There's something about an insect invasion that evokes the early days of science fiction, when oversized ants would topple towers or arachnid swarms would overwhelm frightened men and women. Thinking about it now, there are very few entertainment venues that praise the insect, save for perhaps Anty from Honey I Shrunk the Kids or the hordes from Starship Troopers. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is no exception to this rule. Taking advantage of the stage set by the prior cult hit EDF 2017, Insect Armageddon hopes to give players the opportunity to stomp bugs all over the city of New Detroit in a sequel that should be bigger and better than the last in every way. It's just almost tragic how badly it misses the mark.
The most difficult part of playing Insect Armageddon is that it's so easy to wish that it was something more. The game is poised to strike right from the start, letting players go straight into online or offline modes, boasting split-screen for those interested in local multiplayer, that include story related missions and a decent variety of survival maps. Players start each mission by selecting a class defined by its special abilities and weaponry, which can go a long way in defining an individual player bug-squashing experience.
From being able to use heavy armour and lightning discharging shields to the ability to fly, classes start with a core set of abilities and are given a variety of weapon options, all of which can be upgraded through earning experience. Playing the game on harder difficulties will raise the overall level cap for players to toss their points into, so at the very least engaging the game on higher levels gives more than just a challenge and bragging rights. Experience is dedicated to each individual class in a very Dynasty Warriors fashion, which would be absolutely amazing if the title was any fun for longer than ten minutes at a time.
It's not that the game is bad due to controls either, any of the usual suspects that would degrade a game's performance are all absent here. A typical third-person shooter layout means that using skills, changing weapons, and reloading is easy to learn and most likely already mastered. There's even a quick reload feature similar to the Gears of War series, there's not a lot to dislike here. The problem lies with the gameplay itself and how the world is set up.
Insect Armageddon feels like a game that expects you to have fun with it simply because the last game was fun. Mechanical tweaks to the game make it easier to play, yes, but the overall design to the world makes the action almost lifeless. Players land in an area filled with bugs, clear out the area then move to the objective. More bugs are killed, another objective is made, throughout the level more enemies will spawn and things will become progressively harder.
The formula itself is easy enough to see and the developers do nothing to hide it. Worse is the fact that there really is no chaos to the game at all, which is the entire point to these sandbox invasion games right? Especially when you consider the enemy is a swarm of giant bugs. Fighting back hordes of insect invaders is fun when you're attempting to overcome impossible odds, but there's a strange sense of organization to this EDF title that makes fighting aliens feel more methodical than exciting.
Multiplayer fixes some of the problems seen in campaign mode, as playing any game with a friend is bound to make it more exciting, but the core issues still exists. Survival mode is a bit of a different story and doesn't suffer from the same issues. In fact, Survival mode is more or less everything that the campaign should have been, quickly escalating hordes of aliens that will overwhelm any player alone. The lifespan of the mode is extended a bit longer with the wide range of maps present in game, but this is really just a band-aid over a bigger issue: the lack of depth to the existing content.
It's a shame really, because for a budget title it feels like there was very little the developers missed. Online supports up to six players, campaign is playable three missions in, survival comes with a slew of maps and starting up a match online doesn't require unnecessary menus. The classes are very well thought out, itemization provides players with a wide range of options, the list goes on and on really.
Despite all the tools that the game offers players, the canvas in which to work with is incredibly bland and boring. More often than not I found myself completing an objective for the sake of completing it, not really for any other reason. Watching bugs fly through the air and dissolve upon being shot takes away a bit of the satisfaction of actually killing a bug, and although destructible terrain is always a bonus, most if it just sort of falls down in place after taking enough hits from collateral damage anyway.
The graphics and sound aren't awful, but not entirely memorable either. If anything hearing the local marines spout out the exact same generic 'army guy' one liners over and over gets a bit tiring. It makes you wish there was a slider that gave you the option to turn down how often they talk, or at least be able to direct them to go far away where they can no longer be heard.
So is there fun to be had in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon? Yes, absolutely, just not very much of it. If you enjoyed the previous game, then this installation is definitely worth a look, if nothing else for the far more frantic Survival Mode. Extremely dedicated (or stubborn) gamers may be able to wring a few extra hours of enjoyment from some co-op or online, but if you're the type to enjoy a game more offline than on, it's best to just stay away altogether. There really just isn't enough to hold anyone's attention for long, even for the most dedicated of bug hunters.
|Solid, functional mechanics.|
|Survival Mode is all kinds of fun.|
|Co-op adds more depth to the mix.|
|Lack of substance to game objectives.|
|Killing bugs feels more methodical than fun.|
|The experience simply feels bland and boring.|