Forty bucks won't get you what it used to. Back in April of 2007, forty dollars could buy you a a brand new retail copy of the cheese-tastic third-person shooter, Earth Defense Force 2017. Sure, it wasn't a triple-A title, but it had 53 levels of bug-busting mayhem. On top of that, there were five difficulty levels. Five! That's 265 levels of ridiculous robot-clobbering fun. Now it's 2011, and the Earth Defense Force has returned in the form of EDF: Insect Armageddon. What have the soldiers of the EDF been doing for the past four years? Well they sure as hell didn't go off to college. Even if they did, they must have spent all of their tuition money on beer and hot wings.
The new EDF is dumber than its predecessor, lacks variety, and offers only fifteen missions. With only three difficulty settings, that's a mere 45 levels! It's true, the missions are a little longer, but part of the appeal of EDF 2017 was the ability to play it for 10 minutes at a time. EDF: IA is a total disaster, right? Wrong! Prepare to be astounded! Even with these faults, EDF: Insect Armageddon is a blast to play. If you bring a friend, we're talking a double-barrel-blast, baby. And if you team up with two buddies online, watch out:
Player Three has entered the game, suckas!
EDF: IA does a lot of things right. The graphics are better than 2017, though obviously not on par with most of today's full-priced titles. Bugs disintegrate before your eyes, buildings crumble into clouds of dust, and elite enemies explode with a gusto. The voice work gets stupidly funny as you progress through the game.
The main character, Lightning Alpha, is voiced by Steve Blum, the same actor who portrayed Bulletstorm's Grayson Hunt. Unfortunately, he has very few lines. Not once does he call anyone d******s. Two other "characters," Ops and Intel, are disembodied voices and serve to move the story along, what little there is of it. Your AI wingmen, Oldman and Kicker, spit out some real gems, but they get repetitive quickly.
Gameplay largely remains the same as the previous title: Mow down waves of enemies with assault rifles, grenade launchers, rockets, and more. Collect the loot weapons and move on to the next way point. Repeat. You either love it or you don't.
Seriously, guys. Is there something on my back?
A welcome addition is the four different suits of armor. They add some much-needed depth to the mix. You can think of these as character classes. Each armor set has 8 tiers of weapons and upgrades you can unlock by earning XP throughout the game. The armor upgrades, like extra health or additional character abilities, are applied automatically when you unlock them. New weapons can be purchased or are dropped after killing bosses and mini-bosses. The armor sets have their own unique weapons systems. Therefore, if you find an awesome assault rifle for your Jet armor, you can only use it when wearing said armor.
Each suit has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they can greatly impact the way you play the game. There's the well rounded Trooper, who can heal allies quickly and use all weapon types. The Tactical Armor can lay down powerful turrets. The Jet Armor has limited flight capabilities and is super-fast on the ground. Then there is the hulking, shield-equipped Battle Armor. I made it though my first playthrough of the campaign on "Normal" difficulty without dying once with this class. It's pretty boss.
Does all this armor add replay value? Let's crunch some numbers... if you play through all fifteen levels, in each of the four armor types, on all three difficulty levels... that equals 180 missions. You'll have to play a lot more than that if you want to max out each set, as the XP needed to jump from tier 5 to tier 6 is ridiculous...
...but so worth it.
The question is, will you want to? For every step EDF: IA takes forward, it stumbles one step back. Not only are there fewer missions, there are also fewer environments. Actually, there's only one. All of the missions take place in Old Detroit. In the first level you start killing bugs in a park, then you move into a neighborhood with small buildings. Every few levels the buildings get slightly taller. This may or may not matter to you, since the whole area looks like a parking lot by the end of each battle. At least 2017 had underground levels and a beach to break up the monotony.
The enemy Ravagers are also lacking in variety, numbers, and size. The previous title didn't have much enemy variety either, but I never felt as utterly overwhelmed as I did in 2017, even on Inferno difficulty. There's a Campaign Remix Mode you can unlock when you complete the game. It changes the enemy types for each level. It's okay, but there isn't enough enemy variation to make much of a noticeable change. Swarm enemies swarm, and boss enemies boss. Speaking of bosses, none of the boss Ravagers reach the stature of the Giant Walker, or have the sheer cheese factor of a dinosaur with frickin' lasers for arms. Now that was a boss.
Yeah, they're cool and all... but they're still no Dino Laser-Arms.
As I mentioned earlier, most of the gameplay remains the same, but there is now an active reload mechanic that is just awful. Some weapons have a realistic reload window, but others are going to take the full reload time, every time. There's also the curious decision to have the "dodge" button seperate from the "jump" button, whereas you could simply push a direction with "jump" to roll in the previous game. The radar works sporadically, as well. Vehicles have been tweaked. By "tweaked" I mean they got rid of the helicopter and hover bike entirely. The tank is still kind of a mess, but the Mech is quite serviceable. It's a shame it only appears in a handful of levels. Most of these gripes are minor, it's just frustrating that a game from four years ago did some things much better.
The whole experience seems a little stunted, as if there is more to come. Each level starts off with a load screen displaying the mission, location, and sector. The location says "New Detroit" for every single mission. Why would they do this? I suspect (but can't confirm) the same reason everyone does everything these days: future DLC.
Keepin' it couch.
EDF: IA heavily improved one feature over its predecessor: co-op play. This game is great with friends. The entire campaign can be played by two players locally via split screen, or three people can team up and play online. There's also a six player online Survival Mode. All of these modes offer drop-in/drop out play. There's a revive mechanic, which will keep the action going. You'll need to use this often since you can't turn off the friendly fire. ( I know! That's what I said, too!) Still, you shouldn't mistake your teammate for a bug. If you do, you can heal them quickly. Oldman and Kicker, the AI stand-ins, will even heal you if you become incapacitated while playing solo. In your face, sixty dollar games with crap AI partners!
A few notes on the co-op modes: In split screen co-op mission selection is restricted to the player with the least amount of completed levels. If you have completed the game, but your buddy has only made it to level five, then together you can only choose missions up to level five. Granted, you will have access to all of your powered-up suits and weapons. When playing online, you can't join a game unless you have already accessed that mission. Weapon drops are shared and random. This means if one person picks up a weapon, everyone gets it. True to form, higher levels offer better gear. In Survival Mode everyone is given a generic Trooper and weapon load out, so none of your armor or weapons are accessible. It makes sense, since someone with tier 8 gear would break the mode.
If you see this message you need to man up, or your internet buddies need to man down.
The lower difficulty levels put a cap on armor tier XP. For example, the Normal setting caps at tier 5 while Hard caps at tier 7. If you want to play with a lower level buddy on Normal difficulty with your bad-ass tier 6 armor, go ahead. You just won't gain any experience toward tier 7 armor. You will, however, still gain credits you can spend on any tier level weapons. (So long as you have unlocked them). You gain credits in all modes, including Survival Mode. Everything you do in the game is like roofing in July or digging a ditch in January: it builds character.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon has made a lot of improvements over EDF 2017. Sadly, some of the charm of its predecessor have been lost in translation. For a forty dollar game there is still a lot of fun to be had here, whether with friends online or on the couch. EDF: IA is like a summer blockbuster. You could experience it by yourself, but then your just that guy in the theater. Grab some friends, turn off your brains, and enjoy the Insect Armageddon.