Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Reviews

  • geckothelizardgeckothelizard96,147
    02 Aug 2011 05 Oct 2012
    22 28 3
    My first introduction to the world of the EDF was thanks to an enticing review of Sandlot's Global Defence Force (the European release of EDF 2) by Teletext's GameCentral. Bought on release, it was a brilliant mess of arcade hijinks, B-Movie stylings, and so... many... ants. However the poor PS2 could barely keep up, and the slowdown was crippling (and even worse for us PAL gamers, if you can imagine the horror), so I was please to find out there was also a Sandlot EDF title on the 360.

    Earth Defence Force 2017 brought the fight to HD, and whilst the increase in fidelity (and, most importantly - frame rate) was welcome, it came as a surprise that it was essentially a remake of EDF 1, featuring none of the improvements of the sequel (such as the jet-pack, or new enemy types). Despite that caveat, the EDF magic was there: ants, scale, silly weapons, ants, co-op, campy dialogue, ANTS! ANTS AS BIG AS YOUR HOUSE!, and a ridiculous challenge (us 2017 veterans who came away with the full 1000 share a sort of Vietnam 'You weren't there, man!' feeling).

    So, both great games that rightfully command a cult status, but perhaps an obvious path for a sequel: give EDF 2 a next-gen lick of paint, as EDF 2017 did for EDF 1. Time for Vicious Cycle to have a crack with Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon...

    Early signs were perhaps telling. Split-screen co-op was a late addition, included only thanks to a groundswell of internet chatter, but its initial exclusion is perhaps indicative that Vicious Cycle didn't spend a lot of time with the originals. Then you play it and... there's ants here and, well, it... it is a game that is on the 360 that has EDF in the title, but that's where the similarity ends. Gone are the B-Movie designs that made previous titles so iconic of the 50s monster movie era, replaced with generic robots, gunships and space marines. It's probably true that Vicious Cycle spent more time on the graphics than the previous games, but they fail to bring any real personality to it, and this lack of inventiveness - lack of heart - manifests itself throughout its meagre 4 hour length.

    Yes, rather than 53 levels as per 2017 (GDF had 71!), EDF:IA has 15 levels. Admittedly they're longer than previous missions (arguably a bad idea, given the arcade nature of the gameplay), but it's still objectively a much shorter game. What's more, these all take place in essentially the same city environment of 'New Detriot', rather than the variety of caves, beaches, cities and forests of before.

    Basic gameplay remains similar, with welcome improvements made to the controls (especially for the vehicles), and there's a fine co-op implementation (something sorely lacking in 2017). The sound is good, although the am-dram lunacy of the old dialogue is replaced with self-aware 'JOKES' which are still funny, but perhaps not it in the way they were intended.

    There's a levelling system which seems like a slightly arbitrary way of hiding the random weapon-drops of the original, and remains unsatisfying. There's also different character classes, which limits the choice of weapons you had before, rather than add anything (the Jet-pack character was already in EDF2, remember!). You will, of course, have to level these all up in your quest for sweet, sweet Achievement nectar.

    The most bizarre decision is to reduce the number of enemies on screen. Rather than massive hordes of creatures skittering towards you from the horizon, Vicious Cycle have instead opted to overwhelm the player by constantly spawning ants in from all directions. 2017 had you shepherding ants at range: picking off stragglers with your rifle before launching rockets into the group, or corralling enemies into turret traps. Here it's just a matter of running around, avoiding death, trying to clear a path. I don't know which focus group told them, "You know what EDF needs? Less ants, and a levelling system!"

    Originally I thought much of the success of previous EDF games was dumb-luck on Sandlot's part: they threw lots of enemies in a large space; gave you 100s of weapons (many of which were objectively useless); let you crank up the difficulty to sadistic levels; but IA shows how nuanced an experience the originals were, despite also being made for no money. If Vicious Cycle had simply created a port of GDF on the 360 it would have been better than EDF 2017, and consequently much better than what they came up with instead. Even left to their own devices, it's not as if they were trying to re-imagine Mario 64; EDF is a simple premise that has few key tenets: lots of ants, open, quick levels; somehow all messed-up. What was a series with initial cheap-thrills and an underlying depth, is now just the former. Any cult status will die with the originals, and we won't see a sequel. It's a dead franchise now.

    Oh, and there's no Godzilla battle. Imagine! 2017 repeated that Godzilla encounter about 4 times because it was so good, but you will have to return to that game if you ever want to shoot a massive Dinosaur in the cock. 4 times.

    (I do like the way the Hectors roar, though)
  • Balsin FaseBalsin Fase162,106
    31 Aug 2011 31 Aug 2011
    7 16 4
    There are very few games in the current console generation that, through a combination of factors, made me give up on them. Modern games just aren't interested in the kind of NES difficulty that games used to chase players away with. Now, we're coddled so much that games even stop to tell us how to move left or right, making me wonder why the starting screen doesn't have a second message under the 'Press Start' that simply says 'Press Start' again.

    Earth Defense Force 2017 was one of those games. Playing it on your own, you will wonder what it is the game is expecting you to do. The first few levels are all cakewalks, but then the giant robots hit the scene, usually followed by your controller striking a hard surface and a change of game. I knew it was supposed to be a two player game, though, so I didn't hold its difficulty against it when Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon came out. I played both with my brother over a trip in Japan, and can only say that you're better off spending 3$ and picking up the first one.

    The EDF series is about an alien attack on earth, one that uses giant bugs and huge robots to attack you. That's about the full extent of the plot as well as the gameplay. EDF throws huge waves of bugs at you as you play it, usually numbering in the hundreds. Watching these waves of creatures coming at you for the first time is pretty daunting, but as soon as you start firing your infinite-ammo rocket launcher, you don't feel so bad any more. What this game gives you almost all the time is this sense that you are about to be overrun. During any given firefight, you will find yourself with enemies on all sides of you, firing a weapon into a sea of hostility that never seems to end. You don't even have to bother aiming during a lot of these fights, since there are so many things around it would be harder not to hit something. It makes for really frantic fights, and is where this series really shines.

    That being said, Insect Armageddon doesn't seem to do as good of a job setting up these fights as the first one did. There were a lot more locales in the first game, letting you fight on beaches and in forests and mountains, where the second one sticks to just cities. Admittedly, both of them will give you the chills when you see a huge robot walker coming through a flaming cloud, towering higher than the buildings, but the waves of enemies lose their power. Watching a sea of red ants endlessly pouring down a cliff toward you and your feeble defenses in EDF 2017 is something that needs to be experienced. Watching that same group flowing though gaps between buildings in Insect Armageddon just doesn't cut it.

    Weapons are another big part of EDF. Big explosives and powerful machine guns will carry you through the day, and the only way to get them in the first game was random enemy drops. Anything in the game could be holding something good, and depending on what difficulty you were playing on, you could find some cool stuff, like the Air Tortoise, which seems to be an extremely slow nuclear bomb. I never felt the game dropped anything that broke the difficulty, but apparently the developers did, so they locked all of the weapon drops in Insect Armageddon behind experience levels. Instead of being able to use that gun you just picked up, you have to wait until you've gotten enough points to be at the right level to use it. Add onto that the fact that only huge enemies dropped weapons in the second game, and you just cut into a lot of the excitement.

    That's also assuming the weapon you picked up is for the class you're using, too. Rather than have just one basic dude you could stick any weapon on, Insect Armageddon invented four classes, each of which levels up individually. Now, this might add some replay value to people who want to look at the same boring city for a few hours every day, but for a one-playthrough guy, you're only given access to a quarter of the weapons. Most of your pickups won't be for the class you're using, which dulls a lot of the excitement of the random drops.

    Those drops went a long way toward keeping this kind of game fresh, too. In EDF 2017, you could pick up permanent health boosts on top of weapon drops, so no matter what you were fighting, there was a good chance of you scoring something decent. You could literally watch your character get stronger with every few kills he made. In Insect Armageddon, you don't get that feeling. You could fight hundreds of ants and spiders and gain nothing but a handful of experience toward the next level, and a handful of weapons you can't use. Since levelling up after level one takes forever, you always get left with this feeling that the game's wasting your time, rather than rewarding your play.

    Even two-player mode can't save the second game after having played the first. EDF 2017 is about frantic shooting and crazy fun, even if the formula never really changes from level to level. If you pick at that game with a buddy, you'll have a good time of it, especially since you both get every reward that's picked up. The action is quick, the weapons feel like they pack a punch, and with one life and no ability to revive, the danger is palpable. In Insect Armageddon, the action feels diluted. The levels are longer and filled with many activities with no checkpoints, often leaving you just wanting the stage to end. All of the weapons feel like you're shooting spitballs, taking almost five minutes of uninterrupted gunfire to take down any of the major enemies. Everything about it feels too long and too weak, and it will leave you pining for the first one at almost every turn.

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