Replay Value: 8
Greater than the sum of its parts. Its a commonly used phrase but I can’t possibly think of a more apt description for Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. Due to its mediocre technical presentation and a fair amount of tedious repetition, it falls just shy of the solidly entertaining 8+ category, but don’t let that dissuade you. This one will cost you $20 less than normal and offers a whole lot of fun gameplay for both solo and multiplayer fans. There’s no doubt that Vicious Cycle’s appealing production is best played with human allies – the AI can be questionable – and if you’re looking for a title to fill the summer void, Insect Armageddon may just fit the bill.
As it’s a budget title, you’re not going to find a superior visual presentation. This isn’t about beautiful CGI, amazing mo-cap, beautifully intricate detail, or sweeping, breathtaking environments. What we have ranges from passable to decent- the effects and enemy design definitely takes center-stage, while the landscapes – while wonderfully destructible – are sub-par. There’s nothing about this production that screams technical proficiency, but the frame rate remains steady throughout and trust me, there are quite a few impressive foes. Plus, when you’re being overrun by giant ants, spiders, and other particularly nasty alien enemies, the screen gets very congested and the developers handle this relatively well.
Again, in regards to the audio, you have to modify your expectations. The game takes itself seriously, but only to a certain extent. The cheesy dialogue and merely average voice acting actually enhances the experience, as the player can easily discern the tongue-in-cheek style. For instance, your AI buddies will often make a reference to video games, and a few other one-liners will make you grin as well. The soundtrack really needed work, though, as our relentless assault could’ve used a musical kick in the ass. The selections are okay but they’re too repetitive and nowhere near prominent enough. However, the graphics and sound suffice and that’s what matters in the bird's-eye view analysis.
So here’s the basic concept- this is a third-person shooter that provides you with four different suits of armor with which to equip your character. Trooper is the basic setup that gives you access to most weapons but doesn’t boast a special ability. Other armor lets you use sniper rifles, laser guns, certain grenades, and grants you various deployable weaponry and other skills. The most dynamic suit is the Jet Armor, which not only lets you zip around while hovering, but also gives you the chance to fly around for a little while. It doesn’t do much for your offense, but it’s great for putting some necessary distance between you and your pursuers.
The game moves pretty well; the control is accessible and responsive, the various weapons are numerous (over 300, including upgrades, are available!) and effective, and you can also upgrade each suit. Therefore, there’s a surprising amount of micromanagement depth and if you play long enough, you’ll be sufficiently rewarded: the later weapons can just decimate entire sections of a city! The campaign is of a decent length, too, and playing through on tougher difficulties will let you take your suit rank(s) to new hights. And obviously, it’s just that much more entertaining to play with several friends. Not only does the game get a little easier, the fun factor rises, as you might anticipate.
The odd part is this- if I were to get all anal and run down the list of obvious shortcomings, you’d probably wonder at the score. The camera can definitely get in the way, having the R1 button dodge while the R2 button fires is a continuous issue, reloading is just way too slow, the overall technical package is only decent (with the exception of some great enemy design, as mentioned above), the AI isn’t great, the cheesiness can be painful, and the action can get monotonous. Sounds terrible, right? Well, it’s just extraordinarily surprising how much fun this game can be, despite all the glaring problems.
It’s hard to explain why, exactly. But I just couldn’t stop playing for a while. Survival Mode actually doesn’t feel that much different than the game, because you’re almost always facing waves of enemies in the regular campaign, and yet...it seems singular. Playing with AI allies isn’t bad at all; it actually forces you to be more accurate, more deadly and overall, more vigilant. Playing with friends is just oodles of fun; up to six players can get involved in the action, and it’s one of those rainy-day situations where everyone shows up for an Insect Armageddon party. Even the fact that there are no checkpoints – which really pissed me off a couple times – can’t seem to cripple the super high fun factor inherent to this title.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is clearly a budget title. The lack of blockbuster polish is obvious. The flaws pile up quick. But for some reason, you just keep playing...and playing...and... The nonstop action is addictive and somehow, it almost feels exactly like an alien invasion. Everything has just gone to hell, the invaders are swarming, and the only people crazy enough to defend earth are wacky, cocky soldiers with a huge variety of weaponry and unique skills. It isn’t all that pretty and it can get a little monotonous but for the most part, the campaign and multiplayer are well worth your attention.
Besides, I really can’t think of any new titles that really deserve your time and money. And this one is only $40 and can deliver on both the solo and multiplayer fronts. When I mentioned an Insect Armageddon party, I wasn’t kidding at all.
The Good: Some great enemy and boss design. Solid frame rate. Fast-paced, addictive gameplay. Decent control. Lots of weapons and the different suits add variety. Lots of game for your buck.
The Bad: Soundtrack is lacking. Cheesiness can be overstated. Technical elements are only average. Questionable AI.
The Ugly: "Wait...wait...no checkpoint? Are you serious?"