Earth Defense Force: Insect Armegeddon|
The Earth Defense Force series is known for three things: Its low price, cheesy minimalist premise, and insane shooter action. In Japan, this is part of the Simple series, a line of budget video games with simple turn-your-brain-off gameplay. Although games from the series are rarely brought to North America, they also happen to be known for their ridiculous premises.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is the fourth game in the Earth Defense Force series, although only the second to be brought to North American audiences. The first was Earth Defense Force 2017 for the Xbox 360, developed by Sandlot. In spite of its terrible graphics, comically non-existent story, and incredibly awful voice acting, it was just plain fun to play. While Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was developed by Vicious Cycle games instead of by a Japanese company, it certainly carries on the legacy of its predecessors.
In Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, Earth is being attacked by an alien race known as the Ravagers, whose armies mainly consist of hordes of ants and spiders the size of trucks. Your role, as a soldier of the Earth Defense Force, is to protect New Detroit and mow the Ravagers down by the hundreds. This is no exaggeration; during a typical stage, you will gun down hundreds of giant ants. This is also the entirety of the plot. There are no named characters worth mentioning, no motivation for the Ravagers to invade, nothing except ďAliens invade Earth, so kill them.Ē The complete non-existence of the plot is strangely appealing.
The production values are significantly better this time around. The models and textures range from slightly below average to slightly above average. The voice acting is cheesy and hammed up, but more deliberately so instead of the actors just being awful. Visual effects like energy blasts and smoke trails are serviceable, but the sounds and background music are definitely satisfying. The music is generally some dramatic piece that sounds like it belongs in a 1960s science fiction movie, which is just as it should be. The sounds are deeply satisfying, particularly the guns. They all sound suitably powerful, and every blast feels appropriately visceral.
On the PC version of the game, the controls are simple, and should be no stranger to anyone who has ever played any kind of shooter on the PC. WASD is used to move, the space bar makes you jump, E lets you interact, control makes you roll, and shift lets you dash. The mouse is used to aim. The left mouse button shoots and the right mouse button is used to activate special armor abilities. The suit abilities are a feature that was missing from its direct predecessor, Earth Defense Force 2017. In this game, there are four types of armor: Trooper, Tactical, Jet, and Battle. Trooper armor is the default available to the player, and every mission you complete allows you to unlock a new type to use.
Trooper armor is the baseline model. You can move relatively quickly, have access to a good variety of weapons, and you can perform many actions such as reloading, reviving team mates, and generally interacting with objects more quickly than with the other armors. Tactical armor is heavier, but restricts access to mostly medium power weaponry. However, its special ability allows its wearers to place turrets, mines, and other automated devices to help fight the enemy.
Jet armor provides users with rapid movement, as well as the special ability to fly. The energy the powers its flight also allows users to fire energy weapons. This armor has a special place in my heart; the second game in the Earth Defense Force series allowed players to choose between basic trooper armor or flight armor, but this feature didnít return in the next game, Earth Defense Force 2017, which was previously the only title in the series to make it to North America. Finally, the Battle armor is slow, but durable. It has access to the hardest hitting weapons, and its special ability allows it to raise an energy shield to protect the user from damage.
Gameplay is a simple but satisfying affair. You select a mission, select your armor, select your weapons, swap your colors around if you like, and then go to town. For the most part, missions involve going to a point on the map, killing all the aliens there and on the way, then going to another point to do the same thing, encountering different aliens. Sure, you might get some unique goals, like planting a demolition charge, holding an area for a time, or killing a boss alien, but the real meat of the gameplay is running around a city and destroying hordes of aliens. Donít expect subtlety. You donít have to deal with cover a cover system, or even ammunition.
While every weapon has a limited number of times it can fire before it has to reload, you are otherwise free to lay down an endless hail of fire. The only nod towards more typical shooters is that the reload system is lifted from Gears of War. As you reload, a bar is filled, and if you hit the reload key again when itís over a highlighted area around the center, you complete the reload more quickly. Otherwise, the reload completes when the bar is completely full. While an interesting attempt to try to make reloading more interactive, waiting for a reload normally provides a much-needed pause in the action to get your bearings.
In each mission, you are also accompanied by three other members of Strike Force Lightning. By default, these are AI-controlled squad mates, but in online play, other players step into this role. You can help each other in obvious ways, like using different suit types and covering for each otherís weaknesses and shooting up aliens together, but should any member of the team be brought down by the alien horde, they can only lie there helpless until a squad mate comes by and revives them. While this feature was likely added to make multiplayer better to deal with, it also works in the single player game. If a computer-controlled squad mate is dropped, you can revive them, but if you are defeated, computer-controlled squad mates will also revive you. Unfortunately, the AI in the game is not excellent, so it may take a little while before a squad mate stops shooting bugs and decides to help you out.
After each mission, you gain experience in the armor type that you wore into it. This unlocks new tiers of weapons for that suit and other upgrades for each suit. However, each unlocked weapon tier does not automatically give you the weapons. Instead, they just give you the ability to purchase and equip them. The game boasts over 300 weapons, so between those and suit upgrades, thereís plenty in the game to collect. Many weapons will also randomly drop from enemies you kill, so you donít necessarily have to save up to get every new toy.
The arsenal of weapons provides a ton for players to collect, and the ability to level up each kind of suit provides appeal for people who just always want to hit a gameís level cap. For people who want to prove theyíre the best, every mission provides three difficulty settings, but also high scores to track. Not only that, thereís a Survival mode where up to six players try to survive as long as they can against the alien horde. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is an incredibly fun time, though the cheesy dialog and admittedly shallow gameplay may turn some people off. Itís a game that knows what itís about, and it excels at mindless blasting and destruction. For $20, though, this game offers a lot of fun. Compared to a typical $50 to $60 title, itís an incredible bargain for what it offers, and since itís so easy to pick up and put down, thereís a spot for Earth Defense Force in practically every gamerís library.