The new Helldivers 2 gun that everyone immediately declared 'garbage' is actually a misunderstood masterpiece

helldivers 2
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

While everyone in my circles booted up Helldivers 2 last week excited to unlock the exploding crossbow, grenade pistol, and the wild micro-missile-firing Eruptor, my eyes were locked on a different prize. Resting comfortably on the first page of the Democratic Detonation warbond is a new rifle that sticks out: the BR-14 Adjudicator. It's the only gun in the warbond that doesn't blow stuff up, which is weird, but I was excited to test what appeared to be a new assault rifle. Maybe it would finally give me a reason to hang up my Liberator.

Then the warbond came out and everywhere I looked the Adjudicator was catching flak. YouTubers declared it a bottom-tier garbage gun, and its reception on Reddit was only marginally more nuanced. The consensus among Adjudi-haters is it's a confusing gun that doesn't fulfill a role in Helldivers because of its super high recoil, low fire rate, and tiny 25-round magazine. After spending a week with the Adjudicator, I think these reviews are incomplete to the point of misleading. A lot of people are misunderstanding what the Adjudicator is good at, and why it has quickly become one of my favorite primary guns in Helldivers 2. Hear me out.

We can all agree on one thing—the Adjudicator is a confusing a gun. If you just happen upon it on the loadout screen, it's like Arrowhead doesn't want you to figure this thing out.

helldivers 2

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)
  • Damage: 80 (ok that's pretty high)
  • Capacity: 25 (ok that's very low)
  • Recoil: 50 (what does 50 recoil mean)
  • Fire rate: 550 (hmm...)
  • Weapon traits: Medium penetrating (heck yes)

It's officially a marksman rifle that defaults to a single-shot mode like the Diligence Counter Sniper, but viewed exclusively through that lense, the stats say it's just a worse Diligence. The Adjudicator's rounded body and shorter barrel looks like an assault rifle, and an optional full-auto mode supports the idea that you're supposed to use it that way. But that bouncy recoil is so dramatic that you won't get far holding down left-click on an advancing bug wave like you can with a Liberator.

The official in-game description is only a minor help, at least specifying that it kinda sucks at culling large hordes:

"An accurate, armor-penetrating rifle, the BR-14 Adjudicator delivers righteous judgment to medium-sized enemies, though its restrictive magazine limits its effectiveness against large groups."

How to enjoy the Adjudicator

So if the Adjudicator is a bad assault rifle and middling marksman rifle, why bother? It took me a few nights of playing around to figure the gun out, but Reddit user Spence199876 was quick on the uptake in this helpful post from last week:

"It is a battle rifle, it's meant to bridge the gap between assault rifle and DMR, so it's just a high caliber assault rifle basically (for all the military folks, think M14, FAL and G3)."

A battle rifle! I mean, duh, that's presumably what the "BR" stands for in its codename, but that label can mean all sorts of things in videogames. Spence compares it to real-life battle rifles, but to me, the Adjudicator makes even more sense if you think of it like Halo's battle rifle, a high-damage burst gun excellent at medium-long range.

The Adjudicator is GOOD. from r/Helldivers

There's only one problem: The Adjudicator doesn't have a burst-fire mode. It's up to the operator to let off the trigger in controlled bursts. That's more work than videogame guns typically ask of us, but if you can get used to it, the Adjudicator really starts cooking.

The first few shots of a burst have a tight spread (even tighter if you take a moment to crouch). You can get into a rhythm of putting down small bugs or bots in one or two shots each, but as Arrowhead says upfront, large groups of small enemies isn't its specialty. Where it really shines is dealing with armored bots.

The trick is not to waste time lining up perfect headshots—just get your crosshair in the vicinity of a Devastator's head, a grunt's chest, or a Brawler's gut and let the kick carry you up to a weak point. It's the same thing you should do with a Liberator assault rifle, except unlike the Liberator, shots that land near a Devastator's weak point don't just bounce off its medium armor. They tear straight through, with each shot whittling down its health to the point that a single headshot will finish the job. With an Adjudicator, you can face the most annoying Automatons head-on and often kill them faster than other primaries—there's your distinct role.

There is actually one other gun that fills a similar niche in Helldivers 2. The Liberator Penetrator is a variant of the starter assault rifle that also pierces medium armor. With a larger magazine, steadier recoil, and around half the damage, the Penetrator is very easy to use, but too weak for my tastes. I used it a lot in the first weeks of the game because I could ignore the armor of pesky Brood Commanders. Eventually I switched back to the basic Liberator because it felt like I was barely killing anything before each reload. 

The Adjudicator makes more sense if you think of it like Halo's battle rifle, a high-damage burst gun excellent at medium-long range.

The Adjudicator is way more my speed—it hurts better, staggers enemies with its high-caliber rounds, and it doubles as a decent marksman rifle if you switch back to single-fire. Best of all, it rewards my preferred playstyle of frequently crouching to steady recoil. Pair the Adjudicator with the Fortified armor perk that decreases crouched recoil by an additional 30% and it'll steadily hover in your hands like a woodpecker.

Interesting guns are great guns

I promise this is not me making a case for the Adjudicator secretly being the best gun in the game. Its low ammo capacity is a serious downside that has forced me to be more greedy with Resupply pods. And frankly, the fact that this gun requires extra brainpower to stay on target than a fire-and-forget Liberator or Sickle might be the only data point you need to dismiss it.

That's okay—the Adjudicator is not the best gun for every scenario, which is what makes it a fantastic Helldivers gun.

I've sung its praises as a bot-killing force of nature, but I haven't talked about how it fairs with Terminids. It's bad, based on my small sample size of missions. It chews through too much ammo against hordes of small bugs and those hordes don't give me enough breathing room to crouch and pick them off. You can design your loadout around these weaknesses, like keeping a secondary SMG or Stalwart machine gun on hand to fend off swarms, but when Terminids are on the menu—as they are this week—I'm probably gonna hang up the Adjudicator and pick up the Sickle or the Breaker shotgun instead. 

All I really want is for more players to give the Adjudicator a shot and maybe don't take those early dismissals of this quirky battle rifle as gospel.

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.