This game be buggin’!
Ever seen someone trying to burn ants with a magnifying glass? Sometimes it works, and the helpless creatures just doing what nature dictates have their lives suddenly snuffed out in a brief wave of extreme heat and pain. Well, think of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon as the bugs’ chance to get some revenge in a big way.
The sequel to Earth Defense Force 2017, Insect Armageddon once again sees earth up against vicious alien insectoid invaders partnered with giant robots. But unlike that first game, which encompassed the whole of the humans’ struggle against these invaders, this game focuses on the struggle of one fictional city during the invasion.
And you play the role of humanity’s hope, the ridiculously—but somehow appropriately, in this casse–named Lightning Alpha. From the second your boots hit the ground, you’ll be mowing down swarms of giant ants, spiders, ticks, and wasps—and with over 300 weapons at your disposal. Sounds like a blast, right? But that’s the whole game. Whether playing solo, with a pair of co-op buddies, or the six-player survival mode, here’s what to expect: You see a bug. You shoot it. You see a giant robot. You shoot it.
Although Insect Armageddon might seem simple and straightforward, some glaring issues detract from the experience. In a failed attempt to provide variety, the game allows you to choose one of four armor classes before every mission: Trooper, Jet, Battle, or Tactical. Each options is supposed to offer its own strengths and weaknesses, but you’ll learn early on that the Tactical armor gives you the best advantage by far; right from the get-go, you can deploy robotic sentry turrets that are more like a giant can of Raid. This means there’s pretty much no reason to select the other armors, and having such powerful weaponry right from the start renders the game’s leveling-up system pointless.
Speaking of pointless – Let’s talk about the “friendly” AI. At times, you’ll need to deal with enemy aircraft or 30-foot-tall enemy robots, but instead of keeping enemy ants off your back, your allies usually just die instead—a pointless, meaningless sacrifice to our new insect overlords. This wrecks the flow of battle since the ants, spiders, and other insects attack in never-ending hordes—yet another reason why the Tactical armor’s turrets are so valuable.
Of course, you might be more inclined to save your stupid AI allies if the game gave you a reason to care about them. Instead, you don’t receive any backstory for your character or any real exposition for the threat you’re facing at all, so if you didn’t play the first game, you might be lost if you’re looking for something more than “kill everything that moves.”
And so this brings us to the threat itself: the bugs. Although you can’t fault the game for just throwing more enemies at you—after all, insects survive through overwhelming numbers—it’d be nice to at least get some insect blood and guts strewn about the battlefield as they die instead of just instantly dissolving away. I wanna hear the satisfying squish of my boots as I walk through spider blood and move onto my next objective. If you’re going to give me wave after wave of insects, make it fun and satisfying to blow them away. In the end, you’re better off just watching Starship Troopers.
SUMMARY: In the wheelhouse of gamers who burned ants with magnifying glasses growing up…but pretty much no one else.
- THE GOOD: Blasting giant bugs à la Starship Troopers
- THE BAD: “Friendly” AI more hindrance than help
- THE UGLY: Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive…