Author Topic: Helldivers vs. Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop - Battle of the top down co-op shooter  (Read 6711 times)

Offline Wingflier

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So Helldivers will always have a special place in my heart. It's designed by the creators of Magicka, a small indie company called Arrowhead Game Studios. For anyone who hasn't tried Helldivers it's a hilarious top-down co-op "alien shooter" that is best played with friends; and has earned a reputation as one of the most enjoyable titles to play with my family.

However, a game which has been out for quite a long time (Alien Swarm), and which was half a decade the precursor to Helldivers, has recently released an expansion called Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop, and I believe that it gives Helldivers a damn good run for its money, while being completely free. For reference, both of these games are available on Steam.

Helldivers link | Official Trailer

Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop | Official Trailer

So why am I comparing the two? Because frankly they're both fantastic games co-op alien shooter games, and was wondering about the community's input on which one they think is better.


Helldivers is a 4 player co-op shooter that plays equally well on keyboard or controller, and is based entirely on user preference. The general gist of the game is that humanity has become too big for its britches, having already colonized "Super Earth" to its full capacity, and must now go out and colonize other galaxies in space in order to "spread Democracy". The main theme of this game is primarily a comical one, in which heavily armed and warlike factions of the human race peacefully spread Democracy to other alien civilizations by completely wiping out their planets and claiming them for our own. There is no "single player" story, though you are welcome to play by yourself (it is significantly harder in most cases). The entire game happens on a huge "galaxy map" type apparatus in which the global playerbase is collectively fighting together to both protect Super Earth and destroy the alien threat.

-High production value
-Much better graphics and UI
-More zoomed out
-More streamlined in general
-Full controller support
-Includes vehicles such as APCs, tanks, and mechs that your team can call-in and use
-Much larger selection of weapons, offhand weapons, grenades, mortars, explosives, call-ins, and items in general
-Neat and important mechanics such as artillery strikes, air raids, bomber runs, minefields, laser strikes, and more.
-Variable difficulty scale all the way from 1 to 10
-Comical voice lines, story, and atmosphere
-Hilarious ability to kill your teammates (in the most obnoxious ways) and then bring them back immediately
-Varied types of enemy planets and conditions
-3 Different alien species to choose from, all with their own playstyle, strengths and weaknesses.
-Has a built-in sort of matchmaking system for quickly connecting with other players.

-No dedicated single player story mode
-Updated rarely
-Single player (playing multiplayer by yourself essentially) sucks and is not recommended on all but the lowest difficulties
-Each mission can be time-consuming, especially when playing alone
-All players are stuck on the same screen permanently (as if playing locally), even when playing online. This can be extremely frustrating.
-Difficulty settings are generally fine, but once you've become an expert at the game (after 100+ hours), even difficulty 10 becomes relatively easy.
-Game costs money ($20 for base)
-Some of the most important content is locked behind a DLC paywall ($25 for all of it)


Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop

Alien Swarm: RD is a 4 to 8 player co-op top down shooter (also includes a competitive mode but who the hell wants that). The story and environment is generally much more solemn and serious than that of Helldivers, and the missions are much darker and more foreboding. The game and ambiance therefore feels more like a sci-fi action/horror movie than a loony co-op action shooter. Death in each mission is permanent for each player, as opposed to Helldivers, where you can almost instantly bring your teammates back. This gives it a much more intense and roguelike feel, and also means that you have to be more careful to protect your teammates and not to engage in friendly fire (which exists in both games). Aliens will jump on your face, sneak up on you in the dark, and generally annoy or scare the crap out of you often, depending on your personal emotional constitution. This game has much more of a story mode than the one previously mentioned, and the method for doing so plays extremely similarly to the Left 4 Dead series, if anyone has tried that.

-Completely and utterly free
-All content completely and utterly free
-Updated often
-Single player mode has amazing AI teammates which are very smart and competent (don't need friends to enjoy it)
-Much more of a story
-Up to 8 player co-op.
-Each player has their own screen and therefore can move freely around the map instead of being stuck in a small screen-sized box.
-The game's difficulty settings are much more configurable, and mirror AI War in that you can easily make it impossible for even the most seasoned veterans.
-The game has 4 different classes and 8 different characters all with their own strengths and weaknesses.
-Dark and ominous setting
-Permadeath on each mission (I'm a sadist)
-Interesting mechanics such as hacking and door welding
-No DLC bullshit

-Production value significantly lower
-Worse graphics and UI
-Much fewer weapons and content
-Can bring many less weapons and items into each mission
-Each character's role is very specialized and somewhat pigeonholed
-No vehicles, airstrikes or mechs
-Only 1 alien race to fight instead of 3
-Crappy controller support. Made for keyboard and mouse.
-No local co-op feature
-Less character progression overall (less RPG element)
-Gameplay gets repetitive faster, though overall challenge is much higher
-Not as enjoyable with friends who aren't very good because of the permadeath mechanic
-Uses an antiquated lobby system to find other players' servers, which is a hassle


So what do you guys think? Has anybody tried either, or both?
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 02:27:19 PM by Wingflier »
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Offline Misery

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Normally this genre would get some sort of response outta me, but I've avoided both of these games for one reason:  The focus on co-op.  I generally make a point of never, ever buying a game that focuses on that (yes I realize that Alien Swarm is free, but in my world downloading and spending a big pile of time with it still counts as "buying").  In the past, every one that I DID buy turned out very badly.  Co-op focus typically leads to a bloody awful singleplayer experience (which is all I would be able to get).

However I've heard a lot of good things about Alien Swarm from those couple of people I know that do have it.  Supposed to be very good.

Also the bit where it's free probably helps.  For anyone interested in these sorts of games, who have some friends to play them with, there really isn't much reason for them not to give it a go.