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11 things I wish I knew before playing Helldivers 2

 Helldivers 2 tips.
Helldivers 2 tips.

Helldivers 2, the co-op shooter from the makers of Magicka, is enjoying a way bigger launch than any of us were expecting. Despite some technical issues Arrowhead Games is still grappling with, we're enjoying Helldivers' excellent shooting and smart brutality. It's easy to pick up, hard to master, and has a lot more going on under the hood than its tutorial suggests.

You'll likely spend your first few bug-slaying campaigns discovering rules and mechanics you didn't know were there, and if you're like me, kick yourself for overlooking them for so long. After eight hours in Helldivers 2, here's every tip and trick I've jotted down so far:

You can "parkour" up to surprising heights

There is no jumping or proper climbing in Helldivers 2, but you can manipulate the clambering mechanic to get higher than you'd expect. You can climb waist high objects to "stair step" your way to some height, but the range on the grab is generous enough that you even can catch ledges a short gap away.

This works best to get on top of single-story buildings: clamber up nearby junk, run off, then mash clamber (spacebar) to catch an overhang and reach the rooftop. You can also cheese your way up a rocky cliff this way, but it's less consistent. When a bug breach broaches, there's no better place than the high ground.

Airstrikes can take out Terminid nests

The Helldivers 2 tutorial teaches you to seal bug nests by tossing grenades into them. That works great, but airstrikes can work even better. A well-aimed missile strike strategem will not only seal one bug hole, but two or three others nearby. Results may vary by the power of the strategem you're using, but even if you only snag one, it's a safer strategy than lobbing grenades.

You can equip a backpack and a back weapon

helldivers 2 tips
helldivers 2 tips

Helldivers 2 doesn't explicitly state you can't do this, but when I first put on a Support Pack to be my squad's ammo mule, I figured I was using up the "back" slot where I'd usually put a heavy machine gun. Not the case: you can still carry any large back weapon while also wearing a Support Pack, as well as other back gadgets like the Jump Pack.

This is also my way of telling you the Support Pack rules—with it you can carry four resupply boxes, distribute them to teammates, and even replenish it with a normal supply drop. There's no reason not to have one buddy hauling the ammo in Helldivers 2.

Hipfire often

You can (and should) hipfire your guns. It works like a Gears game—you won't get a reticle while hipfiring, but you can still aim pretty well by looking at bullet tracers and keeping enemies in the center of the screen. You can move at full jog speed while hipfiring, which comes in clutch when a horde of 18 bugs is on your tail. SMGs are the best at hipfire, but don't be afraid to go Rambo with a heavy machinegun either.

Hold "reload" to tweak your gun

helldivers 2 tips
helldivers 2 tips

Another handy mechanic that Helldivers doesn't explain. You can hold "reload" while holding a gun to tweak its settings, if it has any. This is how you can change your assault rifle or SMG rate of fire or toggle a flashlight on or off.

Radar stations reveal loot caches on the map

If you happen upon a radar dish point of interest on a mission, take the time to do it. Booting up the dish will reveal points of interest on your map with little diamond symbols, including loot stashes containing rare samples (used to upgrade your mothership), bunkers with medals and powerful weapons, and the locations of enemy outposts/nests. You also get XP for doing it, so it's a win-win.

Every gun has a first-person mode

helldivers 2 tips
helldivers 2 tips

This is neat: Helldivers 2 is a mostly third-person game, but you can aim any gun in first-person and it feels surprisingly natural. The game teaches you about scoping in when you first pick up a sniper rifle, but it doesn't mention that all guns can be aimed this way, even pistols. By default on mouse and keyboard, click the scroll wheel while aiming. You're probably better off with over-the-shoulder aiming the majority of the time, but FPS mode can be helpful in long-range skirmishes—especially when facing automaton snipers.

Diving will save your life

There's a reason the game reminds you how to dive every time you take damage. Hitting the deck not only makes you a smaller target for automatons, but it also creates distance between you and the bug that just took a chunk of your leg. Even if you're slowed by a leg injury, you can always dive. Plus, it looks cool and you can immediately start shooting from the ground like Max Payne.

Plan around your extraction point

helldivers 2 tips
helldivers 2 tips

Where you choose to drop into a mission is a bigger decision than you might think. Some mission types ask you to destroy four compounds on opposite corners of the map, and the procedurally generated terrain will often slice up the map with uncrossable water.

If you want to avoid lengthy sprints across land you've already cleared, it's smart to tackle objectives in order of farthest to closest to the extraction point.

The premium battle pass has more weapons, but they're not total upgrades

helldivers 2 tips
helldivers 2 tips

Helldivers 2 progression is both familiar and strange for a live service game. It has a free and premium battle pass containing not only cosmetics, but new weapons and armor. The free pass contains most of the basic guns in the game, but the $10 premium pass has a couple more guns and several variants of existing guns.

While the variants are interesting, they're not necessarily upgrades. For instance, the first page of the premium pass contains an explosive ammo variant of the basic Liberator assault rifle. While the explosive ammo gives it extra kick, it also has a slower rate of fire, smaller magazine, and more recoil. It's a tradeoff, or a sidegrade. I've yet to test other variant guns for myself, but their stat screens suggest a trend.

It's polite to salute the ICBM

For Super Earth.