Welcome to the Bug Hunt. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon – Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
First off, a shout out to my boy Paul at GameStop for digging up the last copy in southeast Michigan for me. Without which this review wouldn’t be happening, and my editor would be yelling at me again. So let’s get to it.
How are we looking? Screwed, that’s how. Like the end products of an entomology/robotics convention landed on Earth and said “nice planet, we’ll take it!”. And all humanity has to defend itself is an absurdly large arsenal of ridiculously powerful weaponry.
Wait, you meant how does Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon’s look? Well, not quite as awesome, but serviceable. Not going to win any awards but gets the job done. Textures were bland but I found the animations and most of the weapon effects to be very well done. Draw distances were generous and I didn’t run into frame rate issues until the immediate play field got seriously crowded. Even then it was a matter of slowdown vs. outright stuttering or really crippling the gameplay (Looking at you, Odin Sphere). Before complaining about a lack of high res textures consider the fact this is a budget title dedicated to constant movement, gunfire, tons of explosions and the destruction of everything exceeding ground level. You’re really not going to be spending much time oohing and ahhing at the sights; you’re going to be thinking “will that building take two grenades to drop, or three?”
Sounds follow the lead of the visuals and provide enough to do the job without really standing out. The chatter of your NPC allies can be grating or B-movie entertaining depending on your standpoint, so it’s thankfully easy to lose it in the sounds of never-ending combat. Explosions and gunfire do much to draw attention. Much less endearing is the voice of “Ops” who, in the process of providing background (such that it is), left me with the suspicion she was a late-beta British text-to-speech program and not a voice actor at all. The role of “Intel” is serviced much better, delivering Mystery Science Theater quality lines with aplomb.
Given we’re discussing a budget title I had concerns about the handling. Thankfully Vicious recognized the importance of a well-tuned control scheme when thrown against a floodtide of enemies in an arcade-style shooter. The controls are tight and responsive. Controls are standard 3PS fare with an intuitive, though unchangeable, button layout. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to the controls is when you get killed, it’s either because you weren’t paying attention to the enemies or you mistimed a button press. Fault lies with the player vs. a design flaw in the controls. An important, important distinction which enables players to focus on fighting bugs instead of fighting shoddy controls.
Graphics, sound, and control wraps up like someone took Time Soldiers and gave it a modern-gen facelift with a massive shot of adrenaline. Swarms (see what I did there?) of not-quite-disposable enemies with some absolutely gigantic bosses, all willing to get up close and personal with the business end of some ridiculous weaponry wielded by 4 distinct classes of armor.
The Battle armor, wields big guns while sporting thick armor and an energy shield all of which is offset by an unsurprisingly slow gait. Next is the Jet, capable of flight (surprise!) at the expense of damage capacity. The Tactical armor plays more of a support role via deployable turrets, radar and mines. Last but not least we have the Trooper, who doesn’t have any gimmicks, but has access to the whole patina of firepower and can execute special actions such as demolitions and revives quicker than the other classes.
Speaking of firepower, EDF: IA has it in spades. Machine guns with homing bullets? Got ‘em. Laser sniper rifles? Got those too. Player-deployed plasma cannon turrets? Check. Grenade launchers which explode in mid-air to dispense multiple heat-seeking warheads? Uh huh. Something suspiciously like a man-portable tactical nuke as it makes entire segments of the city disappear in a blinding flash? Affirmative. EDF: Insect Armageddon gives a player many, many methods by which to dispense destruction. Bosses drop crates with new weapons to add to the arsenal a player unlocks as they progress in ranks. However, a word of warning: a fair bit of grinding is necessary to unlock the top level tiers and the hardest difficulty level can be pretty unforgiving. In homage to Gears of War, an active reload system has been included as well.
Something worthy of note is how much more intelligent the AI seemed to be compared to some of the human players I found myself partnered up with. While the frantic gameplay endemic to the higher difficulty levels required a more flexible, human touch, the AI for the most part executes its duties admirably. Whether it was drawing fire or running in to revive someone, you can thankfully expect more than the nonsensical behavior attributable to most ally AI scripts in games of this nature. As someone with an abiding loathing for the aforementioned behaviors I tip my hat to the AI programmers at Vicious and wish to scream at other developers (who I won’t mention by name here) “Yeah, see what they did?? DO THAT MORE!”
So, to answer the eternal question “But is it fun?”, you’re damned right it is! EDF: IA doesn’t presume to be a highly refined AAA title. It is exactly what it set out to be, a frantic co-op run-and-gun budget throwback to the playstyle of another era with some modern refinements. Bleeding edge graphics and top notch audio be damned, the network code holds together with no lag (that I noticed) when you do get in and there’s a smorgasbord of weapons and classes to fit near any play style you like. Gameplay is tight, fast, and keeps the pressure on at the higher difficulty levels to punish inattentive players and encourage team play. Does it look like Crysis? No. Does it have the features of Halo? No. Does it have the gameplay of Gears? No. Will any of that matter once you start playing? You won’t even notice. Which is why Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon earns a solid 4.0.
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