The original Earth Defense Force 2017 was one of those rare games that was incredibly good because it was pretty bad. Most “bad”Â games are only really good in the perverse sense, but EDF was good because it played reasonably well and was so obscenely bad otherwise that it was like watching a stupid but well directed B-movie. The bugs were horribly animated, the environments fell apart like crazy, and the game was insanely over the top and absurd, and I, as well as a lot of other people, loved every last moment of it. As such, I was kind of worried going in to take a look at Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. The game had passed from Sandlot to Vicious Cycle, and while the former has developed a few EDF games, as well as the awesome Robot Alchemic Drive, the latter has developed a mix of higher budget licensed games and terrible crap like Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey, which was so bad it featured in a Playing the Lame column for crying out loud. So, in short: my fear was that the game would either be good to a level that it would lose the enjoyment of the first game, or be bad to a level that it wouldn’t be enjoyable at all. However, my fears were ultimately overridden by my desire to see the sequel to what was one of my favorite games when it came out, and when handed the controller and offered the chance to play, I jumped at the chance to do just that.
1.) Before we begin, I’m told that Vicious Cycle spent a good amount of time talking with Sandlot about the game franchise and playing the prior Earth Defense Force games to get a feel for what the game is supposed to be about before they jumped into developing the game, which is reassuring, if nothing else. The team knew going in that the point was to make a sci-fi game with giant bugs, corny dialogue, and goofy weapons, and by all indications they felt they were up to the challenge. The team also wanted to incorporate elements from the games in the series that didn’t make it stateside, such as the troopers with jetpacks and such, while also adding in their own elements, which is fine, as if nothing else, the jetpack wearing troopers are fun to play around with, and I’d been hoping someone would bring an Earth Defense Force game to us with them in it, as I’m kind of tired of breaking out the import copies of the PS2 games when I want to play around with that.
2.) The first thing that I was shown is that there are four character classes to choose from now, each with their own positives and negatives. There are Battle, Tactical, Trooper and Jet loadouts to choose from, and each has different weapons to choose from and bonuses they get on the battlefield. The Trooper has medium armor and abilities, but gets the largest weaponry selection of the group. Tactical troopers have lighter armor and less weapon selection, but can lay down turrets, landmines and other fun tools to fight against the bugs. The Jet armor is described as a “glass cannon”Â, in that it makes good use of powerful energy weapons and hits hard, but has light armor and is somewhat more fragile than other armor classes. Battle armor is essentially a heavy weapons and armor specialist, making great use of massive damage gear, at the expense of being significantly slower than the other classes.
3.) I opted to jump in with a Battle armor trooper while the demonstrator jumped in with Jet armor as we played a round of split-screen co-op, so for those who want this to be in the game, wish granted. The Battle armor class is, as the name implies, very battle ready, with plenty of hit points and a wide variety of heavy weapons to fool around with, and I jumped in with a heavy machine gun and a mortar-like grenade launcher that might as well have had “RAID”Â stamped on the side, because OH YES, it made bugs dead. The Battle class does have jet boosters on its armor for fast movement, and while it can’t move as fast as the other classes, it can get around the battlefield fine enough on its own. I was informed here that each class has its own unique abilities it can employ with the left trigger, and I discovered that the Battle armor has a shield it can bring up to protect from damage, which it can also use to deal electric attacks or an area of effect bomb of sorts, though the latter basically drains the shield bar entirely. Reviewing online documentation, it looks like each class will have upgradable armor options to work with, and from playing, it’s also an option if the player wishes to change your armor color, so you can go in with dark blue or light purple armor if that’s your thing.
4.) The game basically plays as you’d expect, if you’re a fan of the previous game at all. You can move and aim with ease, firing with the triggers is easy, and switching weapons and manually reloading are mapped to the face buttons, with the latter being a big thing, because, well, you couldn’t really do this thing in the last game. The right bumper is for dodging, the left bumper is a “run”Â or jet forward, the left trigger allows for you to use the aforementioned special ability, and the right trigger can fire weapons as normal. Also, reloading isn’t simply “reloading”Â and that’s the end of it; the game brings up a reload bar with a small white space in the center, similar to Gears of War, and if you press the reload button again, you’ll reload faster.
5.) One good addition to the game is that earning new weapons and abilities for your classes is done, not through random pickups you find on the battlefield, but by earning points to buy new weapons and skills to use. There are various tiers of weapons you can acquire for each class, so you’re able to get different weapons as you progress that improve as you go up along the list. I saw weapons up to tier seven in the time I played with the game, though I ended up going with something around tier five at the advisement of the presenter, to give myself a little bit of a challenge. I was also informed that, while regular weapons can be purchased with the credits acquired through completing missions, experimental weapons do work through a weapon pickup system, where you’ll find pickups out in the field that randomly give you new stuff. The experimental weapons, I’m told, are as wacky as they were in the first game, so you’ll see stuff like grenade launchers that launch exploding packs of mini-pack homing missiles or the beloved “Air Tortoise”Â or what have you.
6.) The physics have been improved dramatically, as falling debris now actually does more than glitch through the world. This time around, larger objects, such as enemy ships, bridges, and so on will fall onto whatever is below them and deal damage as if, well, they were a larger object falling on a smaller object. I was warned at this point that maybe you shouldn’t be under these giant falling things when they do fall, because “people are squishy”Â and this might make them more so. The tactical possibilities of this sort of thing are neat, but the comedic possibilities of this sort of thing are even neater, and I’m actively looking forward to crushing bugs with bridges and such.
7.) One thing that was mentioned during play, and this was a bit more obvious as we played through the early level in the game we were working with, is that the levels are longer by a good bit this time around, featuring fifteen minutes or so of play for the shorter levels and moving upwards from there, so you’ll be unlikely to see a five minute long “kill everything”Â mission in your time with the game. The trade off is that there are less levels to play with, unfortunately, but this isn’t really a bad thing per say, as the game, so far, looks like it’s making good with its level designs.
8.) There were a few other things that came up during play, such as the fact that death isn’t “the end”Â when playing a mission this time around. When you’re incapacitated, your allies can now run over to you and revive you to bring you back into the fight, and if you’re playing alone, NPC units will do so as well. The presenter noted that the AI actually had to be dumbed down a little because it was completing the missions for the player on its own, and at this point the team feels they’ve reached a sweet spot where they’ll kill enemies and revive you when needed, but they won’t really take on the mission single-handedly. I was also informed that you can play with up to three total players online in missions, and there will be a six player Survival mode where players can take on waves of bugs to try and survive as long as possible, which should be good times.
9.) I was offered the chance to jump in and play around on my own, and I picked up the Jet class to test it out full screen. The visuals in split-screen look pretty good, and so too do the visuals full screen, as the characters and bugs are pretty well animated and blow up nice. The visuals still have goofy spots, such as when you blow up buildings and bridges and such, and when the occasional bit of slowdown pops up here and there, but I’m told this is intentional, as the developers didn’t want to remove too much of what made the first game the corny fun it was. Fair enough, says I, given that they’ve contentiously removed the 2D icons for power-ups and actually made them look reasonable; you might as well hold onto some of the technical issues from the first game. The Jet class, as expected, holds up poorly to damage (though it can hold its own), but it can boost above battle to rain down damage from above, which is a great time, honestly.
10.) Look, speaking as a fan of the original game, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is pretty much a game I was going to buy day of release, no matter what, so the fact that I can in turn say “hey, it’s pretty good”Â prior to launch is a great thing for me. The game has been improved and developed enough that players who didn’t get the simple joys of the first game might want to give it another look, and the game is still campy enough that fans of the first game will like it and find it to be a move in the right direction. Nothing I saw in my time with the game would be cause for me to steer anyone away from purchasing the game, to be honest, and as the game is likely near complete at this point, it looks like the final product will be fine. Granted, testing the online play wasn’t an option, so there’s the chance that it’ll suck, but let’s keep our fingers crossed, yes?