If there was one game last year that saw little commercial and critical success, it was Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. While its irreverent tone and frenetic gameplay earned it a cult-following – the lukewarm reception and sales made it somewhat of a flop. Several months later, this insect Armageddon makes the transition from consoles to the PC and at a budget price of ten dollars but the end result is a game that’s exactly like its console counterparts.
Therefore, anyone who has already devoted a few hours of their life to massacre large, oppressive ants, spiders with elongated legs and big iron behemoths need not apply here – but if you haven’t already tried it out and if you’re craving a fast-paced and silly shooter that’s great fun in short bursts and with other people, then you should enlist in the EDF; in spite of some bumps along the way.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon offers three modes of play: Campaign, Campaign Remix and Survival. The campaign is a brief, 4 to 5 hour romp where you’ll attempt to thwart the invasion of Detroit, which is an endeavor that boils down to blasting humongous insects called “Ravagers”. There really isn’t any story to be found here; you simply don the armor of a character named Lightning – a certified, insect killing badass who’s constantly being bossed around by a droning woman over the radio, and your mission usually amounts to nothing more than to shoot everything in sight. Not exactly heavy-handed stuff, but for a game like this, that’s really all the exposition you need.
The two other modes are mere distraction meant to round out the package. Campaign Remix plays exactly like the aforementioned mode, except for a couple of enemies that are shuffled around and variables thrown in, although I sense many will be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Last up is Survival, where you stand in one corner and engage all the oncoming enemies for as long as possible. There is no monetary or upgrade system here, meaning there is no depth or strategy to it, resulting in a tedious game of point and shoot.
The best way to sum up Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon in two words, it would be “shooting gallery”. You have unlimited ammo, and you’re always being funneled from point A to B where the objective is to clear the area of enemies. Ants, Spiders, Robots, Gunships and other adversaries fill the screen aplenty, meaning there are times where you’ll hold down the fire button and never let go for extensive periods, and this is what sets the game apart. However, the real boon here comes in the form of four playable classes: Jet, Tactical, Battle and Trooper are on offer, each with distinct abilities and levels of maneuverability. Jet is the fastest of the lot, as he can zip around the battlefield and deal damage from any direction, Tactical summons turrets and landmines that pack a mean punch, Battle is an iron-clad giant who’s slow but extremely resilient to damage and effective in close-quarters combat and finally Trooper excels at being a happy medium between the four, as he’s nimble but aggressive in almost every situation.
Completing levels nets you points which goes towards leveling up and unlocking more gear for your units, and new weapons can be salvaged from fallen enemies during combat. Hoping back-and-forth between roles and outfitting your characters with different weapons, gadgets and paint jobs is a lot of fun and serve as the only ample reason to replay levels.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was clearly built as a co-op game in mind, as you always have two AI squad mates that accompany you during missions and these can be replaced by human players at any time. In co-op, Insect Armageddon can be a rollicking good time and the classes on offer play off each other extremely well. In fact, Earth Defense Force is great fun provided you play it in short bursts. Because despite the occasional turret or vehicle sequence, the gameplay found here doesn’t exactly run the gamut, meaning that a majority of the game is spent shooting enemies ad nausea, with little to nothing to break up the on-foot action. The game is also light on content and replay ability, making it a tough sell for some.
For a budget game, Insect Armageddon does have a few note-worthy qualities; the game is able to handle literally thousands of enemies at once without a single hitch in the frame-rate, and character models do hold up well to close scrutiny. Unfortunately, levels tend to blend together and look identical to one another, save for the last couple of missions in the game. The game does let you go wild and destroy buildings left-right-and-center, although there is no rhyme or reason behind this, it's just a way for you to goof around.
Sound design is also a mixed bag – weapons sound underwhelming and while the dialogue and voice acting was clearly intended to be bad, it still starts to get a little grating as the game progresses. Music is also minimal and mostly overshadowed by the all the dead pan quips from characters and cacophonous explosions.
Insect Armageddon is short and sweet but still slightly dull and repetitive. Some encounters drag on for far too long and the lack of any gameplay or visual variety will be a serious turn-off for some. That being said, its fast-paced nature, enjoyable co-op and solid leveling meta-game make it an amusing bug-hunt, but its value is questionable.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is an archaic, explosive and entertaining experience that deserves to be played. It’s a great way to unwind after a long and tiresome day, and the co-op and character classes should appeal to whatever niche audience it may attract – while it’s short and lacks variety in just about every department, it still deserves a few hours of your free time, provided you find yourself in the right mindset while playing it.