For eight years the Chikyuu Boueigun series has titillated players with absurd third-person shooter action. In the West, the franchise has been branded with names including Monster Attack, Global Defense Force, and Earth Defense Force 2017. Longtime developer Sandlot has bowed out of the fourth installment and allowed the American studio Vicious Cycle to dabble with the framework. Due to many of these changes, publisher D3 touted Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon as a spin-off rather than a direct sequel of 2017. We tried out two stages of Insect Armageddon and found that it retains just what Earth Defense Force fans are looking for.
Before the start of any mission, you have the choice of four different armor sets, each with unique strengths and abilities. The trooper armor is a fast and agile loadout and has access to nearly every weapon. The tactical armor set has medium defense and has special abilities to build turrets and mines. Jet armor is defensively weak but lets you quickly restore ammo and speed across the battlefield. Finally, the battle armor is a brutal tank that can generate an energy shield. There are 300 weapons, including assault rifles, rocket launchers, missile launchers, and sniper rifles. For our first mission, we picked the tactical armor spruced with a missile launcher and a high-rate-of-fire rifle.
We dived right into the deep end and started from the end of Chapter 2. Our squad consisted of two named AI partners along with several other weaker redshirts. Before there was any time to prepare, the alien insectoids were in our face, slashing violently with sharpened limbs. A hailstorm of semiautomatic fire flooded the streets and turned the pollinators into honeycomb. Soon the invaders upped the stakes and launched their wraith warships. The puny rifle lacked the range to take on the main cruiser, so we switched to our homing missiles. The ship's weak point was its docking bay, meaning that we had to destroy the fighters around it and force the flagship to deploy reinforcements. After a heated game of cat and mouse, the warships were finally down, but the main event was far from over.
With the planes down, the bugs sent out the real bad boy: a giant robotic spider. Its laser blasts quickly killed some of our no-name allies and even downed one of our partners. However, the second AI buddy was quick on the scene and helped with revivals. Our two computer-controlled teammates distracted the hordes of enemies while we went straight for the boss. The spider's main weapon was also its weakness--hitting the laser generator with our missiles caused serious damage. However, this tactic was a double-edged sword: we were taking as many hits as we were giving.
Luckily the radar map gave us clear indicators as to where health packs were scattered across the battlefield. Sometimes we didn't even need to hunt these items ourselves: any medical kits picked up by any team member would heal the entire group. With our squad hording bandages like a hypochondriac, we were able to withstand any enemy and take down the deadly arachnid machine. It was only after the fight that we realized there was a giant battle mech sitting just yards from the carnage. We hopped in looking for more enemies but found only a rescue helicopter ready to take us safely back to base.
For our next mission we decided to try out the jet armor equipped with a rocket launcher and sniper rifle. We asked the developers what the difference between a rocket and a missile was, and they riposted with, "It's so we can have another 75 weapons." As we entered midway through chapter 5, we quickly saw the difference between the two guns. Our former missile launcher would split off into several smaller warheads and home in on the nearest enemy. The rocket launcher we picked required more precision and detonated into a shock-wave burst. The rocket required so much accuracy that it even seemed redundant alongside the sniper rifle. Additionally, for this particular stage the jet armor's speed and flight were not the best match for the upcoming fight.
There were very few bugs, and it seemed as if our goal was mainly moving from waypoint to waypoint. However, a giant humanoid bipedal mech soon burst on the scene, smashing down buildings, and advanced in our direction. From the distance we tried to snipe at it while our allies distracted the beast, but the rifle didn't even make a dent. We switched over to the rocket launcher and were able to increase the pain. As long as our crosshairs were somewhere on the alien, the shock wave was wide enough to hit the goliath. Oddly, even shooting the ground near its feet or a building it stood near resulted in a miss; the rocket seemed to have no splash damage. The alien attacked too quickly for us to get away, and our flimsy jet armor required us to actually scavenge for health packs. With our one-man/two-machine team laying down heat and rushing for medicine, the boss eventually died, and the bogus journey became an excellent adventure.
From these two story missions we saw that Insect Armageddon contains a rich and satisfying campaign mode. We look forward to trying out the multiplayer and survival modes when the game launches on July 5 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.