The Mindless Fun is Quickly Overshadowed By Repetition and Tedium
There are times when those who play games just want to have some mindless fun. They don’t want an elaborate narrative or complex mechanics, they just want to run around shooting anything that moves without consequence. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, the latest in the series, seeks to provide just that. It gives players the opportunity to eviscerate hundreds of alien creatures and topple buildings with relative ease all for the budget price of $40. While there is definitely some fun to be had here, Insect Armageddon’s single-minded nature wears out it’s welcome before long, giving way to repetition and tedium.
Earth is under attack from an alien race known as Ravagers, which consists of giant insects like ants, spiders and wasps, robot variations of these creatures, and flying spacecraft for good measure. You play as Lightning, as member of the Earth Defense Force, and it’s your job to push back the invasion by wiping out any and all opposition you come across. That’s about all there is the game’s story and it’s really all you need to know anyway. You do have a commander giving you orders and attempting to provide some type of exposition to what you’re doing, but it’s all irrelevant and easily ignored. You’re here to kill a ton of big bugs and the game knows this, so it doesn’t bog you down with a fleshed out narrative.There are three modes available, all of which can be played solo, with a second player split screen, or with two others online. First is the campaign, which consists of three chapters with five missions each. Missions typically last around twenty minutes and task you with killing all the Ravagers you come across. There are technically objectives for you to complete, like investigating crash sites or protecting a specific item, but it’s impossible to actually fail these tasks. They are put there as an illusion to make you think you’re doing more than shooting droves of aliens. Upon completing the campaign, you unlock campaign remix, which has the same levels as the normal campaign with random enemy types. It provides minor incentive to replay stages, but it’s a largely pointless addition.
Finally, there’s a standard survival mode, which tasks you fending off wave after wave of progressively tougher enemies for as long as possible. This mode is nothing special, but it does give you the opportunity to get straight to the insect killing without running to objectives or hearing any of the forgettable dialogue. All told, there is a solid amount of content on the disc for the budget price tag.
Regardless of which mode you choose to play, you’ll be doing the same thing; running around shooting hordes of ants, spiders, robots and ships. Controls are easy to grasp and responsive, and you’re provided with a limitless supply of ammunition for any weapon, so blasting away with reckless abandon is encouraged. There are no consequences for bringing down entire city blocks either, so holding down the trigger is a viable and effective strategy most of the time.
Before starting a mission, you are given the chance to choose one of four armor types. Your options are Trooper, Tactical, Jet, and Battle. Trooper is basically your average solider with no special abilities; Tactical allows you to drop automated turrets to help in battle; Jet provides the ability to fly for a short amount of time; and finally, Battle allows you to take more damage and equip a protective shield. As you play as each class, they level up to unlock higher tiers of weaponry and are able to use special abilities longer. Switching classes provides a small amount of variety to the gameplay, but the core shooting is identical across all four, so it only staves off the feeling of repetition for so long. Additionally, some missions provide you with vehicles like tanks and mechs, or stationary turrets to hop into, but you’ll still be doing the same thing you would be doing on foot; continuously blasting enemies.
And that is Insect Armageddon’s biggest fault. The feeling of repetition comes rather quickly. Killing a few hundred giant ants in a single level is fun at first, and certainly maintains a certain level of charm till the end, but the act pointing at waves of enemies and holding down the fire button gets pretty old. New enemy types are gradually introduced as you progress, but the tactic for defeating them never changes. Enemy A.I. provides little challenge as they either run straight into your hail of gunfire, or run in circles waiting to be shot. There is nothing to drive you onward, no incentive to keep progressing. It’s recommended to play in short bursts to obtain maximum enjoyment from your playtime.
The one aspect of the game that could have provided more entertainment is the large boss enemies you are regularly asked to fight. The first time you bring down a transport ship or a giant metal spider, it’s very satisfying. You feel like you’ve accomplished a great feat. However, the game spoils this feeling by constantly throwing these large encounters at you, so dispatching them becomes a chore before long. This is magnified by the ridiculous amount of health each of these creatures have. You’ll be firing rocket after rocket for minutes at a time. You won’t feel a sense of danger as a drop ship rains down ants on you, nor will you feel a sense of triumph when one comes crashing down. You’ll feel only relief, knowing you’re done with the extremely tedious affair, and then immediately feel a sense of disgust knowing you’ll have to do it again in a short time.
As is normal, having a few buddies along with you does provide alittle more fun to the proceedings. When playing through the campaign solo, you’ll always have two A.I. soldiers by your side to help in combat and pick you up should you run out of health and they do a respectable job. Going online and getting two real buddies by your side makes dealing with the overwhelming alien numbers easier, and being able to concentrate all your fire on one of the large enemies makes the tedious process go by faster. It doesn’t change the game, but having some friends along for the ride certainly makes the repetition more tolerable for the long haul.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a budget title, and nowhere is this more apparent then it’s presentation. The graphics are mediocre from top to bottom. Textures are low resolution, models look poor, explosions lack any sense of power, lighting is static and bland, and animations are awkward and jerky. Sound design isn’t any better with forgettable voice over and music and weak weapon effects that are usually hard to hear. Since the game is low budget, this lack of detail and polish is certainly understandable, but it doesn’t make the package look or sound any better. One positive thing that can be said about the presentation is that the frame rate is typically solid throughout, with only minor hitches during large scale battle sequences with lots of explosions.
There is something admirable about the single-minded nature of Insect Armageddon, but this admiration doesn’t stop the game from feeling repetitive and shallow. The satisfaction of wiping out giant insects loses it’s luster fast, and the lack of gameplay variety doesn’t help. Fans of the series up to now know exactly what they’re getting by this point and will likely forgive the game’s repetition and lack of polish, and for them, buy it and enjoy. But for anyone else, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon can only be recommended as a cautious rental to those looking for mindless entertainment.