Not every achievement is a ‘good’ achievement. The first achievement that this immediately brings to mind is the one to look up Juliet’s skirt in Lollipop Chainsaw. Similar to the act of going on a date with Pamela Handerson, the achievement pop quickly transitions from accomplishment into a deep, deep shame. This weekend, I fired up Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, and hours later received the titular achievement for having killed 10,00 ants, and I immediately realized that I had sunk some serious time into this (rather silly) game. I purchased it way back during a Steam sale with a strong sense of nostalgia towards my time with the game on the 360 - 40 hours well spent - thinking it could be fun to play through again on my PC. Then it sat there, cold and alone, until I started clearing out my backlog. Before I knew, it, I had murdered an army. Get it? Army. Ants. Ahh….I crack myself up.
So what makes a game so compelling where I would abandon my social life to hermit myself away and play it for 12 overs over the course of two days? It isn’t much, because my social life doesn’t exist! But if it did, EDF would have some kind of mindless, visceral, old school charms to it. The core gameplay pits you (and 2 AI teammates) against a horde of robotic nightmare fuel in the form of 10 foot tall ants, 15 foot tall spiders, and 20 foot tall robotic wasps, generally attacking in the hundreds per level. I would say, on average, each level had me killing about 400 enemies. Carry the four...that would mean about 25 distinct levels played, if the only enemies were ants, so maybe that achievement isn’t that bad. Or my math is off. Either way, you get two weapons to face off the horde. Is there cover? No. Does your health regenerate? No. Do you move super slow? Man, I literally have rockets on my ankles, no. This is an old school feeling game all about managing which enemy you kill first, using health pickups to manage your ever depleting life, watching your ammo cooldown (different than DOOM games - you have unlimited ammo, but you have a meter that governs your reload and your secondary powers, in my case: flight). You constantly have to be aware of your own positioning, enemy spawns, and splash radiuses. What I am saying is, the gameplay is pretty solid.
What’s more, the levels are short, so I never feel any time pressure. I could always just squeeze in a level or two while I wait for [Nachos/New Youtube video/new DToid article]. But the gameplay gets kind of old on its own, so I usually space out with Last.FM playing and try to find some new music to listen to. So far, I have found a mashup of Metallica and Lady Gaga, a band that sounds like Mindless Self Indulgence, and a cover of ‘The Power of Love’. So a pretty good haul. But it is nice to have a game where you can just sit back, chill to some music, kill some bugs. Maybe its just the DOTA and Serious Sam stress speaking, but I do enjoy me some Heroin Hero games.
On that note, the difficulty curve for this game is pretty cool as well - there are 3 difficulties, accessible anytime. You can level up to a level cap for each difficulty, but the harder ones give more experience. So if you are are bored on easy, restart on hard. Bored on hard? Restart on Inferno. Can’t pass a level on medium? Grind out some gear in hard. You unlock tiers of weapons that you can use, so every time you level up you get to reevaluate your life/gear. There is never a point where a tier doesn’t have a strict upgrade, but other times you will find new hilarious weapons. See, part of the trademark of EDF are weapons that do something...unexpected. Examples:
A grenade with an explosion radius larger than the distance you can throw the grenade.
A gun that fires missiles that travel as fast as you run.
Missiles that target carbon based enemies (all enemies in the game are silicate based)
Homing sniper rifle
Of course, the granddaddy of all of these weapons are the pesticide/insecticide guns, only obtained at tier 8: the most sacred of tiers. Let me give you an example of why these guns are amazing - at level 7 I have a grenade launcher. It deals 6,000 damage across 3 projectiles, each with an explosion radius of 50 units (feet/meters - I forget which it uses). I forget the exact numbers, but I believe the insecticide gun for the soldier class I had on the 360 dealt something like 30,000 damage in a 2000 unit radius. This meant that you almost could not fire it without killing yourself. You have to target the opposite side of the map to use it properly. The screen turns pure white for several seconds. Then it takes 30 seconds to reload. There are no survivors. So I am working towards that gun for the jet class - which is a sniper rifle. I have no idea what it does. I’m scared. Hold me.
The game currently goes for 10 dollars on the PC, 12 if you get all the DLC (weapon packs whoooooo). There are 4 classes - the one that flies, the one that revives people faster, the one that has...a shield? I think? And one with turrets and stuff maybe? Look, I have only played the first two, but it is a lot of fun. Also, to keep selling this game, it would be perfect for game-curious people. Many of the weapons in the game have an auto lock on included, so you dont even have to know how to aim to enjoy it. You can just spray and pray, lay down some AoE effects, or just sit and wait to be revived. I played 2017 with my brother in law, who doesn’t game much, and we still managed to have an absolute blast with it. I think that this game has some good changes over the previous to make it more accessible (the levels, the ability to get downed teammates back up, tiered weapons, less ‘gag’ weapons but still some genuinely fun ones). Basically, this game is a darn fine romp. I would love to see the next EDF game make it to PC as well, if possible, so feel free to support these guys. A budget fast paced shooter? People love that stuff, right?
Also, because I had beaten the game to death previously, I wanted to do something to entertain myself while playing it, so I decided to do one of those Let’s Play things I have heard so much about on the internet. I plan on showing each level off, and the level 8 gun, in beautiful 480p because I don’t understand how the software works.
Allow me to expand on that: You can get a free software called MSI Afterburner. This software includes a frame counter and video capture. Neat! It has no watermarks or any other ‘trial version’ limitations. So what makes it difficult to use? I tried to do a Dark Souls playthrough with it...well...I did do the playthrough, but I tried to upload it. My half hour clip takes up about 4 GB with the base compression from Afterburner, which is pretty good all things considered. However, the audio comes as dual channel, meaning there is one track from my microphone, and one from the game background. For people with good software this would be nice as I imagine you could mix the levels or something. For me though, it meant that only one track would upload to YouTube at a time, which was a problem. I could mix the tracks, but then I got a free pass to the S.S. Stuttering, so that wasn’t an option. So I looked up Fraps, and people complained that it didn’t have split channels, so I knew I was set. All mixed, all the time. After double checking that the demo worked, I got a license. And a half hour clip (recorded at some weird resolution no one should ever use) took up 13 GB. Which takes about 1000 minutes to upload to YouTube. And then some to process.
Huh. Well, I clearly needed to compress the video, which I figured would make it look like garbage. Fortunately, I had VIrtualDub, another piece of software from the internet that required me to run an .exe file that I didn’t know about previously on my computer. Awesome. Protip: Always run .exe files on your most beloved computer. They are always not viruses. VirtualDub had some built in codecs for compression. I tried one, and the quality was terrible, I tried another and the size was still bloated (about 8 GB). Not to say it is a problem to wait for ten hours while a video uploads, but I just don’t want to. So I googled some more and found a video compression codec (x264vfw) that people apparently use. So I went to a website with a link that told me to download an .exe file to run on my computer. Awesome! Naturally I ran it as fast as I could, right before sending my credit card information to this nice Nigerian man. As far as I know it was legit, and it must have some kind of witch magic installed in it, because holy cow does it work. It takes 8 GB files down to 500-750 MB files, without a major loss in quality (YouTube kills the rest of the quality). Also worth noting that between Fraps and VirtualDub compressing, my framerate would drop beneath 20, and this game does not deserve that honor (although chrome is currently running at 8 according to the ticker I didn’t turn off, so maybe…). So I couldn’t record while compressing videos, which lead to more grinding, which lead to more levels, which leads to more grinding. So all in all, 3 programs to get game to YouTube in 480p. All in all, an interesting process to walk through! You can see the fruits of this labor below if you want: