Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Jul 12, 2011

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a great guilty pleasure full of bug splattering goodness. Repetition might make it so you've had your fill too early and there's an abundance of grinding, but its epic scale, destructible terrain, and larger than life battles make for a cathartic pastime.

The Pros
  • Truly astounding scale
  • Mechanics have been refined since EDF 2017
  • Armor classes are balanced and fun
  • Good variety of bugs and robots
The Cons
  • Levels drag on too long, but yet the campaign seems short
  • Rank system puts a cramp on loot drops
  • Insects are later replaced by their less frightening robotic brethren

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Review:

My favorite scene in every 80s creature feature is always the same: The ghostbuster's containment field is shut down by a government bureaucrat, the gremlins hop into a swimming pool causing them to multiply at an alarming rate, and the Colonial Marines find themselves overwhelmed by a swarm of aliens. It's when all hell breaks loose that really gets the blood pumping, and Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon reenacts this spectacle for its duration.
 

 

New Detroit Rock City

Earth has been invaded and it's up to the good ol' EDF to stop these "ravagers." Set in "New Detroit" this American sequel to the Japanese cult-classic Earth Defense Force 2017 doesn't have a lot on its agenda other than killing lots of oversized insects, robots, and insect robots. Thankfully, there's a myriad of ways to do this, usually resulting in gaining bigger guns to kill bigger bugs in bigger explosions. Truly, this is why videogames were invented.

Unlike EDF 2017, Insect Armageddon has players choose between four different armor sets with their own unique abilities. Trooper is your standard all-around unit, Tactical can deploy turrets and traps, Battle is a lumbering brute capable of carrying heavy artillery at the expense of mobility, and Jet is granted great speed and the gift of flight. They're remarkably balanced and varied enough that it makes a reasonable difference.

Perhaps Insect Armageddon's biggest improvement over its predecessor is that it no longer controls like crap. Button placements are still a bit dodgy (and not customizable), but you can now sprint for unlimited periods, evade, and jumping is far smoother than in its past iteration. This goes a long way towards making the haphazard action feel more manageable and just plain fun.

It's a better paced game too, with almost each of its 15 levels introducing a new enemy type or useful loot drop to unlock weapons upon completion. The action scales up appropriately with more devastating guns and higher ranks only available in harder difficulties, so even when it's over it's not really over. Unfortunately, the ending is so anticlimactic that it's unclear the game's even beaten until a cryptic achievement is unlocked and the level select screen defaults to stage one.

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In spite of Insect Armageddon's budget priced visuals, the sense of scale is impressive enough to put its high-def competitors to shame. There's a real sense of pandemonium in it's more heated assaults. Your typical level sees you slaughtering a couple hundred foes and even the tallest skyscrapers will crumble if shot by two or three rockets. The destructible environments give each battle a dynamic feel as you claim bitter victory over a rubbish filled wasteland.

Where most action games rely on scripted events that get increasingly predictable (two guys spawn from the left, one on the right...), Insect Armageddon's peculiar sort of chaos is too incalculable to ever truly get a handle on. There's still a prescribed order to the waves of enemies, but the scale is too large and enemies too numerous that even the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.
 

 

"Game Over, Man!"

While this unpredictability keeps things fresh it also means there's little strategy involved outside picking your specific weapon load-outs. You merely point and shoot until every last living creature is dead. Being caught in the midst of an alien apocalypse is riveting for awhile, but prolonged exposure starts to grate by the end of the roughly six hour campaign.

This isn't helped by levels that drag on at least twice as long as they need to. Where EDF 2017 was primarily comprised of 5-10 minute spurts of action, Insect Armageddon's stages typically take a good 20 minutes or so. Get a game over and all experience is lost and you have to start all the way back at the beginning. The addition of being able to revive teammates helps exponentially and your AI squadmates will frequently, albeit inconsistently, revitalize you in single-player. Working as a team is more fun in co-op (available for two-player split-screen, or online with three players in the campaign and six in survival mode), but lengthier stages can still feel like a bit of a slog.

Making matters worse is grinding for weapons is drastically harder this time around. You must now achieve a certain rank before you can equip specific weapons, and it's painful when you find a loot drop that you can't equip yet. Worse is that experience doesn't transfer across armor types, so it's best to settle on one early on if you're to see the best firearms they can handle. Unlike EDF 2017, your unlockables are tied to specific accounts, so if you bring a friend who's not yet played they'll have to start at level one.

Also disappointing is that later enemies are mostly reskinned robotic versions of insects previously fought. This is a shame as there's something infinitely creepier about the prickly hair and glossy eyes of giant insects than the cold sheet metal and red sensors of robots bearing their likeness.
 

 

"I For One Welcome Our New Insect Overlords"

Insect Armageddon has taken one step forward from its predecessor and another step back. It's mechanically more polished with smoother controls and greater variation, but its design emphasizes the series' tedious elements with longer levels and an unwelcome rank system.

In the end, Insect Armageddon has reminded me that there's a reason horror movies wait until the midpoint for the looming terror to escalate. It may be an exciting moment, but without the buildup it's just a bunch of action. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a classic example of too much of a good thing. Repetition and grinding prevent it from being a B-game classic, but taken in short bursts its unique brand of giant bug slaying mayhem is unlike anything else out there.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?