PAX East: Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Hands-On

Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon Title Logo

I got a chance to play a little co-op of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon with the game's Senior producer, Brian  Etheridge, at PAX East over the weekend - and although I didn't quite know what was going on from minute-to-minute, I had a blast.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is the sequel to D3Publisher's 2006 Xbox 360 niche-hit Earth Defense Force 2017.

If you are at all familiar with 2017, you'll know that action and explosions took precedence over trivial things, such as a story or a plane of logic. You'll also be pleased to know that Insect Armageddon stays true to its ancestry, delivering vast numbers of impossibly huge bugs, over-the-top weaponry, and not a single plot point in sight.

As we both picked up our controllers, I figured I'd at least probe about the story:

GR: So why are the bugs here? What's their story?

BE: No one knows, they just arrived one day.

GR: So, nothing?

BE: Nope. We've just gotta deal with it.

GR: Fine by me. Let's go!

As in the first game, Insect Armageddon is a 3rd Person action shooter, with smooth run-and-gun gameplay that feels very similar in weight and responsiveness to Red Faction: Guerrilla. The graphics were much improved over those seen in 2017, and yet the frame rate was silky smooth at all times, no matter the amount of chaos that was taking place all around me.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Explosions

The demo section we played started off suspiciously muted, as we were simply placing landmines on giant anthills in a downtown area. The giant ants were merely an irritation at this point, serving only to slow us down as we moved from anthill to anthill. That soon changed, however, when an EDF drop ship swooped in and delivered a crate in the middle of the road. The walls of the crate fell away, revealing a ridiculous rocket-launcher/chain gun combo turret.

With Brian providing cover, I jumped into the turret's seat just in time, as a gargantuan insect-like humanoid monster appeared from behind a building and wasted no time in beating us over the head with its fists. Brian demonstrated that he could draw the enemy's attention with gunshots while I lined up my slowly-reloading rockets. As I fired uncontrollably at everything bug-like around me, I noticed that all the buildings were highly destructible. Whether their falling was governed by a physics engine or was a canned animation, I couldn't tell. The bottom line is that it didn't matter, because this game is all about epic spectacle, and I got plenty of that.

After what seemed like an eternity and a hundred rockets later, we finally brought down the behemoth, only to then face two more. Bear in mind that throughout all of this, we were also being mauled by hundreds of giant ants. By this point, though, I was really starting to handle my bug killing business like a pro, and dispatching the two big monsters while beating back hordes of giant ants was handled much quicker.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Bug Chase

From that point on until the end of the demo, each consecutive anthill destruction was immediately followed by an onslaught of larger numbers of bugs, greater amounts of the giant monsters we fought earlier and, for the finale, bugs flying spaceships. Of course there were ants everywhere at all times. Always giant ants.

Never underestimate the healing power of cooperatively blowing up hundreds of giant insects with bazookas. This game makes no claims to weave a cunning narrative involving tormented protagonists or elaborate government conspiracies. It's a pure celebration of awesome components. It mixes Japanese mega-monster catastrophe sensibilities with the 1980s movie industry's love of bazooka-toting action heroes, and if the rest of the game stays true to the trajectory suggested in the PAX East demo I played, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon could very well be 2011's guiltiest pleasure.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon invades the PS3 and Xbox 360 on July 5th 2011.

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