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Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon hands-on

Floating above the enormous swarm of mecha ants clamoring beneath me, eager to tear my flesh asunder with their razor sharp titanium mandibles, I’m reminded of a quote from Henry David Thoureau:
“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
How wrong you were sir, how wrong you were.

Above: "You haven't seen abug until you've seen its shadow from the sky." -Amelia EDFhart

I recently got my grubby mits on the sequel to campy cult favorite Earth Defense Force 2017, EDF Insect Armageddon. The original EDF was something of an underground success, it was a budget 360 exclusive title, ported from a budget Japanese game, with no advertising budget to speak of; doomed to mediocre reviews and dismal sales. But while it didn’t dazzle visually, in fact, it looked pretty bad even by 2007 standards, it managed to capture the old school fun of arcade style shooters, and click with gamers who saw past its rough exterior and realized just how fun it was.

From what I played at the demo, Insect Armageddon looks like its successfully captured the core of the original; there’s no worries of the game having become some overpolished “serious” affair. While the graphics and voice acting have certainly improved over the original, Crysis 2 doesnt need to worry about Insect Armageddon horning in on its sales. While its campy core and arcade gameplay are still intact, the game has seen a number of big changes, including a totally new class system. In the original EDF there were no classes, but you could pick from a titanic selection of weapons you gathered as you progressed. Insect Armageddon now has 4 classes for you to pick from, Battle, a heavy weapons/heavy armor type, Tactical, the only class that gets to use turrets, Trooper, the old fashioned high damage no frillstype from the original, and most exciting, the Jet class.

One of the biggest irks I had with the original EDF was the amount of time you had to spend walking across empty maps from hot spot to hot spot. Your character wasn’t the fastest guy on earth, and the game’s simple architecture and low res textures made for some pretty bland down time. With the Jet class you can now survey the chaos from above, and scoot around the levels a little faster too. The Jet class even gets an air roll maneuver, sure to please a certain vociferous hare.

Above: "Woah man we we're just standing here, no need to get hostile about it."

Fans of the original may note that EDF created a great feeling of dread sending huge waves of giant bugs bearing down on your tiny character, but don’t think the jet pack lets you just bail out of tough spots, there’s even more flying enemies this time, so you’re just as likely to be swarmed by wasps in the air as trampled by spiders on the ground.

Myself and some other atendees took on someof the game's early levels in co-op mode, and anyone who’s familiar with EDF will feel right at home. Large swarms of ants are the grunts, while enormous tarantulas spit gobs of webbing at you and pounce all over the place. We ran around willy nilly blasting everything in sight, until things started getting extra hectic when the 400 foot tall robots and the mecha wasps appeared. That’s right, mecha wasps; not only will you have to deal with the regular squad of organic bugs, but you’ll also have to deal with robotic variants that take loads more firepower to destroy. Even more annoying are the new tick enemies that quickly scuttle around waiting to attach themselves to you and explode. Needless to say, panic is definitely a feeling you’ll experience playing Insect Armageddon. Getting pushed back into a corner and having to desperately shoot your way out, all the while chanting “E-D-F! E-D-F!” is still as fun as it’s ever been.

All the little upgrades are also welcome, the huge carrier space ships that endlessly spawn enemies until you take them out are now considered physics objects, so instead of harmlessly clipping through stuff as they come crashing to the ground (EDF really was a budget game), they take out buildings and can crush you if you’re not careful. One of the most welcome changes is the way in which you collect new weapons. Dead enemies in the original EDF would occasionally drop random weapons depending on what difficulty you were playing the level on. This entailed having to replay levels multiple times on different difficulty levels to collect certain weapons, and even then, nothing was guaranteed thanks to the random element. Insect Armageddon instead gives you cash after completing each level which you can then use to buy the weapons you actually want. Each class will have a specific armament available to them that matches their playstyle, Jet class has mostly energy weapons, while Battle will have mostly heavy machine guns etc.

In addition to Campaign, Insect Armageddon willoffer Survival Mode, a Horde style cop-op affair that supports up to 6 players. Insect Armageddon is also adding drop in drop out co-op to the mix, two AI controlled bots will permanently join you in the campaign mode allowing for your friends to jump in and take over one of them at any time. Joe Fletcher, the producer at D3, said the game will run at 30 FPS at all times, which is no small feat given the absurd number of creatures that tend to appear in the later levels. The last levels were so bad in the original EDF that the game’s framerate would literally crawl to a near halt trying to render all the ants, UFOs, towering Mechs, lasers and swarms of bugs. Of course that’s what madeEDF the Ed Wood of games, it was reaching so hard for greatness despite its humble resources that you had to love it.

Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon is scheduled for a Spring 2011 release on PS3 and Xbox 360

Oct 1, 2010

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