Review: Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon (Sony PS3)

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Release Date: 07/05/2011

Imagine you’re at a picnic with your family. You’re enjoying some nice sandwiches, cold lemonade, and maybe some nice coleslaw or something. It’s a nice day. Then, out of nowhere, ants start showing up. Normally, that’s just a minor inconvenience. However, this time, the ants are the size of a Buick. Also, it’s not just ants. There are also spiders. They’re the size of TWO Buicks. Things are not looking so well.

You’ve got to call someone to deal with this pesky insect problem. You could try pest control, but I doubt they’d give you a good rate. You could try the army, but if movies are anything to go by, they’ll just blow up the whole damn area with a nuke rather than get their hands dirty. We can’t have that. This is a nice town. The best bet is the Earth Defense Force. These guys specialize in the removal of giant insects/aliens, and they only destroy half of your city in the process! I’d call that a win/win scenario.

So it goes. EDF is a game that puts you under the helmet of an elite EDF warrior during an alien/insect invasion of New Detroit. It’s a successor to EDF: 2017, which was a 360 exclusive and thus something I haven’t really had the chance to play. Unlike Mark, who covered the 360 version of IA, I went into this franchise completely unaware of what to expect. All I knew was I would get to kill a LOT Of bugs.

It turns out that’s all I needed to know after all.

Story/Modes

You know what, apart from the picnic, I think I’ve pretty much covered the story in the intro. There isn’t a lot going on here. The Earth is being invaded, and you play as a squad member on the front line. The game follows you as you make your first landing and follows you up through a dramatic encounter with the biggest frigging ship I’ve ever seen. There are two other characters to concern yourself about: Ops and Intel. Ops sounds like someone from a help desk, but is much more likeable. At least she isn’t trying to get you off the phone at all times. Intel is a smug jerk who doesn’t seem to know much about anything unless its stuff that you’re deemed not worthy to know about. He actually reminded me of Captain Qwark from the Ratchet & Clank series. (Just looked it up. It’s the same voice actor. I guess that explains the connection.) Sure, you also have two squad mates, but they just rattle off random babble and they don’t contribute to the plot much.

This is basically a straight forward war story with very little of anything but military mumbo jumbo and intentionally bad dialogue that fails to illicit a chuckle most of the time. I laughed a bit, but not nearly as much as I’m sure I was intended. It’s going for B-Movie material all the way, but the problem is that all of the good B-Movies aren’t going for it. It just happens. As such, this game is a little too self-aware for my tastes. The ending is also pretty bizarre, as the game just kind of ends. There are no credits, no music, no anything. Heck, it asks you which level you want to play next, which was just weird.

The game does feature some additional modes, apart from the campaign. For starters, you can play that campaign with a friend via split screen, or with two buddies via PSN. I’d highly recommend either, as the game is more fun when you have someone to talk to. Also, beating the game once unlocks a remixed campaign mode that drastically changes up the foes you encounter. For example, during the first level, you fight mainly ants. In the remixed mode, you get ticks, spiders, and even a wasp or two. It puts you on your toes a lot faster. These modes are consistent with the gear you’ve unlocked, as well as the level of the armor type you’ve chosen. (More on those in a bit.)

Finally, there’s a survival mode. This supports up to six players, and there are multiple maps. You get a set number of times you can be revived and when those are out, you’re dead. The goal is simply to make it as far as you can go, with each wave of enemies getting tougher. Every five levels, you get an extra life and a piece of equipment to use such as a mech or turret. The mode is fun, but you’re oddly shoe horned in that you can only use the Trooper armor and a very small handful of weapons. It makes the mode less appealing, and was an odd choice if you ask me.

Overall, the addition of a remixed campaign and several great options for multiplayer make this a game that offers a solid amount of content for the player. It won’t set the world on fire, as many shooter off more modes, but this is a budget title. It does what it needs to.

Graphics

Compared to EDF: 2017, the graphics in this game are phenomenal. Compared with everything else, the graphics in this game are merely OK.

Each level is one large area filled to the brim with buildings, cars, and plenty of bugs. The environments are bad, but they could have used more detail. They feel lifeless, and even something as cool and knocking them flat gets old after a while. Also, each enemy has only one or two variations. You see hundreds if not thousands of them in a single play through of the campaign. It just gets boring.

One aspect where the game does shine is in the character models. The four different armor types are brimming with little details and textures. Hell, I kind of want action figures of them all. That’s how cool they looked. When you first see an army of ants crawling out of a hill, or a spider leaping through air, you’ll marvel at the detail. Spiders are covered with tiny hairs, and they just look right.

The effects are very hit and miss. Whether they hit or miss largely depends on what level you are. Earlier weapons appear weak and cliché. Some of the later rocket launcher put on a visual show, with multiple projectiles swarming the skies and slamming down on hapless victims. In terms of enemies, the effects aren’t so great either. Mostly, bugs disappearing in a cloud of green blood becomes so commonplace that you’ll get bored of it in two minutes.

For the series, the game is a graphical renaissance. For games as a whole, the game is simply run of the mill, if not slightly worse.

Audio

Perhaps the best voice in the game is that of Intel, which may or may not be because I love Captain Qwark. (Though this does seem to be the prevailing thought.) I’ve already discussed how Ops sound like a slightly competent help desk operative. The final piece of the puzzle is the squad leader, voice by none other than Steve Blum. He’s been in pretty much everything. Seriously. He’s played in X-Men, Call of Duty, Rouge Galaxy, Dynasty Warrior, Final Fantasy, Ghost Recon and so much more. The reason I bring all this up is that they take this well versed and talented voice actor and give him nothing. His lines are all affirmations to Ops and Intel. As such, I can’t blame the guy for his character falling flat. It’s hard to show much emotional range with the material he was given. The voice acting in the game overall is less than overwhelming. That isn’t good, because it is the best thing about the audio.

The music is supposed to sound like something out of a big budget action flick. However, the tunes are barely even noticeable half of the time, and they aren’t ever notable. I kind of dug the main theme that plays during the menu, but that was it. The heavy strings and simple tunes just don’t best fit the game.

The sound effects for something like this should have been great. With constant gunfire, rockets, and the various snarls and roars of giant insects, the game should have been a cacophony of alien warfare. However, all of the guns sound wimpy. I’d almost call them similar to the sounds kids make when they’re playing with toy guns. This is especially annoying when these sounds are all you’ll really hear.

Overall, the audio falls flat at every opportunity. I don’t know how much more you could expect out of a budget title, but that doesn’t soften the blow any.

A big problem is the constant audio tearing, causing annoying blips to blare from your TV. I’ve checked, and it was happening to everyone. Supposedly they’re going to patch the game to remove this, but such a thing should have been caught a long time ago.

Gameplay

EDF plays things pretty simple when it comes to basic gameplay. It follows a “point and shoot” philosophy and then depends on level grinding to make up for the apparent lack of depth.

The controls are pretty simple. The analog sticks control movement and the camera, while the right shoulder button fires whatever weapon you have equipped. (You get two at a time.) You can manually reload, and the game gives you a chance to halve reload time by timing a press of the square button. You’d better get this down quick. Reload times quickly skyrocket for advanced weapons. The most interesting control feature is the left shoulder button. This does different things depending on what class you’re using. For Trooper, it does nothing. For Battle, it activates your shield abilities. For Jet, it controls your flight and it covers deployables for Tactical. This button is governed by a meter that drains as you use the ability, but refills over time.

Rather than have enemies deploy tactics to defeat you, the game uses two different options. Either they enemies come in huge swarms, or they take a really long time to take down. Basic ants, spider and ticks fall in the former category, while bosses, mid-bosses, and wasps fall in the latter. It gets annoying that there is so little variation. On top of that, the AI seems pretty stupid, often walking around seemingly at random. When the big guy targets you, you feel afraid, only to not worry when he starts shooting aimlessly at the ground instead.

What keeps the game from being completely generic is the four different armor types. All four have their own stats, available weapon loadouts, positives, and negatives. Troopers get no special abilities, but can perform basic actions faster and can carry any weapon. Jets use energy as ammunition and get to fly, but at the expense of durability and the ability to carry heavy weaponry. Tactical troops are generic and not that great, but they get to deploy fun things like turrets and mines. Battles are the grunts of the game. They’re slower than molasses and have all the mobility of a sloth, but carry huge guns, have tons of health, and can deploy a weaponized shield. Each of these classes play very differently from each other and the decision of what class to use for what level becomes paramount when you reach the later stages of the game.

The game also follows a level system. As you use a class, you gain experience. Each level grants you upgraded abilities as well as access to higher level weapons. You can definitely feel the increase when you rank up. Jets start off with nothing more than ability to hop on a building or move out of harm’s way. They eventually get to bring bringers of death from above. Likewise, Battles become virtual tanks when leveled up, able to sit in the middle of a crowd of enemies without flinching. The only issue I have with this system is that you have to grind like crazy to level up. After the first few levels, the amount of experience needed just jumps through the roof. Also, the weapons start coming in trickles sooner rather than later. With around three hundred in the game, you’d expect new ones at every turn, but that isn’t the case. On top of that, most of them become useless pretty quickly, unless you play on the lowest difficulty and on the earliest stages.

So, what we have here is a basic third person shooter with a nifty class system. It keeps things simple, but perhaps too simple. The occasional vehicle section (mechs and tanks) mixes things up a bit, but it’s still all about moving your reticule to the nearest bug and holding down the fire button until that bug disappears. It isn’t bad, but it won’t ever be called compelling.

Replayability

This game has a ton of replay value, provided you’re willing to grind. In order to unlock the full potential of each armor type, you’re going to need to play through the campaign over a dozen times. I’m not joking. Since each armor levels independently, and each difficulty setting caps your maximum level, you’ll need to play through each one at least once. If you get very lucky with experience or you farm it, then you can get by with one full play-through of each difficulty setting per armor. That’s twelve right there.

In addition, survival mode provides some replay value as well. Thankfully, this is less of a grind. There are several different maps that give you different enemy types at different times. You can jump in and out of matches very easily and the only downside is that you’re stuck with the Trooper class.

If all of this wasn’t available online as well as off, the game wouldn’t sit so well with me. However, because every mode is available for online play can the campaigns can be played via split screen, I was much more willing to go through the grind.

Balance

This is one of those cases where you need the right tool for the job. If you take a level one character onto Inferno difficulty, you’re going to have a lot of problems. If you play through on normal first and then move up to hard, the difficulty will scale nicely. There isn’t much room for error here though. I tried taking my level four character up to hard (the max was five on normal) and I was struggling. My weapon that had been taking down everything but bosses in one shot was now like a pop gun. After a level or two of this, I went back and finished leveling him to five. With better stats and new weapons, I was able to contribute much more effectively.

Overall, this game is pretty easy. During campaigns, you can be revived an infinite number of time. As such, I’ve only seen the game over screen once and that was because of a colossal miscalculation on my part. As long as you stick to your level appropriate difficulty setting, you’ll be fine.

Originality

From what I can tell, this game changes things up quite a bit from EDF: 2017, but not in new and original ways. It changes the level format from a lot of short levels to a few long ones, gives you multiple classes, and adds online features. While these changes are leaps and bounds for the series, they merely attempt to bring the series in line with industry standards.

Grinding for experience in order to get better weapons and abilities is nothing new for anyone who has played a shooter in the last five years, survival modes like this were popularized by Gears of War and any shooter that dares to NOT have an online mode gets vilified and rejected. Such is the times. While I can’t find too many games that have you killing giant bugs, I can find countless ones that give you vehicle sections, upgrades, and aliens.

I’m sorry. While the premise may help it seem unique, the game is pretty much par for the course. I see nothing original here.

Addictiveness

My biggest complaint about this game is that it is one long incessant grind. You need to play levels over and over again and things don’t get changed up enough. On top of that, every level boils down to you holding down the fire button while moving away or toward some giant bug or robot. There is little to no strategy involved, and the whole thing gets really old quick.

The issue here is that while there is plenty of content, it all hits the same note. One can only get by doing the same thing for so long. “But Aaron”, you ask. “Don’t people do that all the time with other shooters?” Yes. This is true, but comparing EDF to them is a bad idea. A lot of them also have online campaigns, as well as plenty of PVP content. When you’re playing against other people (this game offers only co-op), it’s a whole other game. People have different skills, styles, and ranks, meaning you’re fighting a constantly revolving door of new challenges. In this game, one ant is the same as any other. It just takes longer to kill on harder difficulties.

All of this adds up. The game comes dangerously close to being a total bore. If you didn’t have the choice to mix up battle types, I’d call it one of the most boring titles I’ve ever played. You can have fun with it in short bursts, but lengthy excursions are not recommended.

Appeal Factor

The previous EDF was a bit of a cult classic, and as such this was a fairly highly anticipated game. Fans of the original have been very torn from what I can tell, but the general consensus is that if you liked the original, you’ll have some fun with this. It just might not live up to your hopes and expectations.

For non-fans, this is an easy pass, unless you really want to blow up some bugs. This game doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that you’re used to, and it gets boring fairly easily. As a budget title, it has some potential interest, and you’ll probably get your monies worth if you do end up buying it.

I will say this. I couldn’t convince my spider-hating sister to give it a try, and my brother refused to play it after the first three missions. This is a guy who still hasn’t gotten bored of decade old sports titles. This game just doesn’t have anything but niche appeal at best.

Miscellaneous

In terms of extras, the game comes with a bunch of concept art and plenty of stat tracking. I’m sorry to say that this is better than average for games these days. The game even keeps track of how much more you have to go to earn the trophies, which is nifty. Although, even the trophies are nothing but a grind to get. Kill ten thousand ants? Do I have to? Sigh.

I haven’t exactly been positive with this review, but think that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The game is honestly not very good and constantly struggles to keep from boring the player stiff. Variety is the spice of life, and there just isn’t any to be found here.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Poor
Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Good
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Very Poor
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Decent
Final Score: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is not bad for a budget title. It offers plenty of content for those who get into it, and everything plays fine. The issues come from sheer monotony. The game will bore those who don’t play it short bursts and the incessant level grinding can make the game a chore to play. If you liked the last game in the franchise, give this a look. For everyone else, I’d suggest renting it.

Tags: , , ,

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *