncomplicated and quite short, meaning that you rapidly cycle through missions with your new found comrades, gaining experience and levelling up. Due to the brilliance of the Cross Play option, you can play seamlessly with players from the PS4 and PS3, with no lag.
Each player brings their own set of ‘stratagems’ into the battle with them. These are various weapons or items that you can bring in to the battlefield by pressing, as fast as you can, a sequence of arrow keys. For this you may bring on more equipment, bombs, a call for help from other players (in effect reprioritising your position on the multiplayer lists), defensive cannons, and as time goes on tanks, walking mech-suits, and other such contraptions.
The use of stratagems in the game adds a large amount of fun and a little bit of depth to proceedings. It’s more madhap than anything, as you stand around trying to press buttons to call down death or destruction on your enemies. And then, a drop pod that you have summoned drops on to your team mate, killing them instantly. Or the drop-pod lands safely, whereupon the defensive cannon it contains fires upon your team mate who has happened to get in the way of an enemy, again killing them.
You see, there is no protection from friendly fire in the world of Helldivers. You can easily fire upon your team mates, catch them in the impact of a grenade, or a thousand and one other things. It’s not uncommon to find yourself or your team mates crushed when the shuttle that is supposed to rescue them, lands straight on top of them.
Multiplayers are generally friendly and everybody is willing to play in good spirits. There is a thriving community playing this game at the moment. In my experience, occasionally you will find a team of people who insist on opening fire on you, but this is pretty rare.
It is all fantastically good fun, although doesn’t come without some drawbacks. I have questions about the longevity of this title. As stated before, the missions are not especially varied and I wonder how long it would realistically be before you set off wanting more of a challenge. In addition, the story is not much to write home about.
In addition, it pains me to say but it can’t be avoided that the Vita version is inferior compared to the PS4 version. For some reason, the Vita quite often loses connection, often at the end of games, where you are expecting to receive all of your experience and bonuses. This seems like something that is being patched, but still occurs and is extremely frustrating.
Controls on the Vita are also in need of some correction. The set-up uses the rear panel to reload and to throw grenades. I don’t have a problem with this, but in order to activate the function the game insists you ‘swipe’ the back panel rather than press. I am not sure why the developers have chosen this function rather than the press function, but it feels counter-intuitive and is difficult to activate. Customisable controls would definitely be an advantage here.
However, these are all very fixable functions in what remains an extremely fun game to play, and to have one of the best multiplayer experiences on PlayStation available to the Vita is absolutely fantastic. This is yet another game to add to the not insignificant list of must-have games for the platform. “Save New Earth!”
At A Glance
- Title: Helldivers
- Publisher: Arrowhead Games Studios
- System: PlayStation Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: Yes (PS3 and PS4)
- Cross Save: Yes (PS3 and PS4)
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Local Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: No
- Memory Card Space Needed:1832Mb