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Helldivers 2’s unique co-op mechanics have an unexpected origin

After being conscripted into the Swedish military, Helldivers 2’s developers used this experience to make an oddly realistic sci-fi shooter.

Helldivers 2 developers military conscription: A diagonally split image with a group of players fighting bugs with flamethrowers on the left side and a close-up of a Helldiver holding a rocket on the right side.

Helldivers 2 wears much of its inspiration on its sleeve, from its hammy Starship Troopers satire to the Terminid’s uncanny similarities to Warhammer 40K’s Tyranid. However, what you didn’t know is that a lot of what you see in the hit PS5 co-op shooter is inspired by the developer’s experience in the Swedish military.

Speaking to YouTuber OperatorDrewski, Arrowhead Game Studios’ CEO Johan Pilestedt and head of product testing Patrik Lasota reveal that Helldivers 2 takes a great deal of inspiration from their time being conscripted in the Swedish military. Although it’s completely unexpected given its satirical sci-fi setting, this attention to detail and focus on teamwork is a large part of why the new PS5 game has quickly become one of the best co-op games out there.

“A lot of these features, like the team-crewed weapons and the fire rate of the machine guns, are based on real-life experiences. This is actually something we learned to do when we were conscripted,” Pilestedt explains. “In Sweden conscription is mandatory still, or used to be, because we’re such a small country and we need to have a defense force. It used to be like that – everybody at least did, I think it’s 7 months of military service, and then beyond that you have options like the National Guard and so forth.”

With weapons like the Recoilless Rifle and the Autocannon performing better with another player as your loader, you can certainly feel Arrowhead’s hands-on experience. These are heavy weapons, and even the hardy Helldivers need a helping hand to wield them effectively. And trust us, with new flying bugs haunting Helldivers 2, you’ll need them now more than ever.

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Pilestedt and OperatorDrewski also discuss the great deal of experience they each have firing weapons – and the unfortunate malfunctions they have faced, such as gloves getting stuck in the trigger. This ties into Helldivers 2’s general love of chaos and letting things go wrong. At the end of the day, running out of ammo, having your bullets ricochet, or having your laser weapon overheat is all part of the fun in one of the best PS5 games around.

Expanding on that, Pilestedt gives further context to the conditions the Swedish military faces, which likely influenced the game’s dynamic weather and its effects on your arsenal. “Arctic temperatures make the oil in the gun stiffen, so a lot of the actual practice of changing the gas pressure is because the Swedish army is used to fighting in arctic conditions,” he explains. Likewise, in Helldivers 2, bringing a laser weapon to a cold planet will see it regulate its temperature much better than a hot dust bowl.

While a lot of Helldivers 2’s writing pokes fun at the military, its gameplay draws on it heavily, and this undoubtedly comes from the developer’s experiences and their wider appreciation of military sim games. In fact, Pilestedt’s dream game sounds like Helldivers 2 with even more realistic mechanics packed in.

Pairing this surprising realism with its outlandish setting, Helldivers 2 has captured the hearts of the PS5 community. With the latest Helldivers 2 update shaking up the meta and changing up enemy spawns in a big way, there’s much more on the horizon. Unfortunately, we can’t escape the creepy crawlies as it looks like Dune-like mega-worms are on their way to Helldivers 2 as well as the terrifying Illuminate faction from the original game.