Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon

The world of PlayStation 2 budget games was a murky place, full of shoddy shoot ’em ups, rancid racing games and half-baked beat ’em ups. Then there was Global Defence Force, a game which cost next to nothing yet offered more fun and innovation than most full price titles. What’s more, it looked good doing it with a draw distance that made even GTA: San Andreas blush. 2007 gave us Earth Defence Force 2017 on Xbox 360. With the power of the Xbox behind it the developers were able to give us a bigger, brighter and bolder bug blaster along with a dose of delightful Japanese lunacy.

Instead of cranking up the content or even giving us more of the same, US-based developers Vicious Cycle have bizarrely taken a step backwards with this offering that’s incredibly light on content. The single player mode is short, the number of vehicles available is fewer than even the PlayStation 2 original and although there are three chapters to play through they’re all set in the same environment – a ravaged version of Detroit. Not only did EDF 2017 offer huge cities to storm though but beaches and picturesque meadows as well.

In the developer’s defence, the new game engine holds up superbly – visuals are sharp and smooth and there is no slowdown, even when the screen is full of rampaging insects. The level of detail is impressive too, right down to being able to read the names of made-up magazines inside the news stands. But make no mistake – this is as basic as third person shoot ’em ups get. There aren’t even any cut-scenes, not that the paper thin story line deserves them.

The campaign mode takes around three hours to finish. In order to get your chosen character up to the top rank though you’ll need to play through it more than once. It’s hard to imagine anybody doing this other than to get some of the harder achievements, given how mind-numbing the experience is. Very little skill or effort is required throughout and once you unlock weapons with homing abilities most missions can be finished merely by running around in circles with the fire button held down.

There is no variety in mission objectives either – every level is the same, simply requiring you to wipe out all opposing enemies before proceeding to the next checkpoint. Some levels give you a tank or a mech to help even the odds but seeing as these are the only two vehicles available it doesn’t take long for their novelty to wear off.

An online survival mode stops Insect Armageddon from being completely without merit. It’s a six-player affair set in moderately sized areas where enemies attack in waves. An emphasis on team-work makes it instantly engaging. However, you can only play as one type of soldier – as opposed to campaign mode’s choice of four, including a jet-pack trooper – and you can’t use any weapons you’ve unlocked in the single player mode.

It’s fair to assume that the developers were told to keep things simple to keep it in line with the previous games in the series, but with a severe lack of surprises it would have benefited greatly from a twist or a gimmick. The ability to give your two team-mates orders, or being able to choose their weapon load-outs would have given the game a nice tactical edge, but no – choosing which two weapons to take into battle is as strategic as it gets.

With a campaign mode that can be finished in an afternoon – providing you can stand the tedium – and countless other superior ‘dumb yet fun’ shooters out there, this is a game that’s very hard to recommend.

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