Cult videogames don’t come much cultier than Earth Defence Force 2017. A low-cost, extras-free and moderately well-received 2007 Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive, EDF 2017 was never really destined to transcend those modest origins. What it was destined to do – and what it very conclusively did – was to offer players an experience (championed by hardcore gamers via internet gaming forums worldwide) that simply doesn’t come along too often in this day and age. It was a deliberately antiquated and retrograde gaming experience that went out of its way to list utter carnage and deafening noise at the top of its becomingly short list of priorities.
A sequel was not inevitable but is wholly welcome, and one of the things that the first game inexplicably lacked – online co-op play – is this second game’s primary attraction. The plot in EDF: 2017 was utterly threadbare and absolutely nothing has changed, with Insect Armageddon offering up exactly the same brand of goofy, B-movie plotlessness. Genetically modified beings (read: giant insects, with cameo appearances by large robots and UFOs… just because) are briskly taking over planet Earth, and it’s your job – as a trooper for the indistinct ‘Lightning Alpha’ squad – to take them all out. It’s as gleefully unconcerned with story as any videogame since Space Invaders.
And if you think that its attitude towards narrative is old fashioned, level design gets exactly the same short shift. Every single environment in the game is basically a bland playground that only exists so that you can destroy it. One of the most addictive pleasures of EDF: 2017 was being able to completely dilapidate entire buildings – with nothing more significant than a few blasts from a measly rocket or grenade launcher – in a matter of seconds. Needless to say this dynamic reappears here in the rudest of health, and despite the fact that destroying buildings is rarely a strategic (or even necessary) manoeuvre, it never gets boring; and is symbolic of the game’s lunatic, kitchen sink approach.
So it’s a budget game and very proud of it. Although indisputably rough around the edges, Insect Armageddon is immeasurably prettier than its predecessor, and the core gameplay is every bit as bluntly uncomplicated. The only real change here is the fresh addition of character classes, and players who favour teamwork over mindless gunplay can now engage in both; partaking in the former whilst also feeling as if they’re fulfilling a specific role within their squad. It’s hardly Bad Company 2 – though its four separate loadouts do somewhat resemble the ones seen in that game – but it’s a very nice gesture intended to broaden the game’s appeal a tad.
But Insect Armageddon is still a deliberately hardcore proposition, and despite its rather mindless nature it definitely hasn’t been designed with casual gamers in mind. As was the case with the first game there is no checkpoint system at all, which means that players have to be prepared to digest it in half-hour chunks, at the very least. However, one very shrewd new addition makes those sessions fly by; the inclusion of Achievements and Trophies. These were basically ignored last time out – with a paltry roster of six unimaginative achievements present – but here they’re inventive and plentiful, and extend the game’s shelf-life quite considerably.
So like its predecessor it’s crude, straightforward and extremely entertaining, and particularly on co-op. It probably isn’t the kind of game that you’ll be inspired to rush through because it is deliberately repetitive, but like a battered old Monopoly set, when the time is right nothing can match it. The repetitive nature of the game is never to its detriment, and plenty of lesser games have aimed to provide this kind of simple wham-bang entertainment and have failed miserably. If you’ve ever fallen helmet over heels for a shooter of any kind, EDF: Insect Armageddon is ridiculously good fun, and if you were smitten by the original, it is simply not to be missed.
Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon is currently due for release on Friday July 22nd 2011, on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Watch the Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon trailer here: