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Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Review


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On 07/24/2011 at 03:54 PM by Nick DiMola

"I hear you got a bug problem, ma'am."
RECOMMENDATION:

If you're the type to hop online with friends, Insect Armageddon is unquestionably a great choice, perhaps even better than 2017. Those who plan to play alone or with one friend on the same system should spring for the previous entry in the series, Earth Defense Force 2017.

There's no question that die-hard Earth Defense Force fans may be a little turned off by the latest title in the series, Insect Armageddon. As something of a spin-off of the main series, the title has been developed by western studio Vicious Cycle Software, rather than the typical folks at Sandlot in Japan. In the shift to D3Publisher's western office, Earth Defense Force has seen some slight changes in an effort to build a stronger third person shooter for western players. As someone who has enjoyed the likes of 2017 and Zangeki no Reginleiv, the changes are a mix of both good and bad.

Being that Earth Defense Force is somewhat of an underground series, it's worth explaining what it's all about. Essentially, you are part of a group of soldiers who are defending the earth from giant invading alien insects. They come in huge waves and must be defeated with the use of a wide assortment of weaponry, all while completing other objectives. Ants and spiders plague the ground while wasps and ships soar through the sky – even bigger enemies occasionally show up and pose the biggest threat of them all.

Past EDF games have always had a low budget feel to them, with very little graphical and UI polish. While infested with bugs, the worlds have felt mostly sterile and lifeless. Insect Armageddon addresses that problem head-on with improved models, more detailed textures, and the addition of random people and objects throughout the world to make it feel more lifelike. Believe it or not, this small change has really produced a much different ambiance for the experience.

Online co-op play is far and away the greatest improvement. While I've only had the opportunity to go online with staff member Stanton Daries, every time we've played it's been a blast. Up to three can take on the alien swarm together, unless of course you decide to jump into the Survival mode, which can accommodate up to six.

Players will need to work together in order to vanquish the many, many foes that threaten humanity. Communication is paramount and with an extra person joining in, the coordinated elimination of foes becomes a much more manageable task. Since the onslaught comes from all angles on both the ground and in the sky, it's nice to vary up the weapons and abilities of each player in order to more effectively dispatch foes.

This is accomplished through a brand new class system that provides players both unique weaponry and skills. For the most part, the new class system is welcome. With a battle, jet, tactical, and soldier class, there's more than enough variety. Depending on who's joining the fray, weapon load-outs and battle armors (classes) can be customized to maximum efficiency.

The biggest problem with this new class system is that it becomes unnecessarily restrictive. While twice as many weapons (300) are available this time around compared to 2017, each class gets a specific subset (75) of those weapons, effectively halving the number of available weapons at a given time. This isn't too bad, as it provides a significant incentive to play with each class; however, each of the available classes must be leveled up individually and the weapons are spread over 8 tiers.

This further reduces the weapon list to just a few per tier and over the course of the game you'll often collect weaponry that you can't use. Often by the time you can use it, some alternative will exist that obsoletes that weapon. This truly ruins the entire appeal of collecting better weaponry and forces you to grind through stages to level up your armors in order to get better gear.

For fans of EDF, this is a massive step down. A large part of the game's appeal was trying all sorts of new weaponry and guns to see what would work best. Getting high-level weapon drops helped leapfrog some of the initial challenge and made the game that much more entertaining.

With this current configuration, you'll likely find a couple of weapons that work really well and will compose your arsenal for the entire duration of time you occupy that tier. Without weapon variety, the experience seems to drag a bit more than it has in the past.

Even worse, the difficulty settings are pretty poorly balanced, requiring you to complete the game on the easiest setting, leveling up your armor of choice so that you're able to take on the next difficulty and replay the whole game. Each difficulty setting comes with a corresponding tier cap on the armors, which is an unfortunate choice.

The uneven pacing can make replaying all 15 missions something of a chore. While some of the missions are grandiose and intense, a number of them are dull, plodding romps that are only tolerable once. In order to fully level up and reach the best weaponry, players will need to grind through some of the same levels many times.

Despite my numerous complaints, there's no question that the core gameplay is still frantic and fun, especially with two friends online or one locally. Unfortunately, many of the changes made from 2017 fall flat. With the exception of higher production values, better controls, and online play, the changes made do more to harm the series’ formula than improve it. Frankly, most who have already played 2017 will be a bit disappointed by the content of Insect Armageddon.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Stanton Daries Staff Alumnus

07/25/2011 at 09:46 AM

You forgot to mention the amazing paramedic training our AI buddies are given. They can't shoot but they will go through hell to save you.

Nick DiMola Director

07/25/2011 at 02:16 PM

Ah Kicker, how I love thee. Looks like Sam H. is going to be the new Kicker. He's got some big shoes to fill (not really).

ShyGuy

07/26/2011 at 04:15 PM

I liked this game, at least in coop.

Nick DiMola Director

07/27/2011 at 02:54 PM

Yeah, the game is a good bit of fun in co-op. EDF 2017 is definitely the overall better game if you can play locally with a friend or family member, but the online co-op with a couple friends is always a good time here. I felt the 3.5/5 score was pretty solid for this game, especially for our rating scale where 2.5 - 3 stars covers an average score.

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