Earth Defense Force 2017 was repetitive, ugly, poorly designed, and incredibly stupid. That didn't stop it being one of the most enjoyable games of 2007.
Fighting off waves of giant robots and insects with increasingly explosive weaponry, the appeal of the series has always been rooted in simplicity. Steeped in the guilty pleasures of its B-movie style, the series has always managed to counter its shortcomings with a cubic ton of silly fun - a tradition that we're relieved to see continued despite the series no longer being in the hands of Japanese developers Sandlot.
New dev Vicious Cycle, creator of the dismal Matt Hazard, has done a much better job of nailing the so-bad-it's-good vibe in Insect Armageddon. Much has been updated, but the charm of the original EDF remains. Enemy bugs and robots are familiar, but have all been updated to behavie in a more dynamic and aggressive way. Four different class types are available this time around, alongside a basic RPG-style levelling system that adds a clearer sense of progression.
The visual improvements on show are huge - but vitally this never hampers the ludicrous quantities of enemies that EDF games are famous for. The legendary slowdown isn't entirely gone, but the scale of destruction it's caused by is glorious enough to make it wholly forgivable. And trust us - by the time you get toward the end of the game, you'll be seeing some serious destruction.
It's certainly a more competent game than EDF 2017, but it's interesting to see how these improvements have impacted the game's overall tone. Insect Armageddon isn't a naturally terrible game, which means it has to be more self-aware when it's being intentionally bad. Switching from daft naivety to being openly tongue-in-cheek is a tough transition, but the team have really nailed it, especially in terms of the knowingly silly voice acting throughout.
Responding to fan demands for online co-op, Vicious Cycle has included four different armour classes to choose from, each getting access to their own set of weapons and abilities. The Trooper is a near-carbon copy of EDF 2017's Storm 1, specialising in all weapon types and evasive rolls. The Tactical unit is able to deploy turrets and mines - perfect for holding down positions against incoming alien baddies. With his plasma shield and heavy armour, the Battle class is able to carry the biggest guns of all, and is hardly fazed by point-blank explosions.
Despite the weaker weaponry, the Jet armour is our clear favourite simply because he's got a jetpack. Aside from speeding around on the ground in a deliciously hover-y manner, this guy has the advantage of being able to make a vertical escape at any point - giving an explosive goodbye to those below.
Enemies and explosions get bigger, and that's about as deep as things get. It's easy enough to finish the game on normal difficulty in under 7 hours, but that's just the beginning: With four classes of EDF soldier to level up and three difficulty settings to nail, you're looking at around 30-40 hours of splatter to get all the achievements. That's probably too much of a grind to play alone, but get some mates involved and this is no-frills co-op gaming at its best.
Classic split-screen co-op makes a return, but it's the Xbox Live co-op that ensures longevity. Health pick-ups are immediately shared, and this time around allies can be revived in the field - a crucial change that lets you dip into harder difficulties than you'd usually be comfortable with. Whilst the survival mode off-shoot supports up to 6 players over Xbox Live, the main campaign disappointingly only supports 3 people at once.