Helldivers 2 dev nerfed everyone's favorite shotgun because it was 'hands down the best sniper rifle' in the game

A soldier from Helldivers gives a patriotic salute while their comrade burns an alien corpse to death in the background.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Studios / PlayStation)

Nestled on page eight of Helldivers 2's free warbond is an unassuming gun—the SG-85 Slugger. I didn't pay much mind to the Slugger for a long time, or even bother unlocking it, because it's a variant of the Punisher, a shotgun I don't like. That changed when my friend informed me that the Slugger isn't really a shotgun—it's a shotgun-shaped rifle that fires slugs that can unalive anything in seconds. It's so good at killing that I feel like I'm cheating when I use it.

So I wasn't surprised when the Slugger got the biggest nerfs in yesterday's Helldivers 2 patch that also buffed sniper rifles, flame damage, and heavy armor. Arrowhead hit the popular gun where it hurts:

  • Reduced stagger.
  • Reduced damage from 280 to 250.
  • Reduced demolition force.

Responding to feedback on the Helldivers Discord server, senior game designer Alexus Kravchenko said the Slugger changes came down to the fact that it was a shotgun that didn't behave like a shotgun.

"The truth is, [the] Slugger was just hands down the best sniper rifle out there, which is not fitting for, you know, a shotgun," Kravchenko wrote.

It's true: The Slugger can't equip a scope, but its high accuracy and low damage dropoff made it a better option for precision shooters than, say, the Diligence Counter-Sniper rifle that's specifically designed for the role. Makes sense to me, but if the goal was to make the Slugger less of a long-range gun, I wonder why Arrowhead chose to reduce its overall damage instead of increasing its damage dropoff. I suppose an across the board damage nerf accomplishes the same thing as long as the Slugger still feels strong at its intended ranges (short-to-medium, apparently).

helldivers 2 discord

(Image credit: Discord)

Some fans pointed out to Kravchenko that, instead of nerfing the Slugger for being too sniper-like, it'd make more sense to buff the snipers to be more Slugger-like. Arrowhead has talked in the past about why  "Don't Nerf, Only Buff" is a bad design philosophy for a PvE game, but in this case, Arrowhead is doing both.

"We are looking into the sniper rifles as well. We buffed the [Diligence Counter-Sniper], Dominator, and [Anti-Materiel Rifle] in this patch, so I'd say we're getting there," he wrote, reinforcing his previous point. "A sniper rifle shouldn't match a shotgun, those have totally different use cases."

Those sniper rifle changes refer to two big buffs in yesterday's patch that increased the AMR support weapon's damage by a whopping 30% and upgraded the Counter-Sniper primary weapon to medium armor piercing. I'm having a lot more fun with snipers now.

As for what's on the docket for Helldivers 2's next balancing patch, which is likely weeks away if the current pattern persists: Kravchenko says to expect changes to the Punisher Plasma.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.