Casper Van Dien says Helldivers 2 may be 'a good tribute' but now he's Johnny Rico again, and Starship Troopers fans better 'come in here and help us kill some damn bugs—Yeah!'

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

Helldivers 2 has been one of 2024's big hits, and found a huge audience ready to spread managed democracy across the galaxy. The game's setting has one inspiration above all others: Paul Verhoeven's film Starship Troopers, loosely based on the Robert Heinlein novel. The game is packed with references and tributes, and sparked some renewed interest in the movie, with even Casper Van Dien (main character Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers) calling it "really quite wonderful."

This interest may have come at a fortunate time for Starship Troopers: Extermination, a promising 16-player co-op FPS from developer Offworld that's currently in early access, and it certainly seems to have woken it up to the opportunity of a slam-dunk celebrity partnership. Offworld has now announced that ST: Extermination will be fully released in October, featuring a singleplayer campaign where Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico is your commander.

At this year's Summer Game Fest, PC Gamer got the chance to sit down with Van Dien, alongside Offworld's game lead Peter Maurice. The topic of Helldivers 2 came up and the obvious links to Starship Troopers: is there any danger that Arrowhead's game might be sucking the air out of the room for an official title? Or is it just a good thing people are interested?

"I'm more in the latter camp," says Maurice. "And I think their success brings everybody up. For me, I'm always happy for the success of another development studio, and it's a good game, it's a fun game. We're a different game.

"It's very hard to make good games, it's even harder to sustain good games. And across the whole industry it's tough times right now. There's not a lot of success, especially for a lot of indie studios, so I'm just really happy [Arrowhead's] found success. And it's bringing our awareness up among troopers at the right time, just as we're finishing our game in Early Access, and we're leading up to launch. I can only see good things with that."

That's a graceful answer from Offworld, but Johnny Rico by nature is less diplomatic. Van Dien has said nice things about Helldivers 2, and in the early days even intimated he'd be up for a cameo, but now he's reprising his single most iconic role.

"Helldivers is a good tribute to Starship Troopers," says Van Dien. "But it's not Starship Troopers. This is Starship Troopers, this is Starship Troopers: Extermination. It doesn't get any bigger than that. I have people text me things [about Helldivers], I see things up on Instagram and all this and I thought it was cool.

"But I mean, I'm Johnny Rico. And I'm in Starship Troopers. And I'm so glad to be here. Anytime anybody brings up Starship Troopers to me, it's always a big thrill for me. I haven't played Helldivers, but it looks cool. Then I went and I saw Starship Troopers: Extermination and this is what I'd be playing anyhow, because this is my world."

At this point Gareth Woods, Offworld's head of marketing, hastily adds that the studio sees Helldivers 2's success as "a win-win situation… I don't think there's a gamer around these days that only plays one game. And so the fact that you have two games that are both great that offer something different, different experiences, we're all for it. If anything, the pro is that it's highlighted people's love of this particular IP and shooting bugs in space."

Something in that last line wakes up Johnny Rico. "I'm going to welcome them all into the Roughnecks," booms Van Dien. "They can do all the training they want elsewhere, and then come in here and help us kill some damn bugs—Yeah!"

The timing certainly seems to be to Starship Troopers: Extermination's benefit, and the game now has a full release date, as well as Casper Van Dien and a miraculous-sounding corpse pile-up system: "No other game has been able to achieve persistent death at the scale we're doing."

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."

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