When playing Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, we were reminded of a joke by the late comedian Mitch Hedberg:
“They should have a glow-in-the-dark version of Easy Cheese. It’s not like the product has any integrity to begin with. If you buy a room-temperature cheese that you squeeze out of a can, you probably won’t get mad because it glows in the dark too.”
If you buy an Earth Defense Force game, you probably won’t get mad because all the enemies are giant insects too. You won’t get mad that some ground enemies look exactly like spiders (which aren’t insects), you won’t get mad that flying enemies don’t always look like insects at all, and you won’t get mad that, despite the city being totally deserted, you occasionally see a big pack of scared, running civilians in the middle of a mission.
Why? Because the EDF series has never been about realism, detail or nuance. It’s about shooting a bunch of things, blowing stuff up and hopefully getting a friend to go along for the ride. It’s the Easy Cheese of video games, and that’s what we love about it.
In the game, you run around various areas of the city of New Detroit with two companions, killing baddies with various weapons. You have a choice of four sets of armor: Trooper, the all-around standard one with a focus on cool guns; Jet, the fast, pseudo-flying one with weaker armor; Tactical, with deployable turrets and a decent defensive capability; and Battle, the tank character with massive armor and enormous, slow-firing weaponry. Each levels up as you use it, unlocking better weapons, increasing abilities and providing more options like homing shots and grenades. All play well. We favored the Tactical class with its extra source of covering fire, but we had fun with each.
You can play alone, but it’s not ideal. Your AI partners do fine staying alive, but they don’t exactly react when you decide to press ahead to the next waypoint or pull back for protection. You can play with one friend locally or two online, and that’s when the magic happens. Picking roles makes for a great facilitator, as one specializes in taking out airborne targets and the other can focus on doing the most damage to foes on the ground. There’s a special six-player survival mode separate from the game’s campaign, which is somewhat fun but just a bit too chaotic for our tastes. (That said, if you have five friends you can coordinate with and enact team strategies, that could be very interesting.)
The visuals are a mixed bag, and the audio isn’t special, but again, that’s not the point. You can blow up any building and destroy any barrier (except the arbitrary can’t-leave-this-neighborhood ones, of course), and the engine focuses on making that easy and smooth. And it is. We had a few occasions where the mission wouldn’t continue until we found a bug that got stuck somewhere and got it out of its frozen state, but they didn’t happen enough to frustrate us too much. The one mechanical issue we found was in the game’s reload function. As has become the trend, the game has an active reload system that lets you finish faster if you hit the button at the right time. There’s little margin for error, and eventually we just decided to use the time to move around and assess the situation.
Insect Armageddon‘s 15-mission campaign isn’t that long, but you can play through with each class to level them up individually, play through remix stages that switch up enemy waves and try out the previously-mentioned survival mode. There are things to keep doing, and it’s made to pull off the shelf occasionally when friends are around.
The game’s not art. It never tries to be. It’s the game equivalent of sitting around eating cheap pizza with your friends, and… you know, now that we think about it, you could totally order some cheap pizza and play EDF. In fact, that’s probably the best way to play it.
Pros: Weapon customization, great co-op
Cons: Some hiccups, a bit of repetition