Synyster Graves

Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon

by on Aug.07, 2011, under Xbox 360

There definiely seems to be a stark correlation between games I’m eagerly awaiting and them coming out and being disappointing, overhyped or in Rock Band 3’s case, total shite. Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon was going to break the trend for me and I’ve banked on it being the next online classic for myself and my gaming cohorts to salivate over many hours of complete and total insectoid annihilation. EDF:IA however, falls slightly way of the mark for me thought. Having been totally obsessed with it’s predecessor Earth Defence Force 2017, I have spent literally hours on that game farming levels and been amused by the cheesiness and ridiculous of the over top dialogue and generally fun and frenetic arcade style run and gun, more like a modern day version on Contra. EDF:IA has clearly tried to build on this cult foundation but personally for me has decided to become too clever for it’s own good. You control Strike Force Lightning, an elite squad of three soldiers who get dropped into enemy lines to help take out the Ravager hive from the inside.

Daddy Long Legs is a new creature to fight

While I’m reluctant to perpetually harp on about the previous title, but the comparisons are inevitable. Where EDF2017 had 53 levels of which you had to play through on each of the 5 difficulties, this only has 3 difficulties with 15 levels each. Not only does this make it a hugely smaller game, it also is a lot more unforgiving as the difference between the difficulty levels is pretty much exponential. The first game at least gave you a fighting chance by having an “easy” setting, so players who have never played this game before could at least enjoy it. EDF:IA only has normal, and the default weapons for each class can pretty much be only described as useless. If you need a more direct analogy, try assaulting a fire engine with a packet of fun snaps or blowing raspberries. Yes the initial weapons are that rubbish. But the sad thing is, the decent weapons are always a horrendous long slog to get them. Upon levelling up (I’ve reached level 7 of 8 at the time of writing), the weapons are still crap and the currency to purchase anything which can actually do any significant damage would involve an exponential amount of grinding. You can play the campaign “remix” to get the evtra XP or weapons, but this doesn’t quite prolong the longevity of the game, just swaps a few enemies around to attempt to inject freshness in an existing scenario, which it doesn’t. You  can however change your class of soldier, each have their own strengths and weaknesses and all somehow look just like Sam Gideon from Vanquish. Each armour you can level up RPG style which unlocks new weapons and perks. Normal campaign lets you level up to 5, Hard is 7 and Inferno is the maximum of 8. This is total bullshit. Why would you not get any more experience from playing easier levels, sure you don’t get as much on normal than you do on inferno, such is the nature of grinding. But to pretty much ban it outright? What a load of crap.

I hate spiders even more now!

What also severely damages your chances of survival is the AI partners. Again a game has been produced with multiplayer as it’s main focus, so implementing a mode for the casual single/offline players is once again given the rough end of the deal, with no KY jelly in sight. I’m not sure if there’s enough words in the English language to accurately describe how incredibly retarded the AI are in this game. Take every instance of idiotic bots you’ve ever come across, I’m talking the partner in Resident Evil 5, Left 4 Dead and Gears of War, mix them together, and give them a large, nutritious bowl of STUPID for breakfast and that merely scratches the surface of how stupid they are. What do I mean by that? Indiscriminate aiming for one. The robotic morons have an inane ability to shoot at the aliens THROUGH YOU. This includes wielding heavy artillery such as grenade launchers, rocket launchers and missiles. If that isn’t enough, then I have had many instances whereby you can climb in an armoured turret, and as you’re getting the upper hand on the incoming wave the armour of the armoured placement is stripped and the machine explodes; most annoying caused by an AI soldier shooting at the waves of enemies DIRECTLY BEHIND YOU. Instead of going round the front and killing the waves, they’ll nonchalantly shoot you from behind as if you’re in their way. And this is bloody senseless. Other examples of pathetically awful AI is when you get downed and need picking up. In single player the two AI’s tend to stick together, annihilating any chance of implementing any kind of strategy in assaulting the hive. They always seem to prioritise reviving each other rather than actually make any concerted attempt to revive you, the player. Any other “cunning” plans like flying on top of buildings to snipe at enemies goes out the window, as the AI also have a habit of shooting the building you’re standing on with a rocket launcher consistently. The final aspect of painfully stupid AI is when you have to take down objectives such as carriers and anthills. AI will never attack an objective and leave it totally up to you the player. Yes I concur that it is stupid and inconsistent that an anthill will only explode if you place a charge on it, yet levelling it with a salvo of missiles doesn’t have the same effect, but I’m desperately trying to take this game with a pinch of salt, although my patience is waning more than my salt.

I think the underlying summation of this game is frankly inconsistency, something which it’s predecessor did not. While the original annoyingly had you take 5 seconds to put a magazine in an assault rifle, this has introduced an “active reload”, straight out of Gears of War. The major difference between this and Gears of War is that GoW’s reload system actually worked. Upon running out of ammo, you get a quick time bar of which if you stopped within the threshold, you will reload faster. However this threshold is a total lie most of the time. I don’t know if this is some elaborate trick to getting the bar to stop dead centre making it stupidly pixel specific or something, but you can hit the centre of the reload bar about 10 times in a row only for abotu 2 to actually register. It doesn’t work and there’s a huge part of me which thinks the originals bar filling up while you commando roll around and throw yourself about avoiding enemy fire like Dimitar Berbatov in a penalty box was probably better.

Hectors have got a lot tougher!

The difficulty or the difference between each difficulty should I say, is huge. Normal wasn’t too bad, a bit of a challenge but nothing too painstaking. Hard however sees the enemies almost quadruple their hit points and taking them down even on Tier 5 weapons is one hell of challenge, not to mention playing in single player with AI dickhead #1 and #2 helping you out. Inferno is just crazy. I understand how hardcore players enjoy a relishing challenge, but this is verging on insurmountable. Each single ant which is usually fodder on Normal, suddenly has enough HP of a Final Fantasy side boss you will spend ages taking just one down. There’s something soul destroying about leathering about 5 rockets at a singe ant to only watch it get pushed back, not destroyed. The Hector walkers from the first game are back and are about seventy times harder. Taking one Hector is one hell of a team effort, a bit like fighting the Tank in Left 4 Dead, but these things are fast now! Taking on 5 of these is practially suicide with AI players and completing the game in Hard or Inferno on your own is frankly an impossible task. This is where the multiplayer option is imperative.

The graphics however are vastly improved from the original and the texturing on the buldings, cars and other detritus is very pleasing on the eye. However with most games, this comes at a price. Whereas the first title had you blowing up the whole city for fun, EDF:IA will only let you trash one small part of the city at a time. There are red forcefields everywhere inhibiting movement to almost a Call of Duty style corridor of death were it not for the few buildings you are allowed to vanquish. Enemies also drop health and weapon packs, but very often are behind these forcefields meaning that you can’t go and reap the benefits of your hard work. Naturally enemies can walk through these forcefields where as your traversal is prohibited, leaving you jog on the spot like a children’s fitness coach on Saturday morning television. In a game who’s fibrous husk in the centre involves backpeddling and firing backwards at the oncoming hordes, limiting the movement around the city is one giant mistake.

Survival mode is different from the normal game and can allow 6 players to fight waves (again like in Gears of War) and I can quite safetly say, there is no point to attempting this without at least 3 other players. You get a number of revives each survival, every player running out or all being downed at the same time would result in a game over, but there is another huge inconsistency with this. I joined an online game and only got x1 revive yet there were players in the game who were being downed about three  times every round. Seeing that your experience level doesn’t count for anything in Survival mode, this is another inconsistency which the developers have totally forgotten to iron out.

Finally I need to talk about the crux of this game, which is the multiplayer. Unlike the first game this finally has got co-op via Xbox Live. While this seems great, and it is, what happens if you have two gamertags on one xbox. Yes you guessed it, split screen is disabled for online play. I mean come on. Why advertise a game as finally having multiplayer support when the simple things like this are missing? Split screen is only available on offline play giving me the impression that actually seeing your friends is a bad idea. However talking to them over IP is a better one.

So in summation, I may have portrayed this game as a stinker but in all honesty it’s not. It is fun in parts and there is a lot of replayability with the campaign remixes and survival mode, but you definitely have to use the multiplayer option to complete this game in the harder levels. While the original EDF truly was a rough gem, this however seems like a sequel forced to come out through peer pressure, and inserting graphics and mods from Vanquish and Gears of War just wasn’t enough to convince me that this game is much better than EDF2017. I can see what they’ve tried to do with this game, but unfortunately it feels and plays a tiny bit rushed. I have heard rumours of DLC, so I’ll be waiting to see what the next move is, because there is a lot of tweaking this game needs for it to reach the cult echelons of EDF2017.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • El Stevo

    It’s a weird one isn’t it? The most jarring thing for me is that it only has 15 levels – this is CRAZY! I finished the last level and thought “Oh man, it’s starting to heat up now! I can’t wait to… *PLINK*. Achievement!? WTF!?”

    I do like some of the changes. The increased detail in the environments makes it feel a bit more atmospheric, although I don’t think the cost was worth it – the wide ranging destructible environments and epic sense of scale in 2017 really set it apart. That has been lost here somewhat. I also like the levelling – it makes the grinding a bit more palatable somehow. Other than that, it really feels like change for the sake of it and a lot of what made 2017 special is lost.

    The game is quite fun in its own right though. Co-op seems really good, it’s nice to have a third person in the campaign. The AI hasn’t got on my nerves too much yet either! I’m looking forward to playing through on the harder difficulties to see if all the strategising and planning that 2017 required is needed here as well. I will be disappointed if not.

    Also, there is a serious lack of bullet casings pouring out of these guns. Not impressed :/

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