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Helldivers 2 still endures after this week’s disaster - here’s why

Despite the recent PSN linking controversy, Helldivers 2 continues to beat out other 2024 surprise hits like Palworld, and this is why.

Helldivers 2 is beating every other game right now, for one reason: Helldivers 2 flavor of the month: A soldier from Helldivers 2 set against a background of some graphs

It’s painful to see the back-to-back bad news in gaming nowadays, from studio closures to projects falling into limbo. I imagine myself clutching a well-used copy of Fallout: New Vegas and shouting into the sky that we have to go back, as it can feel as though the habits and trajectory of the past decade have failed us. The AAA industry’s move to live-service games has ended in numerous storied disasters, and right now it feels like almost nothing new sticks around for long. The exception to the rule recently is Helldivers 2, which has deservedly found and retained an audience.

One of my major pet peeves with current gaming is the number of ‘throw-away’ and ‘flavor of the month’ releases – especially when it comes to co-op games. Helldivers 2 was set to be the next FOTM game for me, but against all odds – and its fair share of controversy – it has somehow managed to stay relevant.

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Helldivers 2 launched spectacularly, peaking at over 450k concurrent players on Steam alone, which was tempered by server teething issues. Unlike 2024’s other surprise multiplayer hits like Palworld, however, it’s retained over a quarter of its daily players months after launch, which is no small feat given just how many new PC games are vying for our attention. But how did it manage it?

First off, let’s talk about the worldbuilding. Super Earth’s bravest soldier simulator is dripping with satire, and for most developers that’s where the joke would stop. Arrowhead Games has instead leaned into that Starship Troopers aesthetic by posting Major Orders, tongue-in-cheek propaganda, and other in-world updates on its social accounts while still sharing patch notes and other relevant information. This effective and creative blurring of the lines has created a comedic camaraderie and virality around its posts.

A Helldivers 2 character standing in front of a flaming tornado

While Arrowhead Games and PlayStation have recently come under fire for the now-backtracked decision to force PC players to link their Steam account to the PlayStation Network, I still appreciate the developer’s style of communication – it’s refreshing. It’s all too common to feel totally disconnected from developers, especially when things start to go wrong. Arrowhead Games invites us to engage almost no matter the sentiment; the team behind Final Fantasy 14 has fostered a similar style, resulting in a tight-knit community that has stood the test of time.

Secondly, Helldivers 2’s gameplay loop nurtures new players, creating a welcoming atmosphere while still allowing for a decently high skill ceiling. Like most PvE-focused multiplayer games, competitiveness isn’t woven into the gameplay, and players looking for an enjoyable, casual time will feel right at home on the lower difficulties. You don’t have to worry about having the best gear or missing that one raid – you can just click ‘play’ then dive on in. By contrast, those looking for a challenging experience that requires adaptive playstyles won’t be left disappointed – the notoriously difficult automatons have seen to that.

The seamless drop-in, drop-out function allows players to join others mid-mission to give an extra helping hand; if you have ever struggled to get a four-person team together due to busy schedules, you will immediately understand why this is such a welcome addition.

Two Terminator style robots with glowing red eyes advance on the camera, leaving a smoking metal building behind

But, most importantly, shooting bugs and robots is just great fun. I don’t feel like I need to troll through screeds of convoluted lore or lose sleep learning overly complex systems and memorizing builds. Instead I can dive right in and start completing objectives. Helldivers 2 is the perfect blend of straightforward fun and – if you so desire – escalating challenge, so it’s no wonder people are so hooked.

But I can’t ignore the elephant in the room. The account-linking situation rightly drew criticism, and players showed their disagreement by review bombing the game on Steam. That said, the quick and open developer response has been met with a lot of positivity from the community. It’s endured because players love its aesthetic, its simplicity, its developer comms. Helldivers 2 has survived where other games haven’t because, at its core, it’s too good to give up on.