As most giant-bug-hating gamers know, D3 Publisher is home to one of the most unique franchises in gaming today, “Earth Defense Force.” It’s a series that has been going on for the last eight years, and has seen three releases worldwide. While there’s only one title in the series that has been released in the United States, 2007’s Xbox 360 exclusive, “Earth Defense Force 2017″ (which also served as Multiplayer’s very first review), D3 has planned a follow up to the over-the-top, bug-hunting, shooter, “Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon,” which is set to be released early this Summer.
With the latest release, the development has changed hands, from Sandlot to Vicious Cycle, but the main crux of “Insect Armageddon” is still the same: save humanity from the invading race of giant bugs. At a recent demo in NYC, D3 showed off some of the improvements they’ve made to the traditionally so-bad-it’s-good series, peppering in some changes that long-time fans may have some issues with.
The Changes: (from best to worst)
Taking some advice from its fans, Vicious Cycle has put some serious time into improving the multiplayer in “Insect Armageddon.” They’ve made the entire campaign three-player co-op (local and online), and they’ve added a survival mode, which pits teams against wave after wave of invading bugs until they overrun the team. The multiplayer has always been what’s made the “E.D.F.” games so much fun, and it looks like these changes are going to push that forward.
Change Rating: Very Good
Double The Firepower
While the E.D.F. have never really been without an arsenal fit for saving the world, “Insect Armageddon” outdoes its predecessor by doubling the number of weapons it includes, making the jump from 150 to over 300. In the past, most of the weapons have just been slightly different iterations of that type of weapons class with varying specs, but this time around Vicious Cycle is striving to make each assault riffle, sniper riffle and missile launcher feel more unique.
Change Rating: Very Good
Scaled Back Vehicles
Undoubtedly, the most painful aspect of “E.D.F. 2017″ was the vehicles. To put it simply, they just didn’t work. Helicopters, tanks, motorcycles… everything was just horrendous. Fortunately, this is another area that Vicious Cycle has put a considerable amount of effort into, by scaling it back. Only a few of the methods of transport from “2017” will make an appearance, most notably the tank, which handles better, and can house all three players in a co-op session. As another option, one of the character classes, Lightning Alpha, will be able to equip a jet pack, reminiscent of Pale Wing from “Earth Defense Force 2.”
Change Rating: Good
One of the features that Viscious Cycle is adding to the tweaked multiplayer is player revivals for fallen comrades. Basically, you friend can bring you back to life after any time you die during a campaign match, or up to three times during a survival game. This may be one of the most controversial additions to the series since all of the previous “E.D.F.” games have always offered a relatively high level of difficulty, centered around only having one shot to beat each level. This has always made watching your life meter and rationing your health pick-ups vital aspects of the gameplay. Now, not so much.
Change Rating: Alright
Save New Detroit
Sadly, the setting of “Insect Armageddon” is strictly urban, and, on top of that, it’s restricted to just one city, New Detroit. Whereas other games in the “E.D.F.” series have mainly taken place in cities, there have always been a few levels that let you roam the countryside, or hit the beach, offering a nice change of scenery. Unfortunately, this time around you’re only going to be trying to save 8 Mile Road, over and over again.
Change Rating: Bad
No More Item Drops
One of the biggest differences between “Insect Armageddon” and its predecessors is that it won’t appeal to collecting fanatics as much since enemies no longer drop new weapons when they’re defeated. This title changes things up by making most of the weapons available for purchase using credits, which are tied to your score, with only a handful of others that come as battlefield rewards. Finding new weapons strewn around the battlefield was always one of the simple pleasures of the previous games, and it encouraged players to attempt harder levels (like the returning Inferno) to be rewarded with better guns. Now, the more you play the more you can buy as you unlock the option to buy new weapons.
UPDATE: To clarify: some of the bigger enemies in the game will still drop weapons, however, the drops aren’t randomized and won’t occur as regularly as they have in the past.
Change Rating: Bad
With every sequel you need to take the good with the bad, but the tweaks that Vicious Cycle made may splinter the series’ fan base. On the other hand there is one thing that Vicious Cycle was able to recreate perfectly; the “Insect Armageddon” still manages to be mindless, multiplayer fun. Gamers will be able to see whether these changes help or hinder the series when “Insect Armageddon” is released July, 5 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.