Helldivers 2 Multiplayer Explained: How to Play With Friends and Random Players

Helldivers 2 is shaping up to be one of 2024's best multiplayer games. Here is how you get in on the fun.

Helldivers 2
Photo: PlayStation PC LLC

While the original Helldivers was an incredible game, Helldivers 2 is already shaping up to be an across-the-board improvement and one of 2024’s best multiplayer experiences. Of course, the game’s exceptional multiplayer won’t mean much if you’re not able to join those sessions in the first place.

The good news is that Helldivers 2‘s multiplayer options are both extensive and fairly easy to navigate. The bad news is that they come with a couple of wrinkles that can make joining them (and staying in them) more complicated than intended. That being the case, here is (hopefully) everything you need to know about getting in on the fun.

How Does Helldivers 2 Multiplayer Work?

Helldivers 2 is a third-person shooter that emphasizes co-op play. It allows up to four players to jump into a hostile environment and complete objectives while battling large armies of enemies. Once those objectives are completed, players must call in an extraction and survive a final wave of enemy attacks until the dropship arrives. From there, players will be able to acquire various ability and gear upgrades as well as swap elements of their current loadouts.

Aside from the intense and nearly constant combat, one of the things that makes Helldivers 2’s multiplayer so unique is its emphasis on “Stratagems” and other strategic combat options. Stratagems are essentially customizable RTS-like abilities that squads bring into combat. Survival in Helldivers 2 often means coordinating not just which Stratagems players bring into combat but where and when to deploy them. For that matter, players must also constantly communicate to coordinate their positions, load-outs, and currently available resources. Few co-op action titles demand communication and coordination quite like Helldivers 2

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There is one more wrinkle that makes Helldivers 2’s multiplayer unique: the real-time influence of its developers. The Helldivers 2 team recently revealed that they can alter aspects of an ongoing match in real time. While the extent of their abilities remains somewhat vague, those manipulations will hopefully allow the Helldivers 2 team to keep matches as fresh as possible.

Helldivers 2: How to Unlock Multiplayer

To unlock Helldivers 2’s co-op multiplayer, you will need to complete the game’s tutorial mission. While that tutorial can only be played solo, it’s a fairly brief (and genuinely useful) introduction to the game. Once you’ve completed it (which shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes) you’ll be ready to play with others. 

Does Helldivers 2 Support Couch Co-Op?

Unfortunately, Helldivers 2 does not support couch co-op at launch. For that matter, the game does not support any kind of local multiplayer options. Unless you and your friend have access to multiple devices, multiple screens, and multiple copies of Helldivers 2 in the same room, you will not be able to play the game together outside of the intended online matchmaking options. 

Why doesn’t Helldivers 2 support couch co-op? It’s likely because the game is simply too demanding to support split-screen play. That speaks to both the game’s technical demands and the need to be able to view as much of the combat area as possible at any given time. However, developer Arrowhead Game Studios has not confirmed the exact reason for the game’s lack of couch co-op at this time, nor have they completely shut down the possibility of some version of that feature being added to the game in the future.

Does Helldivers 2 Support PvP Combat?

Helldivers 2 does not currently offer any PvP modes or similar competitive options. The game is designed to be a cooperative experience, and Arrowhead Game Studios has not revealed any plans to release a separate competitive mode at this time. 

However, Helldivers 2 does enable friendly fire at all times. That means that you are constantly able to damage your squadmates. While you could theoretically use that feature to create some kind of competitive scenario, it’s primarily intended to increase the risks of each fight and emphasize the aforementioned value of communication and coordination. 

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Does Helldivers 2 Support Crossplay Multiplayer?

Yes, Helldivers 2 supports crossplay. Anyone who plays Helldivers 2 on one of its currently supported platforms (PC and PS5) can play the game with anyone else playing on another supported platform. 

However, please note that Helldivers 2 does not support cross-save or cross-progression features at launch. In other words, the progress you make on one platform will not carry over to another. Fortunately, the Helldivers 2 team has stated that they intend to add that feature sometime after the game’s launch. 

On that note, Helldivers 2 is currently only available for PlayStation 5 and PC. There are no confirmed plans for either an Xbox Series X/S or Nintendo Switch version of the game at this time. 

Does Helldivers 2 Include a Single-Player Campaign?

Helldivers 2 does not offer any kind of traditional single-player campaign at launch. That is to say that there is no story-based mode in the game designed for solo players (or squads, for that matter). Helldivers 2 is intended to be played with others via its selection of generated missions and modes.

However, it is technically possible to play Helldivers 2 by yourself. Doing so will just require you to sneak around the game’s intended system in ways that will allow you to dive into a multiplayer match by yourself. While playing Helldivers 2 by yourself isn’t the ideal way to play the game (and is often absurdly difficult), the option to do so is there if you need it. 

To enable Helldivers 2’s single-player option, you’ll need to start the game, go to the “Options” menu, and turn “Matchmaking Privacy” to “Friends Only.” You should then start a game as usual without inviting any friends to your party. By doing so, you will prevent the game from matching you with random players. 

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How Do You Play Helldivers 2 With Random Players?

As noted above, Helldivers 2 does allow you to play with random players via the game’s matchmaking system. That feature ensures that you never need to play by yourself unless you want to. 

To join someone else’s Helldivers 2 match, simply go to the War Table and choose the Quickplay option. That will bring up a list of players who have activated their SOS beacons and are actively looking for help. Joining their game is as easy as selecting their session, though it’s up to all of you if you’d like to continue playing beyond that. 

Alternatively, you can easily start your own Helldivers 2 session and wait for others to join. To do so, simply go to the “Settings” menu, choose “Options,” and make sure your Matchmaking Policy is set to “Public.” This will allow anyone who wishes to join your game to do so. 

However, please note that Helldivers 2’s matchmaking systems are currently in what its developers refer to as “Crisis Mode.” In other words, the system is not working as intended and is prone to crashes and other technical issues. It seems that this problem was caused by the game’s sudden popularity leading to server overloads and will likely be fixed shortly once the servers are stabilized. 

Until then, there are a couple of things you can try to do to fix Helldivers 2’s matchmaking problems. 

The first involves disabling crossplay settings via the “Options” menu so that you are only matched with players on your native platform. While it seems like this solution may be more helpful at the moment to PS5 players rather than PC players, it does seem to work surprisingly well for many affected by ongoing matchmaking issues.

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Another solution players have discovered involves strategically deploying your SOS beacon. Rather than deploying your beacon and waiting for other players to join your game (as intended), some players suggest joining a match, throwing out your SOS beacon, and then quitting the session. From there, reload the game and attempt to play the same mission you just tried to join. If this trick worked correctly, you should find that your squad is filled with matchmaking teammates who responded to your SOS beacon. 

How to Play Helldivers 2 With Friends

As mentioned throughout this article, Helldivers 2 is at its best when you’re playing with friends that you’re able to effectively cooperate with. While matchmaking with random players is a viable option when that system is working as intended, it’s hard to replace those who you know best. 

To invite your friends into a Helldivers 2 match, simply head to the “Options” menu and select the “Social” tab. From there, you will see a “Friends” menu that will allow you to see who on your Friends list is currently playing the game. You can also see a list of people you recently played with and add them to your Friends list. In either case, you can instantly invite them to your party or send them the “Friend Code” that you’ll find at the bottom of that page. 

Your friends can also join you as you play so long as your Matchmaking Preference is set to “Open to Friends.” Similarly, setting your preferences to “Invite Only” will require you to invite other players before they can join your squad.