Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
If this doesn't make you wish arcades were still around then I'm not sure if you're an 'actual' gamer.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is the next installment in the EDF series. The bugs have returned to invade the world and the EDF has to take them out in every possible fashion using hundreds of different types of weapons and upgrades. Not a bad day at the office.
The gameplay in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is as complicated as the story to the game; simply put it's not complicated at all. You are put in an insane battle environment facing off against bugs, robots and other types of abundant enemies. The game takes an arcade style to it, as you're just going up against these massive waves of enemies. If this was Crysis 2 or Call of Duty then you wouldn't stand a chance, but thanks to the simplicity of the game your odds of survival are increased because of a cornucopia of health, plenty of weapons and actual good help from your fellow soldiers. On top of this, the game really doesn't change a lot from chapter to chapter, which means that the gamer doesn't have to adjust to an incredibly new environment with new things. EDF is simply a 'grab gun and go shoot' type of game; nothing more than that. For gamers looking for more depth than that you're going to be very disappointed.
Is this okay? Well, yeah it's okay. The game isn't trying to be more than what it's been advertised. For example, the first full mission of the campaign involves endless amounts of ants, spiders and a few wasps. Those are the majority of the 'standard' enemies at the beginning of the game. Outside of those enemies you'll run into mini-bosses, like a giant robot that has glowing red lights in its chest (can you guess what that indicates), a drop ship for smaller UFO-like vehicles and a few other smaller boss-like creatures. The main boss in the first mission is a giant Pholcidea that opens up its under belly to drop spiders, which exposes a weak point. The main part of this game is just plainly to kill as many standard enemies, mini and regular bosses as possible. You gather points by doing well and it's really difficult to die. That's pretty much the premise of the entire campaign. It's, again, simple and what has been advertised.
Outside of the fast-paced action, what else is good about the game? Well, the framerate stays pretty much intact regardless of the amount of enemies You won't believe how many enemies Vicious Cycle Software could fit on the screen at one time. Having ticks, ants and spiders attack you in waves without almost any slowdown is nothing short of amazing. VCS did a great job with tuning this game and balancing it out to make sure the framerate wasn't lost during some of the most intense battle scenes. There are more than a few moments in the game where you will just be completely surrounded by enemies and not be able to move around too much. Seeing that type of action happen and no real framerate issues is very impressive.
Like I mentioned above, the A.I. is actually pretty good. I'm sure that people will argue that it might be too helpful, but I can say with confidence that when the battle gets tough you can count on your fellow soldiers. There was a point in the first mission where I was trying to take down a dropship and I was getting some heavy resistance all around. Having to wait until the dropship opened it's dropping area to attack, I was forced to sit patiently aimed at the two closed areas on the ship. As I was waiting I was being attacked, but my fellow soldiers kept the enemies off me long enough to take the ship down. What's even more impressive is that they actually helped take the dropship down, too. You could consistently count on your NPCs to help out when the going gets tough, which is saying a lot for a game like EDF. There are bigger budget games that can't boast about good NPC work like this.
Other good things to expect from EDF are the abundant weapon upgrades through points gathered. You can customize your character with different weapons (over 300 weapons in total for all classes) and even customize the colors of their armor. You also get to play with turrets, mechs and other hardware during the game, as well (as the below picture illustrates). It's fun stuff that just helps expand the different types of attacks you can lay down on the invaders. Much like the main game, the leveling, customization and available weapons are very simple to understand, adjust and use. They add some fun value to the game, but aren't incredibly deep compared with other games of its type. Again, the motif is 'simplicity'.
So what are the so-so parts of the game? I think the campaign is a bit short and sometimes it feels repetitive. It's not Dynasty Warriors repetitive, but it's close enough to notice tons and tons of the same enemies. VCS did their best to offset that repetitiveness with varying amount of enemies during a mission (I.E. Sometimes you will have consistent waves of enemies then it will go into spotty moments, only to break into outrageously large battles). Throwing the gamer off with the size of battles was a way to compensate, but you will have times during the game where you're just saying 'here they come again'. You might be so into the action that you don't notice too much, but for me it was obviously repetitive.
Another so-so part of the game was the presentation. While I have to admit the character and enemy models were pretty detailed, I think the environments were bland at best. Repeating objects, huge lifeless buildings and 'blah' streets really didn't add a next-gen feel to the gameplay. I've seen Xbox 1 games that felt a bit more detailed in its environments. While VCS knew your focus would be on the insects and robots, the environments still needed a bit more love.
Speaking of environments, the game boasts that you've got completely destructible environments, which is fine. The problem is, what's the point? If I can't bring down a building on ants and spiders then what's the use of blowing up buildings? You have one or two enemies, at most, that will attach to the side of buildings and die with the collapsing structures, but the giant amount destruction does little to hurt the waves of enemies. There is an exception to my complaint. For example, the gas stations in the first mission can be used like bombs to take out a group of enemies. Outside of that, the destructible environments aren't that impressive to see, as there are bigger games with much better destruction detail.
So is there anything I just absolutely hated? If I could call up Vicious Cycle Software and beg them to change one thing it would be the HUD system. You have a ammo count, life meter and map available to your eyes. The life meter is the only useful onscreen tool. The only reason to keep up with your ammo is to know when to reload, as you get infinite amount of firepower. There's no reason to keep up with it in hindsight. The map is the biggest eyesore, as I could not understand where I was and what my mission was at the time. You can hit the back button on the controller to have a mission reminder, but to actually see a physical icon onscreen representing the next checkpoint was impossible to decipher. There were occasions where I had to guess on direction and sometimes I ended up wasting a large amount of time. If VCS wanted to keep it simple then they might have adopted a map system like the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mission indicator (a simple arrow on the HUD compass); that would have been much easier to understand and it wouldn't have kept my eyes off my surroundings. What VCS has here simply doesn't work well in my opinion.
As for the online portion of the game, it's simple. You can play a co-op online mission with a friend or you can play the Survival Mode with a friend or strangers. I think there are a lot of games that need online co-op with friends that don't have them, and EDF is one of those games that gets better having it. As for the Survival Mode I think it's a bit shallow, but it's fun as a whole. From the few missions I played the players just basically stood around and let the waves of enemies come to them. It's nothing special, but it's simple fun. I was surprised about the teamwork the online game creates, as you can help fallen soldiers and revive them before they die. When people work together online it creates a very fun experience.
So is the game fun as a whole? The $39.95 price tag helps a lot when it comes to what you should expect. If you compare Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon to big budget titles that sell for $20 more then you're going to be disappointed. If you go into it knowing that you're getting a mindless, stupid amount of shooting fun that you can play with your friends then you're going to feel like it was a steal. For me, if I had paid for this game, I would probably be happy. Having grown up in the arcade days of the video game industry it was easy to see how much fun this game can get. It may not have had a strong story and not strong features like other games of its type, but there's so much fun when it comes to mindless action.
Anyway, let's get to the summary!
I will never step on an ant again...
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon pays homage to days spent in smoky arcades with friends, pumping quarter after quarter into a fruitless gaming machine. It's a simple game that is stupid fun.