Helldivers 2's friendly fire and killer bugs show 'the fragility of humans' and are also just funny, creative director says

A heroic-looking Helldiver from Helldivers 2 stands proud in front of a flag, while a fellow soldier unloads a gun in stylish slow-mo in the background.
(Image credit: Arrowhead)

Helldivers 2 threw out the first game's top-down camera perspective, bringing us closer to our soldiers to make us feel extra vulnerable as we face off with extraterrestrial killer bugs and robots, Arrowhead Studios CEO and creative director Johan Pilestedt told PlayStation Blog.

"Helldivers 1 took a lot of inspiration from real life and military-sim experiences—merged with combat against extraterrestrials," Pilestedt said. "The distance in top-down viewpoints, however, does not allow for more immersive experiences."

By pulling the camera in closer to the action, Arrowhead could make everything in the world, including your own teammates, feel dangerous. "We always knew we wanted the juxtaposition between the fragility of humans with overpowered tools versus physically superior foes only vulnerable to heavy weapons," he said. "Feeling human is a key part to the Helldivers experience."

Friendly fire plays a role there, too, by creating "a complexity to the gameplay where players have to actively think during combat sequences," he said. "Also, the chuckles that happen when you accidentally carpet bomb your friends allows for a playfulness that in reality would be a tragedy—but within the self bounds of games we can explore the dark humor of these situations."

It's true. The best Helldivers 2 moments are always accidental—whether it's sending a rocket straight into your buddy's back or catapulting yourself to the other side of the planet. Your fragility is the magnet that holds it all in place. It's not unlike the appeal of the Souls series or Elden Ring: Hostile worlds naturally foster a sense of community (and comedy) when you see all the clips of people getting obliterated by the same boss as you. It's why co-op remains popular in FromSoft's games even though it's always a pain to set up.

As Evan explained in his piece about Helldivers 2's friendly fire, there are brilliant systemic reasons for it as well. When you don't have the ability to see the entire battlefield like you could in the original game, your teammates are vastly more important. And that tension makes every step in the galactic war mean a lot more than it would if it were a purely solo experience. 

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.