Two D3 Publisher employees joined me for an online cooperative round of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. Before we got to blasting bugs, I had to pick one of four armored exterminators. One battle ready gunner was decked out in heavy armor and carried an electric shield. This unit can shock small enemies with a melee attack like ticks (we’ll get to those later) and hit enemies with a shockwave. Tactical soldiers can drop gunpods and place explosive mines. Jetpack armor lets players fly. The trooper is most like the character in Earth Defense Force 2017. While he doesn’t seem special, troopers are useful in team games because of their support abilities like resuscitating downed ally players faster.
I picked the jetpack type for the first mission. Holding down the left trigger makes you fly. Being in the air puts you in a good position to attack the giant ants crawling on the ground. It’s possible to land on buildings and roll away from wasp stings while airborne. Armed with a tier 4 grenade launcher and green ray gun, the ants didn’t stand a chance. I scurried through their lines by flying and dropping grenades on their holes. Explosions often caused collateral damage, which turned nearby buildings to rubble. Compared to Earth Defense Force 2017, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon appears to have more buildings and more buildings types so an area feels more varied.
I ran into a cannon turret at one point in the stage, took it over, and started shooting incoming ants. The cannon had no problem taking out ants in front of the barrel, but a few started gnawing away at the side of the turret. I jumped out and took to the sky to finish the last group off before joining my teammates in the mission complete area.
All players earn money at the end of mission, which you can use to buy stronger guns. That’s a change from previous Earth Defense Force games where all weapons were earned by random drops. There are still some weapons to collect in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, though, oddball items like the Air Tortoise is an item you have to stumble upon.
After playing through a mission with the jetpack armor, I wanted to use a more team oriented character. Flying is nice, but in a team game I was in the sky doing my own thing while leaving my teammates on the ground to take damage. I picked the tactical armor for a mission much that takes place much later in the game. This unit can carry three kinds of pods and deploy them in battle. Turrets and chainguns are effective against ants, plasma guns are good against hectors, and mines explode on contact. In addition to guns, you can pick up a radar booster, which shows all of the enemies nearby – moving or not. Usually, the radar only picks up on enemies that move. Each time you drop a turret or mine you utilize some energy from your "special attack" bar. Tactical units have enough energy to put down one radar and a gun or a couple of mines and a plasma cannon.
As a tactics unit I got used to dropping gunpods and running behind them for cover. With only light weapons and armor, it was a little bit like being a frontline trooper in a real time strategy game. Since this was a later level, I ran into new enemies like ticks. These bugs jump on players and slow them down. Once they latch on you have to mash a button (Y on Xbox 360) to knock them off. Battle troops are the perfect counter since they can shock and kill ticks with their electric shield. Another kind of new beast makes ticks appear. The brain-like bug explodes into ticks when you finally shoot it down.
Wasps, another new enemy, are quite a nuisance. They buzz around the screen dodging shots and dive into players to attack them. I found the best time to shoot them was when they were busy stinging another player. Well, not with grenades. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon has friendly fire. Armored ants and wasps showed up later in the level. In addition to absorbing more damage, armored enemies had "smarter" AI. Wasps dodged shots more often and ants were more aggressive about jumping at players.
Near the end of the stage, saucers flew overhead. Saucers look different from those in Earth Defense Force 2017, but you defeat them the same way. You have to shoot the red spots that open up when they release ships. Fortunately, an anti-air gun was nearby, which made this part a breeze.
Sandlot isn’t involved with this game, but you wouldn’t know that unless someone mentioned it. Vicious Cycle captured the feel of an Earth Defense Force series in Insect Armageddon. Their first assignment when they got this project was to play through past games in the series. After completing it they added features they thought the West would want like online cooperative play and later offline co-op for two players.
Also like Earth Defense Force 2017, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon won’t do much damage to your wallet. The game will cost $39.99 at launch when it comes out in North America this spring.