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[Guest Review] Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon July 10, 2011

Posted by baconsamurai in Review.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Earth Defense Force: 2017 is one of my favorite games. As such, a review for the sequel, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was not only inevitable, but an absolute necessity. Unable to write it myself, our fantastic guest contributor, Ivory Harris, has stepped up to the plate to bring you a review for the next chapter in the EDF saga.

Float like a jet-powered butterfly, kill giant bees.

Alongside a number of cult followers, I was worried when I initially discovered that Earth Defense Force 2017, an under the radar budget shooter with an emphasis on wanton destruction, was getting a sequel. Based on a series of titles by Japanese developers D3 Publisher and Sandlot studios, this new title would be handled by American studio Vicious Cycle Software. How did they manage one of the most entertaining pick-up-and-play titles in years?

Well, in a word: Awesome. The series revival runs with the original concept that made EDF such an appealing adventure, scaling back on some aspects while raising the bar on others. There are bugs to blast and giant robots to bring down in satisfying city rocking explosions as Earth Defense Force returns to its ambiguous bargain-bin glory.

Insect Armageddon is a paint-by-numbers shooter where players march along the crumbling futuristic streets of New Detroit as alien forces invade. It features no strong emotional pulls or dramatic expository dialogue. High-res CG cutscenes are absent, as are tense cinematics revealing heroic ambition or villainous deeds. Instead, EDF plunks you into the roll of a foot-soldier who blasts away at insectoid invaders with a set of weaponry straight out of a Starship Troopers/Aliens crossover.

The objectives are simple, differing only slightly from the games predecessor. While murdering every multi-legged abomination that crosses your path, Strike Force Lightning’s courses of destruction are established by way-points, guiding you from one kill zone to another. You set about toppling buildings and swathes of enemies with absurd firepower while objectives give the illusion of an actual reason behind flattening New Detroit into clouds of masonry.

The meat of game remains unchanged, which is a good thing. EDF 2017 featured numerous tools incorporated into its structure that all worked, in a rough sense. From the poorly controlled vehicles to the uninspired 2D boxes of health, armor and weapons floating about, the title needed polish. Insect Armageddon offers just that, as it has been drastically up-scaled in comparison to its predecessor.

The sequel offers several classes of varying abilities; Trooper Armor, your traditional quick-footed EDF soldier, Tactical Armor, an advanced version Trooper class with turret weaponry, Battle Armor, the heavy weapons class partnered with damage absorbing shields and the highest overall health, and Jet Armor, the highly mobile flight class. Each handles differently and serves to offer some variance to the shoot-and-run gameplay.

In place of the mass amount of health pick-ups the last game made available, Insect Armageddon embraces a leveling system which increases health and class skills as you progress. Weapon drops are scarce, but leveling up allows the player to buy class specific armaments. Armor is capped in each respective difficulty, motivating players to challenge Hard and Inferno mode to unlock the full roster of weapons and abilities each suit provides.

Vehicles, while lesser in number, handle wonderfully and provide an actual service in their damage capacity, particularly on higher levels of difficulty.

Three modes of play are available, Survival, Campaign, and Campaign Remix. Solo-play comes stock with AI-bots to aid you in the mayhem, but the real fun is in jumping in with a friend. Each mode allows multiplayer, with two-player local or three to six online. Multiplayer is smooth, suffering slightly from occasional slow-down when too many explosions bring down too many buildings in a short time.

Survival, a six-player Trooper only mode, pits players against wave after wave of Ants, Spiders, Gunships, and giant robots called “Hectors” in a never-ending cascade of violence. Lacking in many of the new enemy types and locking out every armor but Trooper, it plays much like the previous game.

Campaign mode is a short but sweet romp through the crumbling streets of New Detroit. It offers three chapters of five missions per chapter with three difficulties to keep you heading back for more. Although much less in comparison to the 100 missions offered in 2017, the game makes up for limited locales with longer and more entertaining missions. Lastly, there is Campaign Remix, a collection of re-imagined versions of the basic missions with different enemies.

A new feature which trims back on some of the original title’s difficulty is the ability to revive players in the field, with survival offering a revive cap. Extra revives become available for every set of waves survived and in campaign mode are unlimited (as long as you can make it to the body).

 EDF: Insect Armageddon is not without its problems. Random sound bugs occur on various levels, interrupting the rather bland music with obnoxious beeps and scratching noises. Large enemies have a habit of disappearing through buildings and out of reach of fire. Certain objectives requiring players to detonate some object by holding a button will frequently be interrupted by enemies focusing fire–a quick way to score a cheap death in higher difficulties.

Graphically, the game hardly seems “next-gen” featuring rough pixels on buildings and a static palette for a sky. Buildings collapse in satisfying plumes of smoke after a missle or two, but are occasionally blocked from destruction via invisible walls. Enemy design is rather neat and seeing hornet foes crisp up when fired upon with laser rifles is a nice touch. Several tweaks to the visuals are noticeably great, it just overall isn’t a pretty game to look at.

What Insect Armageddon lacks in polish it more than makes up for in execution. Every aspect of the game is thoroughly balanced and simple. It gives gamers exactly what they pay for: the immediate experience of quick good fun and enough mindless explosions to make Michael Bay smile.

Although the complexity of combat in the title essentially boils down to “kill bugs & robots,” there’s an absurd level of enjoyment available for gamers looking to cool their mental facilities from either a long day or another story heavy game. EDF: Insect Armageddon may not be a full course meal but is a satisfying snack for $40.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was played to completion on Normal difficulty on the Playstation 3.



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