Helldivers 2

This is an image from the video game “Helldivers 2.” The OSV News classification, A-III -- adults. Entertainment Software Rating Board rating, M -- mature. (OSV News photo/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

(OSV News) — “Helldivers 2” (Sony Interactive Entertainment), the long-awaited follow-up to the franchise’s 2015 kickoff, is a third-person shooter that gets adrenaline pumping and registers as both exhilarating and intense. Yet the amount of bloodletting players witness on its battlefields makes it inappropriate for kids, though it’s possibly acceptable for mature teens.

In the war-scarred galaxy that serves as the game’s setting, conflict between the elite human warriors of the title and their mechanical enemies is relentless. As they struggle to thwart alien aggression against their home planet, Super Earth, these fighters can eventually take to the skies and launch both offensive and defensive technology via air drops called Stratagems.

The political landscape of “Helldivers 2” recalls the central theme of the once-controversial but now highly regarded sci-fi action film “Starship Troopers.” In both narratives, a dystopian regime fervently champions the idea of spreading democracy through uncompromising force, the satiric point being just how little genuine democracy those supposedly extending it actually enjoy.

Thus the rulers of embattled Super Earth urge their forces on but find a convenient substitute for traditional elections. Instead of casting a ballot, the citizens they control are asked a series of questions. Their answers are then assessed by a computer which determines how their votes should be cast.

Accordingly, while the robotic invaders are undeniably villainous, those opposing them are not the blameless champions of enlightenment Super Earth’s propaganda presents them as being. These topics, though, merely provide a backdrop for the game’s exciting combat mechanics, with every mission teetering suspensefully on the edge of chaos.

With an extensive arsenal at their disposal, players engage in frenetic skirmishes, wielding flamethrowers and rocket launchers amid a blood-splattered terrain littered with fallen foes. The game’s visceral depiction of warfare, while not suitable for younger audiences, adds a gritty realism to the experience for their elders.

There’s an emphasis on teamwork here. But this has some potentially negative results as well as positive consequences.

On the one hand, multiplayer functionality allows squads of up to four gamers to customize their roles and tackle missions with coordinated precision. Yet parents should exercise caution since such cooperation can expose impressionable players to unsuitable talk or behavior.

A safer means of driving home the value of community is found in this title’s dynamic live map system. By enabling gamers worldwide to engage in a collective effort, this feature reinforces the importance of solidarity in the face of adversity. It also helps to immerse players more deeply into what is, overall, a rough-edged but action-packed and engaging gaming experience.

Playable on PlayStation 5 and Windows.

The game contains strong combat violence with frequent bloody effects and gory images. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — mature.


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