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Helldivers 2 solo has no right being this good (and terrifying)

Facing Helldivers 2’s hordes of creepy crawlies and death-bots solo is one of the most intense and exhilarating experiences I’ve played on my PS5.

Helldivers 2 solo or co-op: A Helldiver wearing white armor and running holding a weapon, set against an image of the Burning Hells from Diablo.

Arrowhead Game Studios clearly took notes when cooking up Helldivers 2, as it learns all the right lessons from popular co-op games and brings new ones to the table too. And sure, it’s an amazing co-op experience, but there’s something different about playing Helldivers 2 solo – it’s surprisingly brilliant and absolutely terrifying in all the right ways.

Helldivers 2 is undoubtedly one of the best co-op games out there right now for folk with a PS5. From tandem rocket launcher reloads to the absurd chaos of fighting hordes of bugs and unfaltering automatons, it’s certainly a fun ride with friends. However, when you’re playing the PS5 exclusive by your lonesome, it’s a totally different beast.

Helldivers 2 is an incredibly hard experience as a solo player. Like the best Soulslikes out there, Arrowhead clearly understands that the almost overwhelming sense of challenge is part of the fun. With limited supplies, including low max ammo and healing items, you need to carefully consider how and when you engage with your enemies, at least on hard mode and above. Given you don’t have friends to provide covering fire or offer themselves up as an untimely meal for a Terminid (the perfect distraction), all the focus is on you. Waves of creepy crawlies and Terminator-like automatons are out for blood and you’ve barely got enough to scrape by.

I remember completing my first hard difficulty mission with only seconds to spare and barely any ammo left, frantically trying to fight through the Terminids that had surrounded my evacuation ship. I was shaking afterwards. If you’ve ever been the last person standing on a mission, then you’ll know the feeling – just imagine that for the whole match.

Helldivers 2 solo or co-op: The player firing at two large bugs approaching them.

Surviving by the skin of your teeth goes a long way in making you feel like a hardcore Helldiver, dropping right into enemy lines to dish out Managed Democracy. And don’t even get me started on the automatons, whose piercing red eyes sent shivers down my spine the first time I shot myself down to a robot-controlled planet.

When paired with the thick atmosphere of every planet, from the dense fog to the mud flicking everywhere, Helldivers 2 is remarkably intense and immersive. With no friends for comfort or help, you’re left to wallow in it.

Likewise, you’re also forced to be creative in your approach. With fewer players to diversify your loadout options, such as one player focusing on high single-target damage weapons and Stratagems, and another crowd control, you’ve got to do it all. Having hordes of enemies focusing only on you means you really do have to stay mobile, frequently breaking line of sight and using the environment to your advantage. I found myself favoring defensive Stratagems like turrets and minefields to cover other angles that I simply could not manage by myself.

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All in all, it perfectly captures exactly what I like about playing co-op games by myself. While it’s somewhat annoying to not be able to open a door that requires two people or see some of the cool two-player reload animations, the intensity is worth it. Save for the likes of Deep Rock Galactic – another of the best PS5 co-op games – I’ve never felt such exhilarating gameplay outside of a Soulslike. Now, I’m determined to somehow beat the hardest difficulty, Helldive, by myself – to become one of Super Earth’s best as any Helldiver would want.

I’ve been loving time with Helldivers 2 so far and with future updates always being free, the new PS5 game is only going to get better. While I’ve been having a blast solo, I do hope we one day get to see this wild idea the Helldivers 2 developers had come to fruition for the ultimate co-op experience.