Picture this: you're walking down the street one day, minding your own business. The sun's shining, everything is perfectly normal. Then all of a sudden, you're surrounded by giant bugs. We're talking ants, spiders, and a couple others, and I'm not talking a few feet tall here, I mean huge. Sounds kind of freaky huh? Well, that's what you'll encounter in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon for the Xbox 360.
You take on the role of Lightning Alpha, the leader of an elite fighting team known as Strike Force Lightning. Even though you are typically aided by local EDF fighting forces in the area, you are also assisted by two squad mates who like to chant "EDF!!! EDF!!!" every few minutes it seems. Prior to each mission you can choose from four different types of armor, each with their own pros and cons. However, only one armor can be unlocked from the start, but you can unlock a new armor after completing a mission. The Trooper Armor is the standard armor you start the game with; it has basic defense and movement, plus can have its skill upgraded. The Tactical Armor is the next step up, with average armor and speed, plus the ability to deploy turrets and mines. The Jet Armor has the weakest defense of the three special armors (any armor that's not the Trooper Armor), but allows the ability to fly and has the most maneuverability and agility. Finally there's the Battle Armor, which provides the best defense and some heavy artillery, but has the least speed and agility.
Each armor can equip a number of weapons, such as Shotguns and Assault Rifles, to help blast away any bugs that get in your way, but after a while, the guns you start with won't hold off a massive insect invasion. As you defeat enemies you gain points which are useful for two things: they serve as experience points for your armor as well as currency. As you earn points using various armor in Campaign Mode, it's converted to experience points at the end of each chapter. You can also use accumulated points to purchase weapons between missions. Trust me, you'll want to play the first couple of chapters a few times over, not only to get used to the four types of armor and what they're capable of, but to get some new weapons and upgrades before going into the later stages, and believe me when I say you'll need them.
You have three different ways to play offline: Campaign, Campaign Remix, and Survival (all of which I believe can be done split-screen co-op). Campaign mode consists of three separate chapters, each with several missions to take on. The first mission is basically an introduction to the game as you blast wave after wave of ants, spiders, and air-born enemies in New Detroit. It's a good chance to get use to the game's controls and mechanics. After that you'll check out several downed Landers that are scattered across the city. The game's final chapter has Lightning finding something called "The Cube" and taking it to a nest in New Detroit, only to have an Ant Queen emerge from it, forcing you to do battle with it. Survival mode should be familiar with anyone who's played similar modes such as Call of Duty's Zombie modes or Survival modes in Time Splitters. You fight wave after wave of oncoming enemies while just trying to survive as long as you can. My main issue with Survival is...well, it's kind of tough. The only armor you'll have available for Survival Mode is the Trooper Armor, so you'd better get use to how it works and what kind of weapons it can use. Just by playing around with it I'd definitely say that Survival Mode was made for multi-player. Still, it's good practice for Campaign Mode.
Speaking of multi-player, I didn't get too much of a chance to mess around with it, but it's literally the same three modes as in Offline Mode. The game's case says you can do two to six players online, but I imagine anything more than two players is for Survival Mode. I wouldn't mind having six players on Survival Mode. Granted the game itself would be harder with more players, but having six people would be quite a bit of fun, and who wouldn't want to destroy a bunch of giant insects with friends. At least you have guns and not magnifying glasses.
Aside from the difficulty of Survival Mode, I do have a couple small complaints. First off, Campaign Mode can be a bit difficult at times. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it should be a cake walk. The key though to making your life easier is to get experience with each type of armor. If you constantly use one type, then decide to switch to another type to help with a particular mission, you may find that it's too weak to use and your weapon power won't be enough to deal with the massive onslaught of bugs coming your way. I learned that lesson the hard way three missions in. Basically, you'll want to take each armor through the first stage so you can accumulate enough points to upgrade each armor to level 2, as well as purchase a few upgraded weapons. If you don't purchase upgraded weapons early on, you'll get completely swarmed with enemies later (pun slightly intended). My other concern is in the multiplayer. As stated earlier, it's the same three modes as in Offline Mode. It would have been nice to see a Deathmatch-like mode, where each player can choose one of the four armors, choose their weapons and/or deployables, and in between deaths they could change their selection if they wished to do so. That would be interesting, but the fact that multiplayer is just more of the same of Campaign and Survival, I feel it's a bit lacking.
Overall, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a pretty decent game.Something I didn't mention before was that you can actually destroy some of the buildings, which is nice as it clears the area of any hiding spots for bugs, but each area, while seemingly open, does have its boundaries. While you can fire through these boundaries (represented by a red force field) and enemies can fire through them at you, you can't pick up any health items they drop if they do so. I like the way they handled the armor, each with their own pros and cons and each with their own weapons to unlock. My only complaint is that after getting an armor to level 2 (which is easy...just complete the first mission), it's a long way to level 3. The max level of armor is also restricted by the difficulty level. On the easiest difficulty the max level is 5, but on the hardest I believe it's 8, but that's part of the challenge. I did like my time with the game, and I do plan to fully explore the game more when I get the chance to do so, including some multiplayer on Xbox Live. I mean, it can't be like Red Faction: Battlegrounds where no one plays this game, right?
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