Originally released six months ago on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is finally making its way to the PC. That's good news for anybody who likes to squash giant alien insect invaders, all while crushing large sections of the fictional city of New Detroit. Unfortunately, I have bad news for anybody hoping for something less repetitive and shallow. For better or worse, this remains the exact same game that caused so many divisive opinions when it was first released last July.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon marks the third installment in Sandlot's humans vs. giant insects trilogy (which also includes Global Defense Force and Earth Defense Force 2017). While the concept is ambitious enough, this has always been a series based around cheesy open-world action at a budget price. Insect Armageddon is no exception, offering only a few hours of gameplay, mediocre graphics and a repetitive campaign that is unbearable if you're playing by yourself.
Here we see New Detroit being overrun by giant alien insects. Your job is to team up with three other characters and destroy this scourge once and for all. You do this by running around large city areas shooting giant ants, spiders, ticks, wasps and the like. Eventually the game will teach you to destroy the insect's nest (such as a giant ant hill), otherwise you'll be left to fight a never ending supply of bug baddies. Other enemies may require a more direct shot, but this is a basic concept that gets repeated level after level until you beat the stunningly short game.
There are four classes to choose from, each with their own sets of abilities and weapons. My favorite was the Jet class, which allows the player to both speed around the level and fly above it with an exclusive jetpack. The Battle class is the other side of the equation, a slow-moving, heavily armored fighter with large guns. Then there's the Tactical class, which allows players to put down turrets and other helpful items in the middle of battle. The final class is the Trooper, a well-balanced soldier that is able to use every type of gun.
The game makes an excellent first impression. There's something ridiculously exciting about see a bunch of enormous bugs speeding at you. It's even more exhilarating when you realize you can take down any building, sign, bridge or monument that stands between you and safety. With so much over-the-top action happening at once, it's easy to get sucked into the game within seconds of starting it. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for this euphoria to wear off.
While the non-stop action persists through the game's short campaign, you'll quickly realize that every level is essentially the same old thing. They may throw a new wrinkle at you, but you're constantly being asked to do the same thing over and over again. Worse yet, the unspectacular level designs all start to blur together, something that made it hard to appreciate the progress I was making in the game. At the end I felt like the action overstayed its welcome, even when it clocked in at a mere five hours.
To be fair to Earth Defense Force, this may be the type of game you aren't supposed to play in one or two sittings. I can see how playing a mission here and there may keep the excitement alive, even if each stage offers diminishing returns. The new insects added throughout the course of the game are fun to discover, even if most of the time it means you'll have to stand in one place shooting into the air for five minutes. A few of the bosses really impressed, which is saying something give the game's so-so presentation.
Unfortunately, I went through the game quickly. Maybe too quickly. By the end of the game I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. As a single-player game, Earth Defense Force should be avoided at all costs. The paper-thin gameplay just doesn't hold up by yourself. However, I did have a lot more fun taking on these insect invaders with friends. Here we were able to come up with devilishly clever ways to take down the bugs and save the world. Still, even with friends around, the shallowness of the experience left me wanting more.
What this game has going for it is a large variety of guns to earn and buy. Players will have to beat the game several times in order to collect all of the types of guns, a strong incentive for the online multiplayer mode. You get a lot of familiar gun types (sniper rifles, missile launchers, shotguns, etc.), each with their own advantage depending on the situation. Even late into the game I was still having a great time taking out giant spiders with the new and upgraded weapons.
Beating the campaign unlocks a remix mode, which adds new enemies into each of the missions. While this offers players a new challenge, I found this to be more of the same. It would have been nice to see some more variety in the gameplay. It goes back to the game's underlying problem, that it's far too repetitive for its own good.
Much like the past installments, Insect Armageddon looks dated and cheesy when compared to other modern games. It's not that the game looks bad, but rather that it lacks the polish you expect from a game released in 2011. The animation is stiff, the level designs are uninspired and there's nothing you'll remember about the presentation after you turn it off. Then again, the mediocre graphics isn't the thing that brings this game down.
At a paltry $20, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a no-frills budget title. You get some solid action that is easily digested with friends and not much more. If you don't mind some mind-numbing repetition, then you could do a whole lot worse than D3's fashionably late port. However, anybody thinking about playing this by themselves should look elsewhere. It turns out that no amount of giant insects can fix monotonous gameplay.