Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon – the PS3 Attitude review
Our last two reviewed games had depth, complexity and maturity (Deus Ex and L.A. Noire), but isn’t it true that some of the best games are the simplest? Overcooking can kill all the fun. Maybe all you need is an opportunity to shoot bugs with big weapons and to save Earth from invading alien forces. Maybe all you want is Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon.
Insect Armageddon’s concept is that simple. You, an EDF soldier called Lightning, must kill consecutive waves of alien bugs alongside his two soldier buddies. It has basic objectives (destroy anthills, get to the crash site) and a flimsy story (mad generals, suicide missions), but it’s really all about squatting bugs. It’s basically a horde mode spread out into a campaign.
Insect Armageddon lacks depth, but you expect that with games of this kind. The key thing you ask is: does the gameplay drag me back for more? Sadly it doesn’t; it’s tragically unremarkable. The problems begin with the weightless, unsatisfying weapons. Despite there being over 300 of them – including assault rifles, sniper rifles, energy weapons, grenade launchers, rocket launchers and missile launchers – it’s hard to find a weapon that has character.
Compare this to something like Bulletstorm, Gears of War or even Red Faction: Armageddon. Playing in each of their survival modes is satisfying because the weapons in each of the games are a pleasure to use. You’d get much more satisfaction from exterminating bugs in Insect Armageddon if you had Red Faction’s ‘magnet gun’ or Bulletstorm’s ‘penetrator’, that’s for sure.
However, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get any enjoyment out of Insect Armageddon, especially from fighting its bigger enemies. They really are big — we’re talking “cast a shadow over New Detroit” big — and we definitely felt smug the first time we destroyed one.
The different armour options also add some flavour to the gameplay. There are four in total, including: trooper (an all-rounder), jet (can fly), tactical (can lay mines and turrets) and battle (slow but can use powerful weaponry). We had a lot of success using from using the battle armour, but we found the tactical option much more interesting. The mobility of the jet armour also offered some short-term thrills.
Upping the ant-e
Another problem with Insect Armageddon is that it rarely makes you feel under pressure, even though the team at Vicious Cycle are very good at filling maps with critters. The campaign starts with a decent amount of big ants, and soon their numbers increase; soon they are joined by big spiders, and then UFOs; big deadly wasps come next, and before you know it you’re fighting against giant robots called hectors and mile-high spider robots.
It’s strange, then, that you rarely feel out of control. The enemies come at a steady pace, and you never feel overwhelmed as long as you equip a decent weapon. It’s something the Finnish studio Housemarque has mastered; both Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation offer those thrills — they make you feel in control, but before you know it you’re shrieking at close encounters and struggling to keep the pad in your sweaty palms. It doesn’t look as though Vicious Cycle has that knack.
On singleplayer, you’ll find yourself looking at your watch before long, but it does get better if you can find a friend or two to join you for a co-op campaign. That way you can have a blast trying to out-splat each other. More likely, you’ll end up competing in a game of ‘who can destroy the most buildings’ – it’s actually pretty addictive.
The campaign is fairly short and can be finished in one long evening. A remixed version is also available, which basically has the larger enemies in from the start. Aside from that, there’s not much replay value unless you find yourself hooked by the levelling system or the prospect of getting some trophies.
The levelling system is pretty straightforward; the XP gained during the campaign level up your armour, which unlocks more powerful weapons. Several weapons are found during the campaign too, usually they’re dropped by the larger enemies. (Don’t ask why giant mantes are running around with rocket launchers in their pockets.)
Away from the main campaign is a survival mode, which is a more traditional horde mode. This allows up to six players to work together to defend a specific area against waves of bugs. It’s a decent way to spend an evening, but it really does rely on good company.
It has to be said that EDF has an enthusiastic band of followers who enjoy its schlocky B-Movie style and find the gameplay fun. It’s true, it does have a good concept, and the story (as flimsy as it is) is actually quite amusing. Nevertheless, it just doesn’t have enough going for it to deserve a full recommendation from us.
Maybe if it was on PSN for a tenner, or even twenty quid, it could be someone’s guilty pleasure. However, it’s a full boxed title going for £30 (although you can get it on Amazon for £25.86), so it’s not the best value, particularly when you get something of the quality of Bulletstorm on Amazon for much less. Bulletstorm has more humour, sharper gameplay, inventive mechanics, awesome weapons and it’s much better looking. Easy choice really.
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