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 lard pirates dawt cawm  §  Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon (360/PS3) / by Spoony Spoonicus
 the waggoner  §  articles and general riff-raff exceeding your expectations of worthlessness.
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 ~Spoony Spoonicus on 02:34pm 10/06/11 (02:01pm 07/11/11) in 50m31s  §  1912 eyeballs
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You might remember a couple years back when i stated that Earth Defense Force 2017 was my pick for the "best game released in 2007 that I played in 2008", and I still stand by that. Sure, the game was definitely built on a minimal budget, featured only a handful of enemy types and contained bargain-basement graphics and cheesy voice acting, but it was still really damn fun. It was a truly frantic and engaging experience where enemies would literally attack you by the hundreds in each stage and your job was simply to wipe them all out, collecting armor bonuses to increase your maximum health and weapon drops to add to your arsenal of weapons (of which there were well over 200). Add to that a cooperative two-player mode, and you had my pick for one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360.

Thankfully, when the franchise was handed off to Vicious Cycle to produce a sequel, they managed to keep the frantic tone of the game intact while also introducing numerous tweaks and improvements to enhance the overall experience. First and foremost among these is the fact that there are now multiple character classes to play as, each with their own unique abilities. Trooper armor is the only one to lack a special ability, but has a good balance of armor and speed and gains the widest variety of weapons. Jet armor is very speedy and able to fly for short distances but has relatively light armor and weaponry. Tactical armor has average speed, weapons and armor, and can deploy various traps and defensive emplacements from landmines to stationary sentry guns. Finally, there's Battle armor, which is by far the slowest, but has the heaviest armor, strong weaponry and can utilize an electrical shield to block enemy projectiles, damage nearby enemies with arcs of lightning, and even emit a large blast that wipes out all nearby minor enemies (and deals significant damage to larger ones). Better yet, each class also has multiple "tiers" that power up by earning points during stages, enhancing their abilities and extending their health meter (no more relying on random enemy drops for that!), so there's a bit more of an RPG element to Insect Armageddon than there was in the first game.

The means by which characters gain new weapons is also improved. Rather than simply being awarded as random drops (resulting in you gaining about 100 redundant weapons to every new one you find, especially on the higher levels), weapons are now awarded via an upgrade system. As you earn points by playing stages, you can spend them to purchase new weapons in the in-game shop. There are still a large number that are only available by random drops, but the game seems to have been tweaked to balance things more in your favor here - only a few times have I played through a stage and not gotten at least one new weapon.

Weapons are also tweaked to be more well-rounded and useful than in the first game. Homing missiles, for example, will place priority on whatever your targeting reticle is centered on, rather than every shot simply veering toward the enemy closest to your position. Machine-gun weapons with low fire rates are generally given other useful properties, such as homing bullets. Useless "joke" weapons (such as the grenade that can only be thrown about a foot, has a huge blast radius and inflicts over 1000 damage) are also largely expunged.

Another welcome feature is that the vehicles in this game handle much better and are far more useful. Tanks not only have a powerful shell launcher, but two additional gunner seats, allowing multiple characters to board the same vehicle and fight off large waves of enemies. Mechs have much tighter controls and move more quickly ensuring that they don't get destroyed within seconds. Helicopters are now automated "rail shooter" sequences that occur during certain stages, slightly reminiscent of some classic Sega arcade games. Finally there are stationary turrets, which prove quite useful in particularly large shootouts, particularly with airborne enemies (who are particularly fast and vicious in this game.

By far my favorite added feature, though, is online co-op. Up to three players (or six in Survival mode) can take part in missions, and experience points, weapons gained and even stages completed are shared between all players. Fallen teammates can be revived now, which is a godsend when the action starts getting really frantic.

Insect Armageddon takes an already thrilling game experience and adds some impressive improvements to the formula. If you're looking for one of the greatest multiplayer experiences out there at a relatively inexpensive price ($40 brand new!), look no further.


Pick up the PS3 version and meet me online!
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