2015 was an exceptionally busy year for me, so long gaming sessions were somewhat of a rarity. There was an occasional game, like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, where I could sit down and play for an extended period, but for most of the year I was either scrambling for time on the PS4 or enjoying my Vita sporadically on the go. This is why I have chosen Arrowhead Game Studios’ Helldivers as my 2015 Game of the Year.
Released in March, Helldivers immediately caught my attention with its top-down third person shooter mechanics. Players can customize their own soldier and venture out alone or in a group of up to four people to invade planets and rid the solar system of enemy aliens in the form of bugs, machines, and other deadly creatures. If you’ve ever seen Starship Troopers, you’re basically Johnny Rico.
What I love about Helldivers most is that it’s easy to pick up and complete a planet or two. The story is not particularly deep; you’re a soldier tasked with protecting Super Earth from three hostile enemy races. You equip your character with weapons and armor and then pick a planet (stage) to attack. Then you drop down via this capsule that can smash enemies on impact, complete a couple of objectives without getting yourself killed, and then launch back up into orbit knowing that you’re keeping the galaxy safe. It’s all very basic, but Helldivers keeps the gameplay extremely tight and addicting.
My favorite element of Helldivers are the stratagems, equipable call in that you can assign during a mission to give you extra ammo, new weapons, or just blow all your enemies to kingdom come. As you level your character you unlock new stratagems. The cool thing about them is that you have to actually input a series of commands to call them down. You can’t just press a single button and have it delivered straight to your front door; you actually have to work for it. My personal favorite is the Mech, which can deal massive amounts of damage to your foes and acts as a suit of armor. It’s basically two for the price of one. Like your weapons and armor, you can upgrade your stratagems as well to make them even more powerful.
Another aspect that makes the game so special is its multiplayer. The game is nearly impossible to solo on some of its higher difficulty levels so having a good fireteam is a must. I’m usually not that big on multiplayer games, but Helldivers reminded me of how fun playing with your friends can be. I’ve always found it to be a much better experience than playing against friends. Cooperating together to complete objectives is a satisfying experience, and while there have been numerous friendly fire deaths, they mostly end with laughs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called in a Mech, only to have it drop in and crush either myself or a fellow teammate.
There have been plenty of larger and grander games to be released in 2015, but Helldivers is the perfect game for me. Its cross-play ability across PS4, PS3, and the PS Vita allow me to take the game play the game wherever I want with any of my friends, regardless of which system they own. As busy as my life has been in 2015, it was always nice to have the game always within arms reach. Helldivers stands out among the Fallout 4’s and Metal Gear Solid V’s as a unique and entertaining experience that’s fun on your own, but even more fun with friends. There’s not a AAA blockbuster in the world I would trade it for.