I’ll be blunt: I enjoy playing games where I mindlessly, frantically gun down hordes of creatures with a wide variety of weapons. I also want there to be tremendous collateral damage, because that makes it all seem more exciting. If you can give me this, and on top of it all give me a great mood to go with it – I don’t mean story, I mean setting and interactions, a way to draw me into the game in a personal sense so I focus on the events rather than just the raw carnage – then you’ve got a game I will praise to high heavens. Earth Defense Force: 2017, the previous EDF game, managed all three of these requirements. Does Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon? Click your way in and find out.
First, let’s deal with the story. As in the previous EDF title, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon presents you with a world under assault by aliens who use a mix of dangerous robots, giant insects, and giant insect robots as their primary attack troops. Just as similar is the fact that this is the beginning and end of the story, for all purposes. Don’t expect any of the giant ants to give you a dramatic speech about why they’re attacking you, and the larger, more metallic looking ant won’t be the sinister but intelligent leader you’ll have a cutscene with. The story, in each and every mission of the game, is to kill these increasingly numerous and dangerous invaders with advancing measures of malice and effectiveness. This not only is fine by me – I welcome it. It’s a benefit to the game, to not have an intricate story in play.
Which isn’t to say that there’s no personality to the game – in fact, what the EDF series forgoes in terms of complicated story, it makes up for with sheer personality, well-crafted dialogue, and environment. The voice acting is superb, and I’d put both the voice acting skill and the writing as just a notch below Portal 2 in terms of engagement and quality. The chatter that goes on before, during and between missions is an absolute delight to experience, and if it wasn’t attached to a damn fun video game I’d say the dialogue could stand alone as an audio book. For those of you who have played the previous EDF game, I’ll make this note: just as Portal 2 was a bit more light-hearted compared to Portal 1, so too is Insect Armageddon just slightly less dire than 2017. There’s a shift in tone, but not in quality of execution.
Speaking of executions, let’s move on to the real meat that EDF:IA offers: the gameplay. Just as the story was simple and straightforward, so too is the gameplay. From mission to mission, your task is to mow down an ever increasing, ever diversifying horde of colossal alien insect-robot invaders. There’s not much buildup here – I started this game and within ten seconds a humongous ant plowed into a car that went spinning towards me, knocking me on my ass. With a variety of weapons – the game boasts a selection of over 300 – you’ll be tasked with wiping these creatures out. Assault rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers… there’s a pretty decent spread of base weapon classes, a wide variety of weapons to acquire, with each of the weapons restricted to one of the four classes you can play as in the game. While they have some slight differences in their particular advantages and disadvantages, said classes don’t offer anything close to a completely different gameplay experience – they’re different enough to be noticeable, but at the end of the day class choice mostly determines how much damage you can take, dish out, and how quickly you can move.
So there’s a large selection of weapons available, along with an exp system. What about enemies? Well, there’s a tremendous number of enemies onscreen at any given time – it’s fun to see the ants literally swarming at you, crawling all over and around buildings to get at you – there’s also a decent variety of those enemies. You’ll face off against enemy carriers sending out attack ships, multiple kinds of aggressive insects and spiders, some giant robots… not only are these things impressive graphically, but they’re well animated and tend to make their first appearances with beautiful presentation. They’re also appropriately challenging on a mission by mission basis, and this is one game where I’ve found myself relying on my AI partners more than finding them to be a hindrance. If you enjoy viciously putting bullets and explosives in wave upon waves of enemies, you’re not going to go wrong with this game.
Graphically, the game is impressive, even above average when it comes to individual enemies – but it would be wrong to say that the graphics themselves are supremely well-crafted. They’re quite good, but you won’t be amazed at the models themselves. What will likely impress you is their presentation. The first time you interact with any of the larger enemies, a mixture of great dialogue and in-game scripting will be what really leads to a breathless moment. Another way to put this is that while the graphical end of the game is nice, it’s how they employ the assets where EDF:IA really shines – so they’ll get high marks on that front as well.
With all this in mind, we come to the question of value and replay. Now, there’s a lot to do in EDF:IA – completionists have weapons to collect, the Steam system has 50 achievements to pick up, there’s online co-op modes, some different game modes (including a ‘remix’ of the story campaign) and, of course, the story itself. If I had one complaint about this game, it would be that it gives a bit ‘less’ compared to the previous title. There are less stages and a smaller diversity of monsters than the original provided. On the other hand, the original also seemed to have vastly ‘more’ than most games do nowadays, for a cheaper price. Considering EDF:IA is 19.99$ on Steam right now, I cannot complain that this game doesn’t exceed its dollar value. What I’m less sure about is the value of its DLC: 1.99$ a pop for weapons packs, and no DLC options for additional gameplay, is a bit disappointing.
But in the final analysis, I’m not really capable of being disappointed with Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. It offers a fantastic adrenaline rush, great mood and dialogue to go with it, all while providing a considerable number of post-campaign and co-op challenges for those who want more. Between this and Serious Sam: BFE, 2011 was a fantastic year for old-school style mass-slaughter games.