Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon (PC) Review
If Michael Bay's awful Transformers movies are notable for anything, it's the ease with which they've managed to convince moviegoers to suspend their disbelief regarding implausible science fiction nonsense. In a way, they're almost an homage to the science fiction tropes of the 1950s, flimsy premises that act as an excuse to film giant mutant spiders rampaging through city streets. The thing is that while Michael Bay seems unaware of the roots of his brainless entertainment, developers Vicious Cycle have fully embraced this bygone era of giant bugs from outer space, coating the horrors of classic science fiction with a modern gloss, resulting in a surprisingly competent shooter worthy of your next multiplayer session.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is the sequel to the well-received Earth Defense Force 2017, and though the Japanese series has now been placed in the hands of an American development team, the game retains much of the original's ridiculousness. The game saw a console release the past summer, though has now finally made it to PC, a perfect home for its arcade-style multiplayer.
Insect Armageddon follows the story of an elite Earth Defense Squad known as Strike Force Lightning, players tasked with defending New Detroit from a full-on invasion of alien bastards, including the aforementioned giant bugs, swarms of UFO fighters, and even the occasional giant robot. The game is pretty easy to pick up, immediately dropping players into alien-infested territory and letting them blast away at the seemingly endless waves of advancing aliens.
The sheer number of enemies littering the screen is definitely impressive, legions of giant bugs scurrying across the sides of buildings, exploding in a satisfying spray of green pus as you and your tea. EDF is definitely a game defined by its bad guys, and each new threat introduced to the game seems even more terrifying than the last, with some of the colossal bosses so tall that a single step seems to puts them halfway across the map.
Insect Armageddon offers four different armor classes to chose from, each with their own unique abilities and selection of available weapons. The Trooper Armor is good for standard grunts who want access to the bulk of the game's arsenal, while Battle Armor lends players some serious firepower at the expense of speed. More interesting is Tactical Armor, the game's support class, which is able to deploy turrets and other powerful gadgets.
For myself however, the obvious pick was Jet Armor, the only class that lets players take to the air. The benefits of being able to easily maneuver to high ground aren't gamebreaking (especially as any building you perch atop is often quickly demolished by the alien horde), though it's definitely a blast to zip around the levels raining down fire on enemies, assuming you can manage the jetpack's tendency to overheat.
Though blowing up giant bugs is always fun, the game notably suffer from a lack of variety. Each mission plays out roughly the same, throwing a massive wave of enemies at the player, then once that horde is dispatched, hurrying them across the city towards the next checkpoint, where a new wave of enemies awaits.
The game is occasionally broken up by some interesting set-pieces, letting players climb into specially placed turrets and deviously powerful walking mech armor, but these sequences are unfortunately few and far between, with the bulk of the game consisting of the standard run and gun gameplay.
Without any real objectives other than "kill everything," the only real variety lies in the makeup of each encounter. One second you may be attempting to shoot down a collection of UFO spawners while teammates try and keep a wave of spiders at bay, the next you'll be planting detonation charges on anthills while a giant robot tears up the surroundings with its giant laser.
Thing is, none of these encounters ever feel truly unique, juts variations on a theme, and the game can begin to feel like a chore after awhile. Not to mention that some of the game's larger baddies are able to withstand several minutes of punishment before going down, something which can put even the most zealous arachnophobe to sleep.
While the game's bug-busting action does get repetitive, the dazzling variety of weaponry offered helps to break up the monotony, with over 300 different guns waiting to be unlocked. If anything it's a shame that you can only carry two guns into battle, as the game's arsenal is its most thrilling feature, each gun sporting a varying degree of power, reload speed and unique shot pattern.
Most of the game's weapons can be bought with the credits earned from completing missions, though the game's many boss monsters often drop a rare piece of ordinance, so while you'll have to work together with your online teammates to take down that massive spider queen, all alliances are quickly forgotten once everyone is racing towards the shiny weapons crate.
It's especially interesting to see what guns your online teammates are sporting, a new team dynamic forming in each online session. In one game you might find yourself the only one sporting a rocket launcher, earning your team's respect by taking down the massive spider singlehandedly. In another your pulse weapon may be the perfect accessory for keeping your team safe from a sky filled with UFOs. Though Insert Armageddon lacks some sorely-needed weapon customization options, playing around with all the different guns is still a hoot, and gives the game some of that much needed variety.
Though EDF can be played offline, it's easy to tire of the game's lacking A.I., computer controlled teammates seemingly unaware that it's common courtesy to provide cover fire while you plant a detonation charge on an anthill. This game was definitely built for co-op and I was pretty pleased to find that there's still a good number of players looking to bro-up and bust some bugs, with the 15 main storyline missions available in three differing difficulty levels, and an endless mode to sate the truly hardcore.
EDF: IA is simple, sure, but that simply means that anyone can hop into the arcade-style action of Insect Armageddon and be wreaking havok almost immediately. Not to mention that the game has definitely dropped in price since it's initial console release, now available for just $19.99 on Steam and other download services. So if you've been looking for a solid multiplayer co-op romp which lets you dial back your brain a bit and simply blow up everything in sight, I definitely recommend picking up this title.
More simply: You ever have somebody come over your house you immediately boot up a game, telling them "You've gotta try this"?
Insect Armageddon is that game.