Arrowhead Game Studios’ Helldivers 2 is out now for PS5 and PC, arriving nearly nine years after the original. Despite the higher production values and increased fidelity, or the change in perspective – going from top down to third person – it still maintains the same vibe as the original. The so-called heroic excursions onto planets to deal with the bug-like Terminids and the mysterious new Automatons; that fine line between comedic and dark – it’s all here and more over the top than ever.
Thus far, the launch numbers look good, with a peak concurrent total of 93,210 players and rising on Steam, the highest for a PlayStation Studios title on PC yet. However, for a follow-up to a beloved IP that still has players to this day, Helldivers 2 has seen a bit of controversy since its launch.
When Helldivers 2 first launched, it had a “Mixed” rating on Steam. Only a few thousand reviews were live at the time, but only a little over half were positive. It’s since improved, with a “Mostly Positive” rating thanks to 72 percent of user reviews being positive, but what happened? Furthermore, what’s the controversy over the War Bond system?
First off, the launch itself faces some matchmaking. Till now, trying to queue for Quick Play results in a “Failed to Join Lobby” error. There are other methods for getting players into your game – like deploying an SOS beacon in your mission – but if you want to join a game, the process is less straightforward than simply relying on a lobby browser.
For those curious, you need to browse a planet from the Galactic Map, select an Operation, look for a number in the lower right corner of a mission (denoted as X/4) and then try to join. Personally, this brought up the notification of failing to join the host ship, and then the mission disappeared. Searching through the available planets sadly didn’t yield the same result. So, for now, Quickplay is the fastest way to go, but alas, it doesn’t quite work.
There are also performance issues and crashes. The former is more common on PC, with some reporting memory leakage, while the latter can occur on both platforms. Then, there are random disconnects, and if this happens during a mission, you need to repeat it from the very beginning. Yes, even if playing solo, because there is no offline option. Arrowhead has deployed a fix with various improvements to matchmaking and crash fixes, so hopefully, things get better soon.
Alas, there’s more.
PC players also have to deal with nProtect GameGuard, a kernel-level anti-cheat which requires administrator privileges. Anti-cheat is nothing new for online titles, whether playing Destiny 2 and installing BattlEye software.
Helldivers 2 technical director Peter Lindgren stated that there are no noteworthy performance reductions with GameGuard enabled and that it’s removed after uninstalling the game. It also doesn’t collect sensitive information, as Lindgren says the team is “bending over backwards to be compliant” with the American Data Privacy and Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
The reasoning for anti-cheat in a co-op game is pretty straightforward: Arrowhead wants to ensure that no one’s progression is affected and that they experience the game as intended. Also, there’s the whole Galactic War campaign, which can be adversely affected.
Nevertheless, there are concerns over its use, from alleged issues with performance and difficulty removing it. There’s also worry that the anti-cheat isn’t as strong as other options, and it’s used primarily to save costs. In response, Lindgren said that GameGuard met their needs, and while it communicates with “a few servers for patching and reporting,” it’s not modifying “anyone’s firewall settings, and it doesn’t install other software.”
Of course, you have those who believe that an anti-cheat is in place to ensure players don’t immediately unlock everything from the War Bonds or earn tons of Super Credits using cheats, thus negating the microtransactions. Lindgren didn’t outright deny this, simply noting, “While it will protect monetized content, our primary purpose in using it is to protect the social aspect of the Galactic War gameplay and preserve the player experience.”
Now seems like a good time to ask: What are War Bonds anyway?
When you open it up, the initial reaction will probably be one of disgust. “A battle pass?!” you’ll probably exclaim. “Live-service?! An in-game store?!” both of which Helldivers 2 was confirmed to have even before launch. Jokes aside, it’s easy to see why many would have that reaction. It also doesn’t help that the Premium War Bond, which costs Super Credits (purchasable with real money) to unlock, has weapons and armor.
Thus, you have some claiming it’s “pay-to-win.” Given the backlash against titles like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League for their live-service approach, some may feel leniency on Helldivers 2 is hypocritical.
However, there are several misleading details about War Bonds. The free War Bond, Helldivers Mobilize, has most items and even a hefty amount of Super Credits (the same currency needed to purchase cosmetics and Premium War Bonds). You unlock these with Medals earned by completing missions, Operations, and personal missions – like extracting X number of times or killing Y number of Terminids – and out in the wild while exploring. You don’t need to unlock everything on a page to progress to the next. Don’t care about emotes or banners? Unlock the Super Credits, weapons and armor to get to the next.
It’s also worth noting that Super Credits, the premium currency in question, can be earned while playing the game. You can randomly find them in the wild from locked doors or sealed caches (which can also have Medals). How consistently you earn them depends – some have reported having more than actual gameplay-related resources, but your mileage will vary.
There’s also the fact that the War Bonds don’t expire, like battle passes. They’re permanent and essentially offer more unlocks. You can’t even pay real money for Super Credits to skip the grind since many progression elements require playing the game.
Also, having purchased some of the weapons from the Premium War Bond, I can confirm that they don’t give you an unfair advantage. If anything, they’re more like alternate takes on existing weapons (like the Liberator Explosive, which has explosive rounds but a lower magazine and fire rate). Even the armor doesn’t offer much beyond extra limb health and more range when throwing grenades.
Would I prefer them to not be tied to something requiring premium currency, even if it’s earnable in-game? Yes. Does it ultimately break the experience in a game where teamwork, Stratagems, and not shooting Terminid patrols are more important? No.
Helldivers 2 will no doubt face further scrutiny over the long term, whether it’s the content strategy and GameGuard or the lack of some quality-of-life features and technical issues. How Arrowhead and PlayStation react to that remains to be seen – after all, it only takes one bad update to turn a beloved game into a nightmare. Player numbers are currently on the rise, user reviews are improving, and it’s a top-seller on Steam. While live service is more of a marathon than a sprint, it’s a strong start for fans of the series.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.