E3 2014: Helldivers Preview Hands-On

One of the biggest enjoyments to come out of E3 2014, stood inside Sony’s showroom floor area in a single row of PlayStation 4 kiosks. Arrowhead Game Studios, best known for the Magicka franchise, were on hand showing off the upcoming cross-play title for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Ditching the fantasy setting, Helldivers exudes the same humor that we have come to expect from Arrowhead wrapped in a new sci-fi setting straight out of Starship Troopers. Before launching on our first mission, the loading screen asked us “Do you know anyone who lifts? If they do, they might be a cyborg. Please report suspicious activity”.

As the three of us chose our loadout and headed to our helipods, we weren’t prepared for the indigenous population being ready to rip us to shreds. It didn’t take long until one of us was crawling on the ground, clinging to life. The best part? We hadn’t seen a single creature yet. Once we worked out the issues of friendly fire and throwing grenades at each others feet, we continued our mission. Helldivers features drop in/out support, so at anytime, another player can join in the action. Just don’t land on other players.

Stratagems allow you to call in heavy weaponry, auto turrets (quite dangerous), ammo crates and even mechs complete with rockets and a massive gatling gun (Titanfall isn’t the only game with mechs). There will be dozens of ways to customize your character within the final game, but we only messed around with the preloaded characters. Each player was able to choose from four different stratagems, while Revive acted as the fifth for every player. Each stratagem required specific directional input from the D-Pad in order to be used. Once selected, you toss out a beacon for the helipod to drop, and on one or more occasion it dropped directly on someone else (in Mike’s case, himself).

Missions are simplistic in nature: destroy bug nests, activate oil extractors, collect intel and return to the shuttle. Shuttles must be called to the surface, prompting a couple minute mad dash for safety, as bugs and other enemies will be alerted to your presence, resulting in something akin to Custer’s Last Stand. Ammunition is sparse, and reloading is based on ammo clips and not actual numbers. This means reloading when you still have half a clip left will cause you to lose anything left in the clip.

With good reasons, the final moments when the alien species are swarming the shuttle and each player is scrambling to escape becomes very hectic. For example, at the end of Mission One, we tried our best to prepare for incoming forces before calling the shuttle, but it just made things even worse. Placing multiple turrets around the landing zone seemed like a good idea, but in the middle of the fight, we weren’t only facing the alien menace. Our turrets fired in all directions, slaughtering us in the process.

Helldivers will be available for the PS4, PS3 and PS Vita systems in 2014.