A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Helldivers is a downloadable top-down old-school-style science-fiction shooter. Playing as a human soldier, you have a mission to stop some human-hating aliens before they destroy mankind. But, though you do shoot a lot of enemy soldiers, all this is done from an aerial perspective, which makes this far less gruesome than a shooter with a first-person perspective. Still, because Helldivers gets exponentially more difficult as it progresses, and the game was actually designed to be played co-op, you’ll have to find other people to play with if you hope to get very far. This is great if you know three other people who want to play Helldivers at the same time you do, but it's possibly less great if you play with random strangers you meet online.
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What's it about?
Loosely based on alien war movies such as Starship Troopers, HELLDIVERS casts you as a soldier in the distant future. Super Earth, as our planet is now called, is being attacked by alien invaders, and it's up to you to stop them by invading their worlds, breaking their stuff, capturing their strategic points of interest, and shooting first while maybe asking later if there's time. But the questions you'll most likely ask are along the lines of "Can I get a little help, please?" because Helldivers was made to be played with other people, and the later missions are so difficult that you'll really need a little help from your friends -- or other people you meet online -- if you want any hope of surviving.
Is it any good?
Though Helldivers can be fun, especially when played with friends, it's not without its problems. On the plus side, the game's tight controls and old-school approach make it fun for people who prefer their shooting to be arcade-esque. Using standard top-down shooter controls -- you run with the left thumbstick and aim with the right -- you take on waves of alien enemies, some of whom are smart enough to hit the alarm button, which calls in reinforcements. You also, after completing your mission, have to make your way to an evacuation point, where you'll again have to battle enemies while waiting for the shuttle to pick you up.
Unfortunately, not everything in Helldivers works well. For starters, though each planet you invade has its difficulty clearly labeled, the game's difficulty still varies wildly. On one of the "easy" planets, for instance, this reviewer was dropped into a huge gathering of aliens, who killed the player instantly. But during another mission on that same planet, the reviewer was left totally alone waiting for a ride. The game also boasts a rather useless map, which makes it difficult to figure out exactly where you're supposed to go, while the Vita version uses the back touchscreen in awkward ways. But the most divisive design choice is that, even though your soldier is well trained and on an important mission, he begins each battle with a minimal amount of ammo (though you can ask for more mid-level) and doesn't know how to automatically reload his weapon when he runs out of bullets. Which, admittedly, is something some people will get used to but can be rather aggravating when you're panicking because aliens are attacking you from all sides. Helldivers might be fun for dedicated old-school arcade fans, but the inconsistencies keep it from being enjoyable for most players.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Do you feel differently fighting aliens as opposed to humans? If so, why do you feel this way? Should you feel differently? And does it matter that some of those aliens are cyborgs?
Talk about cooperation. Helldivers becomes very difficult and is best played with other people, so why is it important to be open to the idea of asking for help or working with other people toward a common goal?
Talk about communication. Since you have to work with other people to survive, especially in the later missions, what’s the best way to communicate with other people so you can work toward a common goal?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release date: April 10, 2015
- Genre: Third-person shooter
- Topics: Adventures, Robots, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Violence, Blood and Gore, Mild Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.