When it was released in 2007, Earth Defense Force 2017 was something of a dark horse. While it was a budget title in both looks and price, it offered simplistic, yet highly satisfying and addicting shooting action, making it worth every penny and then some. In EDF 2017, one or two players could take up arms (over 150 of them!) against legions of every imaginable type of B-movie monster; foes mainly consisted of giant ants, but there were also giant robots, Godzilla clones, walking fortress, UFOs, spiders ... the list went on. It was a great game, but unfortunately, it only supported local co-op at a time when online multiplayer was just taking off for consoles. For years, requests were made for a sequel that offered online co-op and support for more than two players.
At last, most of those people's cries have been answered with Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. I say "most" because this installment of the series plays by slightly different rules than its predecessor, while still retaining its addictive spirit. However, the changes may be enough to disappoint EDF superfans. If you like shooting evil creatures with friends and high-powered weaponry — or simply the previous EDF 2017 — you'll like this and should get it without even reading the rest of this review. If you absolutely love EDF 2017, however, well ... you should still get this, but read on so this new game's differences let you down easy.
EDF:IA's presentation is about as good as you can get for a title like this without more powerful systems at hand. While EDF 2017 used more graphical mapping techniques and polygons, EDF:IA has a lower polygon count and more varied buildings. Cities look more like cities this time around and less like props, making them more satisfying to navigate and destroy in your pursuit of insectoid justice.
Speaking of insectoid justice, this game lives up to its name: It throws every sort of bug at you that you can think of, from ants to spiders to gigantic daddy longlegs and praying mantises. Once it's done there, it fabricates other menaces, such as its giant robots and spaceships, based on organic insect foundations. In short, while it doesn't comprehensively plumb the depths of B-grade sci-fi like EDF 2017 does, it still manages to present a satisfying rogues' gallery of enemies to take down. These bugs are detailed and menacing when alive, and they delightfully either explode or squish into goop when killed.
The soundtrack that plays while you're going about your extermination is overall fitting and welcome, full of pounding drums and horns, rarely ever going silent even in the most intense of bug-blasting firefights. While it could stand to be more energetic in spots, it overall captures a feel straight out of every military sci-fi movie you've ever seen. Sound effects are also well done, though sadly, most of your feedback will be aural; there's far less rumble in this game than the last.
Finally, new to the series is actual funny and witty writing, brought about by your fellow squadmates in combat and the superiors who provide your objectives throughout the story line. Of course, such is to be expected by the team who developed the Matt Hazard series of games, where the writing was far and away their best feature.
As far as the gameplay goes, the core is still intact and as great as ever. As a member of a United States branch of the Earth Defense Force (specifically, New Detroit), your job is to run around the city destroying any giant bugs in your wake, using whatever high-powered weapons you can arm. Destruction of city landmarks, as always, is authorized and encouraged if it aids you in this quest. This time around, there are over 300 weapons spread across eight weapon tiers and four types of EDF soldiers.
These soldiers come equipped with their own special abilities, which are fun to experiment with and important to master. The Trooper Armor class is the balanced ground type; the Tactical Armor can call forth turrets, lay mines and use other tricks to outsmart bug hordes; the Battle Armor can mow through bugs all by himself and wields heavy weapons; and the Jet Armor can fly and is the fastest of all units. The Jet Armor is great for gathering health packs, covering ground and literally shooting giant robots in the face.
Probably the coolest aspects of the weapon loadout this time around are the vehicles, which can be found scattered around stages. Technically, they existed in EDF 2017 as well, but this time they work. Let me tell you, taking on hordes of bugs and robots in a giant tank or mech will make you feel like badass supreme.
Insect Armageddon, more so than the previous game, is built around being more fun with friends. To that end, it has two versions of its Campaign mode, each with three difficulty settings. Higher weapon tiers can only be accessed by playing the harder modes, such as Hard and Inferno, so there's more reason to play those outside of superior challenge levels. Whereas EDF 2017's campaign is a few dozen shorter stages long, Insect Armageddon's campaign consists of 15 stages that are broken up over multiple objectives.
While this evens out things mathematically, EDF:IA's structure admittedly means that missions are long, drawn-out affairs instead of short, intense bursts. Losing a long mission also means that no experience is gained no matter how far one progresses in said mission. It comes down to whether or not you prefer shorter missions for smaller rewards or longer missions for larger rewards. (In this case, shops open up with tons of new weapons, including any special drops you may have gained along the way.) There's no clear winner here, but longtime series fans will likely prefer the former. Fortunately, shooting bugs gets no less old in EDF:IA's mission structure; the challenge is just as ample and the bug hordes just as plentiful.
Insect Armageddon also contains a horde-style Survival mode, which giveth as much as it taketh away. The good news is that it lives up to its name and will bring forth scads of enemies to attack you and shoot relentlessly, their complete destruction being your sole satisfying objective. The bad news is that you can only play as a single class (Trooper) with a highly limited weapon loadout. More good news: The mode allows for up to six players at once, making for some incredible firefights. More bad news: Survival mode gives you no experience for victorious missions. Even more good news: This is a great mode for parties with friends online. Even more bad news: The game doesn't support System Link for local LAN parties. In the end, Survival mode is a wash.
And now, for the punch line that makes it all worth it: The reason Insect Armageddon has gone through such a torrent of tweaks in relation to older EDF titles is in the name of online stability — and fortunately, that mission has been soundly accomplished. Testing both Survival and Campaign Co-op modes with multiple friends and random players, on even sub-par, cross-country connections yielded absolutely no problems whatsoever. Anyone can drop in or drop out at any point in a mission, and experience gained in online Campaign co-op carries over to your personal profile, provided the rare disconnect doesn't occur. If you want to be able to blast bugs with backup anytime you wish, Insect Armageddon has your number.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon captures some of the series' long-standing magic, but also creates some of its own. There are admittedly times when it's inferior to the older games, but also times when it actually outdoes them. While it may be different from what series fans are used to, it is absolutely a game worthy of the Earth Defense Force title and lineage. This game doesn't provide any reasons to sell your copy of Earth Defense Force 2017, but it provides more than enough reasons to keep both versions.
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