|Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
In a lot of ways, EDF: Insect Armageddon is better than its surprise hit predecessor. The voice cast is better, the controls are significantly tighter and it finally adds the online multiplayer that the previous game so desperately needed. It seems like everything a fan could ask for. But the problem is the last Earth Defense Force game, 2017, came out at a time when you could get away with a being a laughably poor game, and those years of progress reflect harshly on this new, obvious cash grab.
Identifying what’s wrong with Insect Armageddon is as much about identifying what was right with 2017. That game came out in early 2007, before Halo 3, before Bioshock, before XBLA was a serious place to buy quality games. It gave us a new, ridiculous world, where the earth was being invaded by giant insects that also had space ships and robots. Where everyone spoke the dumbest lines with worse acting. Where entire skyscrapers fells after being shot by a machine gun a little. It was a gamer’s game, and it’s ridiculous level of camp matched its inexplicably fun gameplay to make it a cult classic. But when has making a sequel to a cult classic ever worked out?
Insect Armageddon introduces classes to the series, which can be leveled up given enough experience. This means you can play as a jet pack guy, a shield guy or even a turret guy. It also means you can’t access a lot of the weapons you pick up in the game, despite all the classes basically using the same weapon types. So instead of continually upgrading your arsenal, you’re forced to grind out levels as your class of choice. Each class can level up to level 8, I played as the turret guy for the entire campaign and finished just short of level 4. That’s right, over the course of the entire game, I only leveled up twice. A rarely got to try new weapons and didn’t unlock many of the meaningful upgrades to my class. A game like this, where the core gameplay is so repetitive, needs to reward players with constant progress. Insect Armageddon doesn’t do that fast enough. There aren’t even checkpoints, so if you die on a level, all that XP and any new weapons you picked up are just gone.
Dying wasn’t really a concern of mine on normal difficulty, however, since health pickups were plentiful and enemies not that dangerous. If you do fall in combat, you can be resurrected by one of your two AI buddies. They’re probably the funniest part of the game, since one of them is clearly based on Will Smith, he even says “welcome to earth” every once in a while. The rest of the games humor is a little more forced, as you listen to the lady who gives you orders bicker with the less-than-helpful intel guy. Beyond that there’s a weird homage to Captain Sully, and that’s about it for the speaking roles. There’s not really that much of a story, you start fighting giant ants and end fighting robotic giant ants, with a little variety in between.
You’ll spend most of your time in Insect Armageddon firing into hordes of giant insects. When they die, they instantly evaporate, denying you any joy in the results of your carnage. Every once in a while you’ll have to fight a bigger enemy by shooting it in its giant, glowing weak spot. This takes far too long, as enemies show no sign of weakening until they die. Often, I’d find myself just standing in place shooting my endless supply of rockets into my enemy’s space hole, waiting and waiting for it to finally explode. This is the first game in a long time that actually made my trigger finger sore.
Insect Armageddon makes a lot of improvements over 2017, but as everyone knows, unintentionally bad can be hilarious and fun, intentionally bad is no good for anyone. This game’s forced bad dialogue, decidedly poor gameplay variety and slow character progression made it a chore to play. Insect Armageddon simply is not bad enough or good enough to be a worthwhile experience.