Review: Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon

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Forgoing all forms of narrative fluff in favor of pure, unfiltered arcade gameplay, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is here to quench your thirst for gooey, green bug blood.

Insect Armageddon, the fourth game in the cult-favorite EDF series and only the second to make it to the Americas, is a third-person shooter with a singular focus: massive alien bugs are invading Earth, and as an elite member of the EDF, it is your sworn duty to exterminate the insect infestation like the Orkin Man…if the Orkin Man was a super soldier equipped with bazookas, assault rifles, mech suits and tanks. Sorry, a can of pesticide and some pest strips won’t help you here, buddy!

Set in the city of New Detroit, Insect Armageddon is an action junkie’s dream playground. Through the game’s 15-mission campaign, you will slaughter literally thousands of ants, spiders, ticks, wasps and other critters that have crawled out of the floorboards of space to feast on humanity. Missions never become any more complex than moving from waypoint to waypoint, placing the occasional explosive charge, and squashing every last bug that stands between you and survival. But that’s why it is so much fun – you drop in, zap some monsters, relieve some stress, and call it a day.

Matching the intense action is the sheer scale of everything in the game. The giant bugs tower over you, particularly the larger-than-life bosses like the Daddy Long Legs and Mantis, and the New Detroit city itself gives you a wide open environment to stomp around in, with a draw distance that stretches on as far as the eye can see. Everything is so large around you, that you, the human, feel like the measly ant scampering around, resigned to the fact that you could be squished at any moment.

The scale of the destruction is quite impressive, too. Cars can be blown to bits, and every skyscraper, office building and gas station can be razed to the ground. The graphics are a bit ‘Plain Jane’, but the way buildings explode and crumble into a plume of dust is satisfying every single time, and overall the purposeful B-movie sci-fi presentation gives the game a likeable personality. I only wish the sound effects had more oomph to compliment the mass destruction taking place on screen. The explosions and weapon sounds don’t boom out of the speakers with the type of satisfying impact that would really push the experience over the top.

While the weapons may not pack a heavy wallop, there sure are a ton of them. You have four different armor classes to choose from (Trooper, Tactical, Battle and Jet Pack), each with a maximum of eight ranks to achieve by earning high scores and leveling up. As you rise up the ranks, higher tiers of weapons become available, eventually leading to something like 300 different tools of destruction to purchase, from assault rifles and shotguns to rocket, missile and grenade launchers.

Each gun has unique stats (damage, reload speed, fire rate, etc.), and it is important to choose a balanced weapon loadout (you can carry any two guns into a mission) that suits the situation and your style of play. A weapon’s reload speed and clip capacity is actually more important than anything, I found, because the game uses a Gears of War style reload mechanic that lets you pop clips in more quickly if you properly time the reload meter. The thing is, more powerful weapons have less room for error, so if you mistime the meter you will be stuck waiting a few seconds longer before you can fire away – and a few seconds is a big deal when you have hundreds of bugs swarming at you from all sides.

At first, I didn’t much care for the reload system, because it just seemed it was impeding my ability to mindlessly blast away. But over time I grew fond of the added tension and emphasis on skill and reflexes it brought to what is already an intense and challenging game.

As is often the case with games of this ilk, though, Insect Armageddon’s Achilles’ heel is its lack of enemy and level variety. Shooting thousands of the same-looking bugs in the same drab city environment can eventually become pretty damn monotonous. How quickly it flames out will depend entirely on your gaming tastes and attention span. For some, a few hours will be enough, while for others the game’s bug squashing arcade action will become an unshakable addiction.

Ultimately, your long term enjoyment of the game will also weigh heavily on how much you intend to play cooperatively with others. Insect Armageddon certainly holds up as a single-player affair, offering 15 missions, multiple difficulty settings, remixed campaign stages, and a wave survival mode. But as a single human amongst a sea of bugs, the game can get kind of lonely.

However, bring a few friendly squad mates along for the ride – you can play two-player couch co-op, three-player online campaign co-op, and up to six-player survival mode co-op — and the fun factor increases exponentially.

So basically, if you’re looking for a meaty co-op experience to sink your teeth into and know exactly what you’re getting, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is an excellent choice. But for solo bug zappers, it may not have enough legs to hold your attention for very long. I say give it the old ‘try before you buy’, then decide from there.

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Pros:
+ Fun, no-frills third-person shooter action
+ Intense co-op experience
+ Immense scale to enemies and levels
+ Satisfying environmental destruction

Cons:
– Lack of enemy and level variety can lead to gameplay monotony
– Weak sound effects
– Gets kind of lonely as a single-player game

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Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Vicious Cycle
Release Date: 7/5/2011
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-6 (2-player split-screen, 2-6 players online)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!