Unless you’re Screech from Saved by the Bell, there is nothing exciting about an onslaught of insects. They attack in swarms, target your food and never seem to go away once they appear. However, what would happen if you had the chance to blast away at insects using rocket launchers, machine guns and just about every weapon imaginable? Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon lets you live out this imaginary scenario in one of the most raucous good times you can have in a third-person shooter. It’s like being Larry David in “The Rat Dog” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Except, in this game, you won’t have to worry about people judging you for your love of stomping out insects far and wide. This game isn’t overly complicated; it’s just endless hordes of bugs and other nuisances that can be blasted away to your heart’s content. The expansive-bland environments are just there to be destroyed as well and it is even more fun to do so in cooperative play. Insect Armageddon may lack a worthwhile story, but it more than makes up for it in mindless amusement and over-the-top style.
Giant insects have attacked Earth and your ragtag, but well equipped band of soldiers is tasked with cleaning up this unhealthy infestation. The game makes mention of taking place in Detroit, but each board feels like a mish-mosh of any city landscape with a touch of pop-culture locations for good measure. It really doesn’t matter where you are because most of the buildings won’t survive your attempts to save the world from insect doom. And, that’s perfectly all right.
Unlike most third-person shooters that follow a linear progression, Insect Armageddon is not “really” about getting from one checkpoint to the next. The environments are closer to a sandbox game, allowing gamers to travel around cities to constantly gun down different critters. Occasionally, your director back at the base (wherever the base is) will set up a different waypoint for you to go to that serves as your guide towards beating a chapter. However, if you just want to explore, gain experience and blow up things you can do that as much as you want. It will take a fair bit of exploring before you come to an imaginary boundary. In the meantime, you can destroy buildings while pockets of insects attack.
Typically, low-level ants will pop-up from anthills or just random cracks in the ground. When they pop-up out of the anthills, you will need to place a charge on the hill to destroy it. Otherwise, you can just shoot the ones you see and move on. As the chapters progress, you’ll face off against just about every insect you know. There are also giant robeasts that would make Voltron jealous and various spaceships that you have to gun down.
In general, there are four types of soldier to use. There’s a standard trooper that has average ability across the range of weapons. A soldier that uses a Jet pack, but tends to die quicker. When the ticks start to appear and leach on to you, the Jet pack soldier will have a harder time staying alive. Then there’s a heavy arms grunt that can use bigger, badder weapons, but is slower. And, then there’s a tactical soldier that is good for deploying various turrets or using sonar to find enemy insects. It all comes down to your style of gameplay. If you’re a completionist, there is tons of extra content and over 300 different varieties of guns. So even if you like flying around with a jetpack, it’s worth exploring each soldier and beating the game multiple times just to experience the wide variety of weaponry. There are seven classes of weapons (including rocket launchers, grenade launchers, assault rifles, and shotguns), but what makes this game awesome is that each class of weapon has several variations. The rocket launcher may shoot out a single blast, separate into five rockets or have homing missiles. I mentioned Detroit earlier, which is why I couldn’t help but think of Robocop 3. The shotgun is one of the weaker weapons, made even weaker by the poor sound design. It works well in close-quarters combat, but like a peashooter that delivers a Jedi push. Still, the visuals on the weapons upgrades more than made up for the lackluster sound effects. As a side note, you’ll probably have to suffer through the various shotguns when taking down those pesky ticks, which act like the Flood in Halo.
Each of the heavy arms weapons has the ability to take down a building. There’s no great physics system in this game for building crumble, but watching a skyscraper fall into puff of dust is still fun to see. Maybe, it’s termites? It is even more crazy to get on top of a building to shoot down UFOs only to have your cooperative partner shoot the building or bridge down from underneath your feet.
There are three different difficulty levels in the game and you can tell the game to select a random difficulty. This may be a little odd, but it is necessary to unlock all of the guns. There are health packs aplenty on most stages, but should you fall down (which will happen a lot if you choose the Jet pack soldier), your teammates will have a chance to revive you. In solo campaign, your teammates will offer some quick quips that make the game enjoyable. However, nothing beats playing with friends as you engage in mindless destruction and insect torment. There are also anti-aircraft turrets to jump inside, but you’ll basically be a sitting duck.
Truthfully, Insect Armageddon is one giant Arena mode. However, there’s actually a Survival mode if you want to bypass all the forgettable dialogue and story setup in the campaign. The guns and player types are more restrictive in this mode so it’s better to just play through the campaign over and over again with different friends on the hardest difficulty. It’s worth it.
For 39.99, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is a terrific value. This game has replay value by the bucket load as you work to unlock weapons. The city landscapes and story are forgettable add-ons, but blowing up insects, buildings and robots never felt so good. I just wish the sound design packed more punch into each weapon.