Helldivers 2 is more than just a great Starship Troopers game
13.02.2024 - 17:03
Game developers have long sought to make a greatStarship Troopers video game, but no one’s ever come as close as Arrowhead Game Studios’ recent release, Helldivers 2.
Paul Verhoeven’s film Starship Troopers, a fantastic takedown of Imperial capitalism, is just as sharp today as it was when it hit theaters in 1997. The movie follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico as he enlists in the United Citizen Federation’s military to go colonize the galaxy. Half an action movie about destroying very gross bugs and half social satire about the need to destroy them in the first place, Starship Troopers makes perfect sense as the basis for a video game — even if it spent a few years with the original novel’s jingoism being mistaken as an endorsement.
Helldivers 2, the recent massive surprise-hit third-person shooter, nails Starship Troopers’ tone almost instantly, from the tongue-in-cheek propaganda of the opening cinematic and loading screens to a tutorial that ends with the player grabbing the flag of Super Earth, running it around an area to “wave its democracy” in people’s faces, then saluting it to end the mission. Helldivers 2 smartly lets this tone seep into every crack and crevice that shows off even a hint of personality. Characters invade alien planets and scream about liberty and napalm strikes are an unlockable weapon. Everything you do is in the name of capitalism or “democracy,” and even the microtransactions have fake reviews “sponsored” by the government of Super Earth. The satire is the funniest kind: ridiculous, loud, and impossible to miss.
But plenty of games, from Earth Defense Force to official Starship Troopers adaptations, have emulated the movie’s tone. What makes Helldivers 2 special is that it also happens to be a fantastic game to play.
Players start out as lowly soldiers tasked with defending Super Earth from a galaxy of bugs (which actually means going to other planets and killing them, no matter where they live). You have your own ship, which serves as your home base and allows you (and your squad of up to three friends) to launch missions to new planets, customize your loadout, and choose recognizable freedom-saving weapons like orbital drone strikes and chemical weapons, called Stratagems. The game features dozens of purchasable upgrades and new weapons, which can be earned by completing missions and bonus objectives — though the unlocks are admittedly slow-going if you’re not 100%ing every mission.
But where Helldivers 2’s rubber really meets the road is when the bug killing actually starts. Despite the over-the-top tone, Helldivers 2 is an unmistakably tactical game. Even when outfitted with airstrikes, EMPs, and automated weapons systems, each player can still only carry a