Nothing about Helldivers 2's newest assault rifle makes any sense

 Helldivers 2 polar patriots warbond.
Helldivers 2 polar patriots warbond.

It's one of my favorite times of the month: new Helldivers 2 warbond day. After a community vote that went overwhelmingly in favor of no delay, Arrowhead released the Polar Patriots premium warbond today, adding four new guns and other goodies to its rapidly-expanding co-op shooter.

You can unlock the items on the warbond's first page in any order, but I suspect most people will go straight for the shiny new assault rifle: the AR-61 Tenderizer. It's another boxy bullpup design that evokes the AR-23 Liberator starter rifle, but interestingly, it's not an official variant of it. No, the Tenderizer is its own gun, complete with a bassy roar and a top rail that is the closest Helldivers 2 has inched toward the M41A Pulse Rifle from the Alien series. (Side note: The gun is supposed to be black like in the warbond trailer, but a texture bug made it green. Arrowhead says a fix is coming).

Looks good, sounds great—maybe you can sense the "but" coming. The promise of the Tenderizer hits a major snag when you take a look at its stats. On paper, the Tenderizer is extremely similar to the standard Liberator—they have the same damage per shot and nearly identical recoil—except the Tenderizer has a smaller magazine and slower fire rate. Hmm…

OK, but the four stats Helldivers 2 lists in the loadout screen don't tell the whole story. Reading its official description, the game also says the Tenderizer is a "high-caliber" rifle with "more stopping power." More stopping power than what, I cannot say for sure, but presumably the gunsmiths at Arrowhead are comparing it to similar assault rifles. It'd also help if Arrowhead clarified what "stopping power" means in Helldivers 2.

So I took the Tenderizer for a whirl on a few medium-high difficulty Terminid missions. Based only on what I usually expect "stopping power" to mean in a shooter, I was looking for the Tenderizer to noticeably excel at any of these traits: staggering enemies, pushing enemies, or dealing extra limb damage. To my eye, it was just as capable at all three as the Liberator. The two guns feel as similar in the field as they appear. The most noticeable difference being how much more you have to reload the Tenderizer.

helldivers 2 tenderizer
helldivers 2 tenderizer

Not an impressive debut for one of three primary weapons in the Polar Patriots pack. This is the most confused I've been by a Helldivers gun so far, but we've been here before. The star rifle of last month's warbond, the Adjudicator, got raked over the coals in the same way as the Tenderizer, but I argued at the time that people weren't giving it a fair shake. I've given what I think is a fair shake with the Tenderizer—fired it at a lot of bugs, messed with its settings, gone for only headshots—and still can't figure out what role it's supposed to play. It wasn't until I recorded gameplay of both guns and watched them back in detail that I noticed the Tenderizer has better aim tracking, meaning its reticle doesn't lag behind where you're aiming when you make sudden camera moves.

So by my best estimation so far, the Tenderizer is a Liberator with five points less recoil, lighter magazines, and slightly better tracking… cool I guess?

It's that lack of distinction that's bothering me most. It's uncharacteristic of Arrowhead to make a gun that doesn't have a clear identity. Even the least "meta" guns in the game have something neat going on. The assault rifle category alone is full of good examples:

  • AR-23 Liberator: A good all-around assault rifle

  • AR-23P Liberator Penetrator: Less damage, but pierces medium armor

  • AR-23C Liberator Concussive: Fires slowly, but pushes enemies back to create space

  • BR-14 Adjudicator: Wild recoil and small magazines, but high damage and doubles as a marksman rifle

There are a few reasonable guesses that would explain the Tenderizer's lackluster everything. I've seen some players point out that the Tenderizer's design might have been finalized before the Liberator got a damage buff last week. If we ignore that buff, it would make the Tenderizer slightly more appealing with five extra damage—still a minor difference.

Another possibility is that there is something going on with the Tenderizer's stats that we can't see in-game. As we know, Helldivers 2 guns have a total of 46 stats, but we only see four of them. Does the Tenderizer have an invisible advantage that we've yet to discover? I'm looking for one, but you'd be forgiven for writing it off for now.