Publisher: D3 Publisher / Developer: Vicious Cycle Software / Platform: PS3, Xbox360

There isn’t much to Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon.  Well, in terms of content there is a lot to offer, but it doesn’t take much to learn the ins and outs of the gameplay.  A sort of sequel to Earth Defense Force 2017, a game most known for its strong fanbase despite dated visuals and subpar gameplay.  Insect Armageddon plays mostly the same as its predecessor (kill bugs, don’t die), however a few major (and some minor) changes were made that, in my opinion, makes Insect Armageddon into one of the best “buddy co-op” games this year.

The most immediately obvious changes that Insect Armageddon brings to the EDF series is the addition of character classes.  There are four armor types to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own unique set of weapons (split from about 300).  Jet (my personal favorite) can fly, has the greatest speed, and uses energy weapons, however reloading an energy weapon requires power from your jetpack, which makes it a necessity to plan out when the best time is to stop and reload or fly away.  Battle is essentially the tank class, which has the most health, the strongest weapons and utilizes a riot shield that doubles as a bug zapper.  Tactical has noticeably weaker weapons than the other three armors, but has the ability to deploy turrets, mines and radars to help team members.  The last armor type, Trooper, is essentially the same play style as EDF 2017.  Agile and very lightly-armored, Trooper is probably the hardest to master but has access to the widest variety of weapons.

In addition to the unique abilities of each armor type, as you kill bugs and complete missions, the armor you are currently using gains experience and can rank up, which grants access to new weapons (don’t worry, the random weapon drops from EDF 2017 are still here) and abilities such as a faster reload speed or a quicker dodge roll.  There are only eight ranks for your armor to rise through but leveling up is a very slow process and the upgrades gained with each rank are significant.  For instance, out of the box, the Jet class can only fly for maybe five seconds at most.  At rank 5 flight isn’t anywhere near infinite but it becomes much easier to hover above a mass of ants without worry of suddenly plummeting towards the ground.

Now, for those of you that haven’t played either EDF game, what IS Earth Defense Force?  Well, Insect Armageddon takes place in “New Detroit”, a city taken over by aliens that drop giant bugs to the ground and terrorize the area.  The game really doesn’t put any effort into making the plot seem like anything more than it really is: get guns, kill bugs.  There is a fair amount of variance in the enemies, but you’ll be seeing the same few quite often.  Honestly, this really isn’t a problem, as they all fall into different archetypes that require different strategies to kill.  Ants and spiders are the basic footsoldiers and can be taken out with just about anything.  Ticks are small and tend to swarm, so area effect weapons are more effective.  Wasps are quick and fly around, so heat-seeing weapons are your best bet.  This is only a few of the enemies you’ll encounter, and each of them require a slightly different type of strategy, which makes planning your weapon loadout with your team a fun bit of strategy.

Insect Armageddon can be played with up to two other players in its story mode.  Three-player co-op is kind of an odd feature and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why four players wouldn’t be any less fun, but it was assumed that the six-player survival mode would make up for that oddity.  Unfortunately, Survival is probably Insect Armageddon‘s most disappointing feature.  Despite the ability to play with five other people, in Survival you are limited to the Trooper class and only able to choose from a small variety of weapons.  Survival doesn’t award any sort of unlockable weapons, nor does it grant experience points for Campaign mode.  It’s fun for a little while, but ultimately you’re going to want to go back to Campaign and level up your favorite armor and unlock new weapons.

While Insect Armageddon‘s Campaign mode is significantly shorter than the previous game (It only has about 12 missions), it does make a better attempt at creating interesting characters that interact with the main character, Lightning, through his headset.  Lightning himself is a generic, gravelly-voiced space marine type that says little other than “Roger,” and “Heading to waypoint”.  Once you get to meet the other characters, though, you start to wonder if he was made overly-generic on purpose due to how outrageous the other characters’ personalities are.  The first voice you meet is the standard “mission objective lady”, who does a pretty standard job other than coining the phrase ‘mushroom treatment’ (“keeping us in the dark and feeding us crap”), but acts as a sort of “straight man” to the surprisingly funny sayings of the other characters.  About halfway through the first level you get in contact with “Intel,” a heroic sort of character that sounds a lot like the “Voice of the Agency” from Crackdown.  As he feeds you more non-information, you start to learn that Intel really knows just about as much as you do about the ever-growing threat (“Uuh let’s see here… Ah!  Shoot it.  …Alot.”)  My favorite character by far, however, has to be the pilot you meet about halfway through the game.  Calmly weaving through giant bugs and crumbling buildings, the pilot speaks to you like a calm, collected commercial airline pilot, and surprised me with some rather laugh-out-loud funny dialogue.

The interesting characters still don’t do much to deter the fact that Insect Armageddon is a very short game.  The addicting nature of sloooowly leveling up and picking up a fancy new weapon every level or so, along with the three different difficulty settings (each with its own ending) kept my roommate and I coming back for more, but those looking for a lengthy, constantly-changing experience will probably find themselves sorely disappointed.  The vast amount of weapons, different character classes and mindlessly fun co-op makes this an absolute must-have for someone looking for a great yet incredibly challenging co-op experience.  If you aren’t?  Find something else.