God, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon totally would’ve gotten a 10, if only it were a better game… Does that make any sense? No, it’s not my first time reviewing. It’s just that, on sheer awesome principle, Earth Defense Force is exactly what I want out of a shooter. For me, it’s a sublime, damn near perfect interactive experience. However, it’d be ridiculously ballsy to score it up to the echelons of a Gears of War 2 or Halo 3.
To give you a little background, Earth Defense Force is a cult, blatantly Japanese series of bug-killin’, budget-priced beauty. Insect Armageddon is the direct sequel to EDF: 2017, the first title of four EDF games to ever see a stateside release, and has since become a high-cost rarity as Westerners eventually caught on to B-grade charm after the publisher had given up on the title.
Not that that really matters. There’s no story to speak of, let alone continue. More importantly, just like 2017, Insect Armageddon delivers everything it sets out to do. Thing is, it doesn’t set out to do all that much. Kill waves and waves (and WAVES!) of a handful of mutant insect variants with infinite ammo, get to a checkpoint, blissfully repeat. Some may call it monotonous; I call it one of the most satisfying experiences available on PS360.
Visually, Insect Armageddon is certainly an improvement over its predecessors, although it noticeably, often hilariously, lacks the flare and polish of a Halo or a Call of Duty. Tons of clipping, enemies occasionally get stuck in environments, and you’re basically doing the same thing, in virtually the same place, over and over. Yet, to EDF’s credit, the framerate rarely flinches when displaying an impossible amount of mutantoid bugs and towering alien cyborgs on screen, the load times are whip-tight, and since it lacks the modern pretense of story or cutscenes, players are essentially getting more of the carnage they desire, pound for pound, delivered faster and more efficiently than most games that have come out in 2011.
Speaking as someone bored to death with shooters that pad themselves with overwrought narratives and surface-level immersion elements, I fell batshit in love with Insect Armageddon’s mountainous ton of relentlessly dumb fun once again, plus the enhancements brought to the sequel make it all the better. As you play, you’ll unlock new tiers of weapons and upgrades, and now the game’s introduced distinct character classes in order to suit the style of the modern players.
The classic Trooper is still the best all-around class, and the others come with unique abilities, as long as you’re okay with sacrificing the traditional EDF aspects. Assuming you’re willing to act in a more supporting role, The Tactical class allows you to lay mines and spawn turrets, while Jet Armor is every bit as awesome as you’d expect from a class gifted with jetpack-enabled flight, although he’s significantly weaker. I went with the turtle-paced Battle class, since he’s stronger, more powerful and can fire through a defensive shield that can eventually be modified with battlefield clearing lightning upgrades. Again, awesome.
Playing as the dutiful reviewer, I had fun playing with all the classes, although it came with a bit of a drawback. Jumping into later levels in the campaign with unleveled characters left me ill-equipped, and lacking the unlocked weapons very necessary to taking on the rapidly escalating onslaughts. I’d imagine this is where the Insect Armageddon’s exquisite online co-op would come in handy, for reasons that, for some, might be even better than being a mode of play that EDF’s criminally overlook up until now. You not only get to replay beaten levels in the campaign with up to three friends (in addition to a six player survival mode,) hopping on with a buddy who’s upgraded further than you can make the more problematic missions a walk in the park. And you get to unlock more abilities, weapons and tiers all the while, which you can then take into the single player later.
Even playing solo, co-op bots can revive you to full health if you’re killed, and that’s awesome, but it sometimes sucks to feel like you’re being brutally penalized simply by experimenting with classes and not replaying missions to earn the necessary upgrades tiers. As much as I’d like to say the missions offer the replayability of Left 4 Dead, Insect Armageddon’s missions don’t offer much of anything resembling variety, and levels only distinguish themselves by what enemies and mountable mechs pop up, where, and how many.
Without a more substantial degree variation, many will find IA lacking in content, and outside of online support, the only thing to shake up the formula is an unlockable “Remixed” campaign that throws tougher enemies at you sooner. That was enough for me personally, so my biggest complaint with the entire game was the active time reloads. Reader please, I’m the master of smacking the clip back in on time in games like Gears, yet I could never get the hang of it here, with any of the weapons which number in the dozens.
EDF: Insect Armageddon is a flaming hot 10 out of 10 in my heart, but I can pretend that its minimalistic approach, polish and variety, will suit the tastes of every shooter fan out there. Yeah, it’s launching at a budget price, but prices of games go down, quality does not, so I can’t really factor in the launch day value. It’s hard to justify scoring with my gut when you can currently get so many games GamesRadar has branded with a 10 for less than Insect Armageddon, ya know? Curse this professionalism of mine! And damned if this isn’t one of those situations where I wish we rated on a 20 point scale so I could knock this personal gem a little closer to a 9!
Look: Dozens of purported Triple A titles essentially break down to repeatedly shooting shit anyway, with their high budgets expended on crescendo moments, gloss, celebrity voice acting and elongated cutscenes. At least EDF is honest about what it is, and delivers the same thrills and more often at a significantly lower price. To put it sweetly - and with a delicious culinary metaphor! - Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is all cake and no icing. As long you’re prepared to handle that, this could be the best $40 you’ll ever spend.
Jul 12, 2011