Casper Van Dien geeks out over Helldivers 2's references and gives it a patriotic 10/10—'such a tribute to Starship Troopers it's really quite wonderful'

Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers
(Image credit: TriStar)

The breakout success of Helldivers 2 has brought renewed focus on the game's major inspiration: Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, loosely based on the Robert Heinlein novel. Even though Arrowhead's done a good job of making the Helldivers universe feel like its own thing, it wears its love for this movie on both shoulder pads, and the game is packed with references and tributes.

Starship Troopers generally has been having a good time of late, with contemporary audiences re-discovering one of Verhoeven's typically OTT masterworks alongside some half-decent Starship Troopers games appearing. But it's Helldivers that has really stepped on the gas and ever since its launch Casper Van Dien, who starred as Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers, has shown more than an interest in getting involved.

Van Dien recently gave an interview to Gamology, in which he watches some clips of Helldivers 2 cinematics and gameplay and offers some commentary about the similarities he's seeing. The video would be perfect for a democratic drinking game, as it helpfully adds up how many times Van Dien says something along the lines of "it's just like Starship Troopers!" By the end your liver will have died for democracy, son.

The big question is, of course, whether there could be any crossover between the two things, in the form of Van Dien recording some voice lines, or being in an ad, some sort of collaboration.

"Of course I love the idea of Helldivers 2 and you never know," says Van Dien. "I'm open, you see what happens. I already feel like I'm a part of it. You never know if [it was] Helldivers 2 or the Starship Troopers Extermination game I'd be very interested, it's something I think is cool. Of course I'm very particular with my Starship, I love being Johnny Rico, but the general looks pretty good too in [Helldivers 2]."

Van Dien spends most of this video watching things happening in Helldivers 2 and laughing about how similar it is to a given scene or detail in Starship Troopers, but there's no element of meanness here: the actor seems more utterly delighted at how much inspiration Arrowhead's game has taken from the movie.

"In Starship Troopers we have a planet called Klendathu and in Helldivers 2 they have this planet called Klen Dauth II," chuckles Van Dien. "Then also in Starship Troopers we talk about Zegema Beach… and they have Zegema Prime. I see all of it, I see the way the guys talk, what they say, I see the bugs, and it is such a tribute to Starship Troopers it's really quite wonderful."

One of the tributes in particular appeals to Van Dien. Johnny Rico has a "Death from Above" tattoo, consisting of those words surrounding a stylised skull in a triangle. And Helldivers 2 has its own Death from Above emblem, showing Helldiver pods shooting down from a destroyer.

"One of the biggest gifts in the Starship Troopers world is the Death from Above tattoo that I keep seeing in here, they have it in there," says Van Dien. "One time I was going through a divorce and the whole crew, they didn't tell me, they all snuck out and got the Death from Above tattoo, you know the press-ons. And for our last cast photo we all did the Death from Above, it was a last minute thing, I was like 'I couldn't believe you guys did this.'"

Well Van Dien certainly sounds like he'd be up for some Helldiving, and it's nice to see that his main reaction to the game is gratitude for the renewed surge of interest in a movie from 27 years ago. Also: this guy has aged incredibly well, so that's what clean-living democracy can do for you. Van Dien is asked at the end what score he'd give Helldivers 2, and his patriotic answer is no surprise: "I'm gonna give it 10/10."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."