Helldivers 2 guide intro screenshot of the flag being planted

As I've mentioned throughout my review, Helldivers 2 can be a remarkably challenging game despite its bravado, over-the-top weaponry and care-free attitude. This mostly comes from the simple fact that the player characters are not super heroes. Getting run over by the bug version of a bulldozer or hit in the face with a rocket will generally kill you outright, even if you're wearing an entire fridge's worth of armor.

So in order to help you not only survive these circumstances, but also thrive in the war against both the Automatons and the Terminids, allow me to share with you some important tricks and strategies I uncovered after spending more than 80 hours dispensing freedom throughout the galaxy. Without further ado, let us begin!

Video version of this guide (~11 minutes)

1) Always carry anti-armor weapons

Once you get past the first three difficulty tiers Helldivers 2 is going to start throwing heavily armored enemies your way. These elite enemies take massively reduced damage from small arms fire, and as such you'll need specialized tools in order to deal with them.

These include dedicated anti-armor stratagems like the 500kg bomb, disposable rocket launchers or even versatile weapons like the autocannon that can do a little bit of everything. Regardless of your preferences, make sure you're always carrying some tool to deal with armored enemies as those are frequently going to be the biggest threat on the battlefield. And if you want to be extra safe, bring multiple armor-piercing stratagems as you never really know when you'll suddenly need to help out your teammate with an entire horde of bile titans!

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the rocket launcher

A well placed rocket solves many problems

2) Aim for the squishy bits

In most shooters aiming for the enemy's head and weak points is the best way to bring them down. Helldivers 2 is no different in this regard, though unlike most shooters the difference between normal and weak point hits is incredibly big!

For example, a single shot from a Railgun directly to an Automaton mech's eye socket will instantly kill it. On the other hand, even near-misses will deal significantly less damage and allow the mech to continue charging at you while firing rockets or spewing fire. So when it comes to Helldivers 2's combat, it's all about the quality rather than the quantity of your shots.

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the Automaton mech's eye weak point

If it glows, it blows!

3) The different styles of aiming

Speaking of shooting, Helldivers 2's weapons have different types of accuracy based on what you're doing. It's nothing too complicated, though it's definitely important to know.

If you're moving, you're going to be quite inaccurate. If you're standing, you're going to be mostly okay at aiming. On the other hand, if you're crouching or laying prone, then you're going to be able to aim even the heaviest weapons without too much trouble. So if you're trying to make an important shot, do make sure to at least stop and crouch down.

4) Tweak your weapons

While Helldivers 2 doesn't have a weapon upgrade system like the one found in Helldivers 1, you can still tweak small details about some of your weapons. This includes things like changing the firing mode, choosing whether you want the flashlight on or off, as well as activating any special features your weapon might have. You can do this by holding reload [R] and then selecting whatever mode you want.

For most weapons you can simply stick to the default and be perfectly fine, though I would recommend experimenting as changing the firing mode can help you conserve ammo or even dish out more punishment in a pinch. However, when it comes to the Railgun, swapping to the unsafe mode is almost mandatory in order to unlock its true potential. This is because the unsafe mode massively increases your damage in exchange for a chance to blow up if you push it too far. High risk, but also high reward!

Helldivers 2 guide screenshot of how you can customize your weapons

For some weapons, these tweaks can drastically change their performance

5) Stick with your team... at a safe distance

Much like every other co-op shooter, sticking with your team is generally a good idea in Helldivers 2. This gives you increased firepower, more tools to deal with problematic enemies, the ability to clear objectives faster and, if you have the right emote, as many hugs as you can wish for!

That said, don't actually stand close to other people! Weapons, grenades and stratagems all deal massive amounts of friendly fire damage, and it's very easy to get killed by a teammate that's desperately trying to fend off a horde of bugs. Instead, your best bet is to stay a respectable distance from everyone, though always in view so you can support each other whenever anyone gets swarmed by elite enemies.

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the mech shooting

Help is often best delivered with rockets from afar

6) Running is always an option

This leads directly into one of Helldivers 2's most important lessons - you don't have to kill every single bug or bot in existence! Running away to fight another day is not only a perfectly valid strategy, but perhaps the most impactful one, especially on the higher difficulties.

The reason this is the case is because the enemies are not omniscient. If you run away from them and hide, they're not going to be able to find you, and will eventually give up. So rather than waste 10 minutes and most of your respawns fighting against endless hordes of enemies, you can just take a 30 second detour and lose them that way.

This goes doubly so if you're losing control of an objective. Rather than fight to the bitter end and inevitably lose, you can drag all of the enemies away from the important bits, then sneak back in later to complete the mission before they even realize what's going on.

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the player 'bravely' running away from bugs

Even if you can take them on, running is often going to the better option regardless

7) Travel light

While the March 6th update has made armor slightly better, the unfortunate reality is that no matter how many layers of steel you slap onto yourself, a horde of bugs is going to tear through it without too much trouble. As such, I'd highly recommend sticking to light armor.

Light armor is significantly faster than heavy armor, gives you massively increased stamina regeneration compared to heavy armor, and most importantly of all, is survivable enough that you can take a hit or two before dying. So given how important mobility is in Helldivers 2, light armor is the clear winner regardless of what difficulty you're playing on.

8) Flop like a fish

Helldivers 2 gives you the ability to, rather ungracefully, dive in any direction in order to avoid damage. You can do this by pressing [Alt] on PC. This fish flop might look pathetic at first glance, but it's actually an insanely powerful ability and one you should use frequently.

And I'm not even talking about the 'expected' use of the dive - things like avoiding chargers or bile titans. Rather, I'm talking about using it to push your way through hordes or avoid death while being shot at by an entire Automaton base.

Even if you're surrounded by 20 bugs, repeatedly diving forward will give you a pretty solid chance to avoid damage as the enemies just won't know what to do with you. It's not a magical shield and you will get killed if you get stuck in a horde for too long, but more often than not tactically roleplaying a fish will get you out of trouble.

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the fish flop maneuver

Even if it looks hopeless, the fish-flop will save you!

9) Explore each map

Every single map, regardless of difficulty, has a variety of outposts, hidden bunkers and side objectives for you to find. You can do so by either keeping an eye out for any structures or strange formations, or by moving towards the [?] marker on your compass which appears when you're somewhat close to these locations.

They're always worth seeking out and looting, even if they do sometimes come equipped with guards. This is because these locations can give you experience, samples that let you purchase upgrades, medals that unlock new weapons and cosmetics, super credits which can be used to purchase the 'Battle Pass' or cash shop items, or even immensely useful tools like access to the SEAF artillery platform for that specific mission.

So don't just rush from one objective to another. Do the occasional detour and you will be rewarded!

Helldivers 2 screenshot of the lucrative loot cache

Ammo, stims and upgrade currency - what more could you ask for?

10) Secure samples

While you cannot lose medals, credits or super credits once you've acquired them, you absolutely can lose samples. Whenever you're killed they'll be dropped onto the floor and must be picked up, by you or someone else, and then taken to extraction in order for them to actually be added to your total.

As such, it's of the utmost importance to go back and collect your samples whenever you respawn. Similarly, if your teammate kicks the bucket and you can grab their samples reasonably safely, do so! All of the collectibles are shared, so all that really matters is that someone makes it onto the Pelican extraction ship with them in tow!

If you have a particularly large batch of samples and you're worried about losing all of them down a bug hole, there's also a little trick you can do. Simply walk to the extraction zone ahead of schedule, hold [X] on PC to access your inventory, and then just safely drop the samples right at the finish line. That way once you're ready to extract you'll be able to pick them up and instantly leave, thus avoiding a lot of the risk that comes with carrying them around.

11) Don't drag enemies to objectives

Once you call for extraction enemy patrols are going to start spawning all around you. Unless you're the master of stealth, chances are good you're going to have an intense battle against an immense amount of enemies before you're finally able to leave. As such, it's absolutely critical to not make this situation worse on yourself by dragging a gigantic horde of enemies directly to the extraction with you.

Instead, take a detour, ditch them in the middle of nowhere, and then go to the extraction once the coast is clear. This way you'll have to fight a lot less enemies, and on higher difficulties a lot less armored enemies to boot since those are the ones that are the most likely to hound you across the entire map.

The same goes for objectives. If you want to do objectives as quickly and smoothly as possible, do your best to not drag the fight to them. As long as you can get in semi-quietly and start working on the terminal, chances are good you'll be able to finish before the enemy presence becomes big enough to pose an actual threat.

Helldivers 2 screenshot of a dramatic escape

Don't end up in this kind of situation. It's not fun losing all those samples!

Closing thoughts

There you have it, eleven simple tips that will hopefully make your early days in Helldivers 2 nice and pleasant... despite the whole bug infestation thing. That said, Helldivers 2 is quite a challenging game and, more so than any other game I've done guides for, one where failure is going to be a frequent companion regardless of how skillfully you might play.

As such, my final word of advice would be to not get discouraged by the occasional death as that's all part of the process. After all, Helldivers 2 is a story about cannon-fodder beating the odds and raising triumphant. So whenever the game kicks you down, just bounce back up and show those bugs the explosive power of freedom!