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Helldivers 2 is the best third-person shooter since 2012

Helldivers 2 sets the new gold standard for third-person shooters, as the PS5 hit meets the bar set by Rockstar Games' Max Payne 3 in 2012.

Helldivers 2 Max Payne 3 best third person shooters: An image of a Helldiver and Max Payne.

I’ve been completely ensnared by Helldivers 2 since the breakout PS5 hit launched. I’d already anticipated it’d be a good time based on early State of Play footage, but I never expected it to be surpassing my expectations this vastly. But I don’t just mean the game’s excellent premise, world-building, or hilarious community. This is the best third-person shooter I’ve played since what I consider the gold standard of the genre: Max Payne 3.

When Rockstar Games assumed creative control from Remedy Entertainment on Max Payne 3, something incredible was unlocked. And one of the best games in Rockstar’s library emerged. Remedy laid down amazing foundations with its entries, giving us iconic gunfights and slow-motion bliss.

Max Payne 3 amplifies those traits, but Rockstar’s transition to the RAGE engine makes everything feel weighted and tactile. Max may appear to control sluggishly on the surface, but there’s a satisfaction to shifting his body around in a physics engine that accounts for minute details. He’s not nimble or fast, and in combination with Euphoria’s animation tech, each dive, roll, fall, and impact is never the same.

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Every surface can be an opportunity to survive or fail, simply by allowing the player to control Max’s body on the floor. The sheer effort put into making Max’s movement between each stance seamless still stuns me to this day. Fending off enemies with dual pistols from the laying on the dance floor of a nightclub never gets old, either. So when I tried Helldivers 2 for the first time, I was immediately shocked by just how excellent Arrowhead Game Studios’ combat mechanics are.

Much has been said about the game’s Stratagems, but the way your Helldiver moves around each Terminid or Automaton infested planet is best-in-class tier gameplay. In these circumstances, this focus on heavier physics makes each battle sweatier, and often more brutal. Getting flung around by Behemoths or Brute Commanders can easily induce a wince, as you witness your Helldiver getting reduced to a mushy pile of liber-tea.

There’s a level of skill to diving without the aid of slow-motion, hoping that your Railgun shot will eliminate a menacing enemy that could you wipe out in seconds. It makes you consider every movement strategically. Although, in reality, it is a lot of panic, screaming, and playfully cursing at my friends while a Bile Titan tries to rip us apart.

Even though you’re not the main character in Helldivers 2’s overarching community-led narrative, Arrowhead makes you feel just as important. Making a last stand with a Breaker shotgun, laying on the ground covered in bug blood, wouldn’t feel out of place on an IMAX screen at the movies. It all reminds me of the action movie gusto that the Just Cause franchise encompasses too, making each enemy encounter feel like a cinematic experience you’ll never forget.

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I’m simply in awe at Helldivers 2 on a mechanical level, and I can’t stop thinking about how it feels to play. It’s just an added bonus that it is one of the best PS5 games of the year already. Now, there’s quite possibly a new gold standard for third-person shooters out there, and I’ll be spreading democracy around the galaxy for plenty of time to come.