Helldivers review for PS Vita, PS4, PS3

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PS3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Earth Defense Force + Crimsonland.

I was trying to think of some cute way to describe Helldivers, but that sentence fragment captures pretty much everything you could possibly want or need to know about the game. Its influences are so incredibly straightforward, it’s hard to think of any other way to describe the game. It’s a top-down shooter in which you’re defending the earth against giant bugs. If that’s not Crimsonland crossed with EDF, I don’t know what it is.

Helldivers 2

In fact, it’s debatable whether you even need EDF in there. The only reason I include it is because Helldivers has a bit of a story behind it and significantly more interesting action than Crimsonland could ever dream of, but if you wanted to look at the two games as a pair of top-down shooting peas in the same pod, you wouldn’t get a very strenuous argument from me.

I mean, there are some slight differences. Most obviously, Helldivers is much more visually polished. Whereas EDF looks like a PS2-era game and Crimsonland looks like it comes from the generation before that, the characters in Helldivers are undeniably current-gen, what with their flowing capes and whatnot. Likewise, unlike those other games, the environments here seem alive; the level of detail is much (much, much, much) more impressive,

Helldivers 1

Not only that, Helldivers is a significantly more complex game than its influences. It takes place on randomly-generated open worlds in procedurally-generated universes, placing it in stark contrast to the flat, empty fields of Crimsonland and the empty, breakable cities of EDF. On top of that, there’s a much heavier emphasis on player choice: it’s up to you to decide the order in which you’ll complete objectives, and it’s up to you to figure out which weapons and “strategems” (which is basically a fancy way of saying perks like turrets and airstrikes) you’ll bring along with you on each mission.

I’ll also note that Helldivers is much more geared towards online play than either of those other games. I didn’t play it with anyone else so I can’t judge that aspect of the game, but as I went down in a swarm of vicious bugs for the umpteenth time it did occur to me that the game’s crushing difficulty levels might be a teensy bit easier if I were playing it with someone else. (Though considering friendly fire is always on, perhaps not too much easier.)

Helldivers 3

Are all those differences enough to set Helldivers apart from its influences? Yes and no. No in the sense that, for all those extra bells and whistles, as a top-down shooter there’s really only so far it can stray from Crimsonland — and considering how similar the subject matter is, it really doesn’t stray far at all. That said, being more dynamic and more visually appealing is no small thing; whereas I wouldn’t recommend anyone play Crimsonland, I’d say that if you have a deep desire to shoot some bugs, you could do a lot worse than Helldivers.

Grade: B