There’s not a whole lot of complexity to Vicious Cycle Software and D3 Publisher’s third-person shooter sequel Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. Case in point: weapon reloads qualify as a new feature over Sandlot’s Xbox 360-exclusive 2007 budget release, Earth Defense Force 2017. Previously, refilling your weapon meant emptying the chamber completely. Now you can manually refill your clip from the unlimited supply of ammo for your two chosen firearms. It’s an Active Reload feature too, meaning if you can time a second press of the reload button correctly, you can cut your reload time in half.
Progress, people. That’s what it’s all about.
The story (such as it is) unfolds in a new warzone during the same Earth invasion that was highlighted the previous game. The city you’re trashing this time over the course of three chapters and 15 levels is New Detroit. The level count is considerably smaller than the previous game’s 53, but each mission serves up a wider range of challenges. There’s also the replay value to consider. The game features four combat classes, online co-op for up to three players–six in the game’s endless wave Survival mode–as well as a Campaign Remix mode that unlocks after you beat the game.
The four classes– Trooper, Battle, Tactical and Jet–each feel unique. The Trooper is probably the most boring, an all-rounder class favoring a wider range of weapon types than the others; if you played EDF 2017, then you’ve played as the Trooper before. The others are more specialized, with Battle going for heavier weapons and armor, Tactical relying more on support items like weapon emplacements and Jet using a rocket-powered suit to zip around the wide-open battlefield. Commendably, there’s really no “best” option here; each armor simply caters to a different play style.
Completing a mission nets you experience toward whichever armor type you chose to use. Each class can earn up to eight ranks, with additional abilities, weapon tiers and equipment unlocking as you go. You can also pick up weapons during a mission, but only Elite enemies drop them this time around; the rest of the 300 or so-strong firearm offerings have to be unlocked as you improve each class. In a nod to the previous game’s bigger rewards for playing on harder difficulties, each class can only be maxed out by playing on the Hard and Inferno levels.
Vehicles are also back in the form of a mech walker and a tank. There’s good news too: they work this time! The vehicles in 2017 were shamefully broken in every respect. This time, they, along with player-manned turrets, can be a potent force on the battlefield.
It Came From Outer Space
The graphics have improved, but the enemies you’re facing are pretty much the same: a wide variety of giant-sized insects, arachnids, robots and UFOs. There are also robot insects now, along with several flavors of giant robot. The AI is pretty simple, favoring swarm tactics primarily (this is an alien insect horde, after all), but there’s really little need for tactical planning in a game like Insect Armageddon; you just point the shooty end of your weapon at the largest mass of enemies you can find and pull the trigger until the active reload bar pops up.
While Insect Armageddon sells for a well-deserved budget price of $40 given the simplistic gameplay, there is a particularly annoying issue that Vicious Cycle Software and D3 Publisher need to be called on. There are no checkpoint saves, so if you fail one of the lengthy, half-hour-plus missions and you’ll have to start over. There are checkpoints, however, in-mission objectives that must be completed in sequence in order to push the story. Unfortunately, these checkpoints sometimes won’t trigger until an occasionally unclear objective is met. While it’s not a common problem, if an enemy happens to spawn somewhere it shouldn’t–say, in a closed-off indoor area that you don’t have access to–then you pretty much have to cross your fingers and run around blindly in the hope that it will find its way to a location where you can shoot it.
Overall, Insect Armageddon is an entertainingly straightforward shooter that really comes into its own when you go the co-op route (online or two-player splitscreen). For a game with middling visuals compared to present-day stunners like the upcoming Skyrim, it does epic very well. This is especially true when three human players are pelting the two marauding skyscraper-tall Hector robots with missile launchers while buildings crumble all around.
If you’re a fan of shooting large numbers of things with a wide array of weapons, don’t let the average score on this review deter you. Insect Armageddon hits all of the same nerves that its predecessor did, only it does things better in just about every way. There’s zero complexity here, but there are no aspirations to achieve anything greater. For better and for worse, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon successfully gives you a giant sandbox to play in as you squash oversized bugs and blow up aliens.
Score: 6 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by D3 Publisher)