|PS3 / XBOX 360||USA|
By Kris . July 26, 2011 . 12:45pm
A giant mechanical daddy longlegs towers over New Detroit. The creature spews high powered lasers, destroying everything in its path, all the while spawning giant spiders from openings on its stomach. In the distance, dropships are releasing a multitude of flying, laser-shooting robots. Just over some nondescript buildings in the background, massive hornets fly through the sky above an army of truck-sized ants and 50-foot-tall humanoid robots known as "Hectors".
The bugs come from every direction, cars explode, buildings crumble into nothingness. The spectacle is nigh on apocalyptic, a fitting climax to any shooter. I stand in the center of this chaos equipped with a missile launcher, laser assault rifle, and jetpack. I activate my jetpack and start dashing through the swarm. Unable to fire while dashing, my rush is punctuated every so often to fire missiles into a group of ants.
Slowing down to let my jetpack recharge, I look to the skies and see a dropship opening its lower hatches to release some additional flying Ravagers. I use this opportunity to fire at the red, glowing weak points. I switch to my laser assault rifle and fire an obscene number of bullets into the ship. After a four or five assaults, it falls from the sky, crashing through three buildings in its unnatural descent before exploding and taking out a number of the ants.
I notice a mech suit lying inconspicuously on the ground, hop in, and turn my sights towards the daddy longlegs. This is Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon‘s first boss fight.
Despite the overwhelming scale, Insect Armageddon is a simple game. Loosely bound by a narrative about a special team of soldiers known as Lightning Alpha fighting off alien invaders (who either look like giant versions of Earth insects or robots) known as Ravagers. Much like the B-movies of old, the story is a fragile, practically incomprehensible excuse to spend a few hours killing giant monstrosities with bigger explosions. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you.
In keeping with the ‘50s B-movie aesthetic, everything in the game has a slightly cheesy, low-budget feel. Hearing a squadmate shout out, "remember the Alamo!" in the middle of a tunnel filled with giant ants before leading into a chant of "EDF! EDF!" is a pleasantly surreal experience that very few other games can lay claim to. The radio chatter in the game also has a hammy levity that helps cement the B-movie atmosphere. I’m not exactly sure where the Lighting Alpha’s commander got her accent from, but it’s European amalgam like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
The B-movie style continues into the combat itself. Our heroes are hard to kill, their armor able to hold twice the health that you start each level with. This is emphasized by the Ravagers’ bad case of the Stormtrooper Effect. Despite the sheer number of enemies, it’s a very rare to actually feel as though you’re in danger (besides, there are a ton of health powerups and your squadmates can pick you back up if you die).
Explosions are always about ten times bigger than they need to be, which is complemented by the fact that every building can be destroyed with enough gunfire and that weapons get progressively more insane as you play through the game (Mech Suits! Missiles that split into three and then converge on one another! Lasers that ricochet off of walls and ceilings!). Also, killing an enemy with an explosion will send them flying into space or bouncing off of buildings. Insect Armageddon completely embraces the B-movie style, bleeding a distinctive charm.
In a lot of ways, Insect Armageddon reminds me of Koei’s Warriors games in third-person shooter form. You’re told to go to a certain designated area on your map, you do so and kill everything (potentially after destroying an enemy-spawning anthill or dropship or three in the process), then wait for more orders to do it all over again. You’re constantly either killing bugs and robots or running to another place on the map. You can only blow up a city in so many ways until it starts to feel a little rote, so it’s a blessing that each battle escalates in scale.
The game starts very slow, just pitting the player against the most basic of (giant) ants, teaching them to destroy ant hills in the process. As Insect Armageddon progresses, it introduces more and more Ravagers to kill, and each one becomes integrated into the regular skirmishes throughout any given mission. By the end of each chapter, every kind of enemy you’ve seen becomes integrated into each skirmish and things become chaotic. Eventually you’re fighting off multiple dropships, giant mechanical mantises, huge explosive-tick-spawning spider-tick crossbreed things, and of course legions of standard ants in every fight, every battle flattening a city block or two in the process.
Naturally, to balance this, the game rewards the player with money and experience as they plow through each stage. The experience goes to level up the armor that you use for the mission: the laser-shield-toting Battle Armor, the mine-and-turret-planting Tactical Armor, the quick and balanced Trooper Armor, or the jetpack-equipped Jet Armor. When armor levels up, more armor-exclusive weapons become available for the player the player to purchase.
These weapons are arranged into weapon tiers that correspond with the level of the armor. Some enemies will randomly drop weapons as they die, but unfortunately, these are also tier locked. Not being able to use a tier-four weapon that you find on the ground until you’ve leveled up a few times dampens the excitement somewhat. However, when you finally reach that weapon tier, each new weapon is a blast.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is based around the arcade-style joy of killing. It’s simple, explosive, over-the-top, and a little repetitive, but alongside a friend or with your favorite music playing, it can be a lot of fun.