Unreleased Helldivers 2 vehicles are leaking all over the place, but I’m not ruling out that Game Master Joel has something to do with it

The Super Earth mothership is springing leaks. Developer Arrowhead Game Studios has talked openly about how unprepared it was for Helldivers 2’s massive popularity at launch, so it’s fair to assume it also didn’t anticipate how motivated fans would be to find out what’s coming next. 

In the past week, videos of players accessing unreleased vehicles have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on TikTok and YouTube. Far and wide, players are joining quickplay lobbies and discovering teammates piloting walking mechs equipped with machine guns and missile launchers. Officially, mechs are set to roll out “soon.” More surprising has been the discovery of unannounced four-seated transport vehicles. A few videos of a “Rover” buggy with a back-mounted turret (like a Halo warthog) have appeared, as well as evidence of a larger APC van with multiple mounted guns. Over the weekend, players also gained access to mysterious new weapons, including the “Commando” rocket launcher and a “Quasar” laser cannon.

The main way that players are accessing unreleased content seems to be through cheat software. Elsewhere, Helldivers 2 dataminers have allegedly uncovered references to over a dozen weapons and stratagems not currently in the game.

But because this is Helldivers 2 we’re talking about, a game with a dedicated dungeon master steering its galactic war in big and small ways, I don’t think cheats tell the whole story. Are these all just garden variety leaks, or is this another narrative Arrowhead is manipulating?

Joel could be behind (some of) this

There’s good reason to believe that some of these leaks aren’t leaks at all, but intentional sneak peeks supplied by Arrowhead itself. As explained prior to Helldivers 2’s release, Arrowhead’s Game Master tools include the ability to intervene in player’s live sessions by spawning in enemies or granting special stratagem access.

That could explain an uptick in mech drops. If Arrowhead were slowly doling out mechs to random sessions, it’d accomplish two things: gathering early impressions and data about the mechs themselves, and generating a 500 kg bomb’s worth of buzz.

Here’s the thing: Some people are definitely using cheats to spawn in stuff and aren’t trying to hide it. But I think Arrowhead is playing into the mystique, and even doing a little leaking of its own in plain sight.

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Last night I was playing Stratagem Hero on my ship and noticed the minigame contains a code for a stratagem that doesn’t currently exist: the Orbital Illumination Flare. The flare code has actually been in the game for weeks, with the few players who’ve shared it online brushing it off as the remnant of a cut stratagem. Certainly possible, but what if it’s actually a teaser for a future mission type where it’s so dark that you need flares just to see where you’re going?

One point toward the “it’s an inside job” theory is Arrowhead’s uncharacteristic silence about the leaks. It’s not uncommon for a studio to ignore or decline to comment on leaks, but it is rare for Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt to let a major event in Helldivers 2 go by without tweeting about it. Pilestedt has been a constant presence in the Helldivers community, giving his thoughts on everything from monetization, player numbers, and balance to console rivalry and sales figures.

He’s also been vocal about keeping aspects of its roadmap a secret so that Helldivers 2 can “surprise and delight” players.

Uncertainty is the point

The first month of Helldivers 2 is taking me back to the first year of Fortnite, back when Epic would sneak map alterations, new items, and narrative events into the game without notice. Epic trusted, correctly, that players would document even the smallest clues and then share them widely. For a few weeks there, the status of a Fortnite cube named Kevin was front page news. Epic has seemingly lost its appetite for “surprise and delight” in Fortnite, and these days it focuses on brand crossovers above all else. Helldivers 2 could be different.

By not laying all of its cards on the table with a roadmap (so far) and establishing its galactic war as a live narrative that can change day-to-day, Arrowhead has cultivated the belief that anything is possible. A campaign against bugs can be interrupted by a sudden robot invasion. The liberation of a planet can be celebrated by 24 hours of free railguns. Why can’t mechs arrive early?

If all goes according to plan, I expect we’ll never know for sure how much Arrowhead is holding its thumb on the scale, because that’s the point. Cheat or no cheat, intentional leak or not, Helldivers 2 has accomplished something rare in videogames: Genuine intrigue.

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