The next Earth Defense Force game, another in the line of giant bug-killing shoot 'em ups, is being made by an American team, not original developer Sandlot. Maybe it's the best thing to ever happen to Earth Defense Force...
Vicious Cycle's take on on the B-movie brand of arcadey third person shooting action, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, does a few things refreshingly right. It has a (mostly) smooth frame rate when giant ants, spiders, wasps and explosions fill the screen. Buildings crumble dynamically and more believably. Spectacularly? Not quite, as they fall apart with B-movie realism.
There's also online cooperative multiplayer action via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, with drop-in/drop-out campaign play and a big Survival Mode for up to six players.
Insect Armageddon even borrows a Gears of War innovation, the "active reload" mechanic, for this entry. When reloading one of the game's 300-plus unique weapons, players have an opportunity (if timed right) to reload more quickly. When massive wasps are bearing down on your soldier on an empty clip, you'll thank Vicious Cycle for the addition.
Vicious Cycle hews closely to the strangely addictive run and gun gameplay of Sandlot's entries, with a game that looks more American, thanks to Western style architecture and suits of armor that look more like something Master Chief might wear. No Japanese 70s space suits or lady soldiers in short skirts.
The developer says it's aiming for that budget B-movie feel, but is concerned about trying too hard to make it intentionally hokey.
A round of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon plays a lot like its made-in-Japan predecessors. You're dumped into a massive city area of New Detroit and quickly swarmed by huge ants, spiders, spaceships and more. It's amusing that those alien spacecraft seem more delicate than mutated wasps. It's entertaining to shoot everything to smithereens, to crumble buildings while your teammates stand on top of them.
We played some of Insect Armageddon's cooperative story mode, in which players can choose from four classes of anti-insect infantry. The Battle armor is bulky and comes with an energy shield that protects against bug attacks. It can also deploy a massive explosion to clear a city block's street of bugs. Jet armor lets a player fly and float around a level, helpful when surrounded by ants. The Tactical class has the ability to deploy automated turrets and the Trooper class, your all-around character, the only one you'll have access to in Survival Mode, by the way.
Survival Mode is largely self-descriptive. Face wave after wave of alien terror and insect swarm, with each player receiving a limited weapon supply and a limited number of chances to revive their teammates.
We toyed with only a handful of the game's hundreds of weapons, which include assault rifles, rocket launchers, energy weapons, sniper rifles and grenade launchers. Tanks, mechs and showcase weapons like a tactical nuke add a little variety to the standard run and gun stuff.
Right now, it looks like Vicious Cycle is delivering the core experience of Earth Defense Force's brand of simple, shoot everything you see glee, with a dash of Western game experience. It's coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on July 5, intentionally full of bugs.