It's not everyday that you see a giant ant crawling across a skyscraper, reach the ground and then charge you head on. One is surreal enough, but an army of giant ants all intent upon your demise is something that only psychotropic substances can handle. So come, if you please, into the wondrous world of The Chikyuu Boueigun.
The Chikyuu Boueigun aka Earth Defence Force is released under the "SIMPLE 2000" label, and is aimed at punters with not much money and who want a satisfyingly quick gaming experience. Developer Sandlot have risen to the challenge and used a heavily modified engine from their groundbreaking title, Gigantic Drive. What all this translates to in terms of gameplay is that the game is no nonsense action against vertically well-endowed opponents.
This is a budget title, with budget sensibilities. The story is a barebone B-movie alien invasion scenario and YOU are the last line of defence against the alien onslaught. This onslaught is also pretty comprehensive: not only do you have giant ants scurrying over vast (and satisfyingly destructible) cities, but you also have huge alien motherships, alien fighter craft and giant lizards all dedicated to leaving our humble planet in a noticeable state of disrepair.
The main thrust of the game has you set in an environment, whether it be in a city or a grassy mountain range, with the sole task of obliterating the alien scourge. Action is undertaken in the third person and your character only has access to two type weapons, of which the defaults are that of a machine gun and rocket launcher. These can be changed though, as various foes deposit power-ups upon their destruction. These power ups, such as extra weapons (of which there are hundreds) and increased armour, can be then used on a subsequent sortie. Weapons vary from grenade launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, missile launchers (that track enemies) and various other weird alien weaponry that only a B-movie Sci-Fi ethos can create (an energy machine gun that has bouncing bullets is worthy of a mention in this respect).
The areas are enormous in size and are host to a diverse set of adversaries. Thankfully your employers have decked you out with various vehicles, these are the fast but difficult to handle airbike, a very beefy and competent tank and an inexplicably cumbersome helicopter.
Each vehicle has its own nuances, but they are tricky to control. This idiosyncrasy doesn't translate to the main in-game controls however. The controls consist of two types, "normal" and "technical". "Normal" control is the default setting that simply allows the player to point and shoot. Manual aiming is impossible but the game is playable. The "technical" configuration utilises both analogue sticks in a manner not that dissimilar to many FPS games. Unsurprisingly the latter is more satisfying and considerably more manageable.
Set over a surprisingly diverse 25 missions and across multiple difficulty settings (with the "Inferno" difficulty setting being no means for the faint of heart). The final set of missions are suitably impressive and the final "boss" encounter is nothing short of epic. Coupled with this expansive singleplayer aspect is a two-fold versus capability. Sandlot were intelligent enough to allow all 25 missions to be played co-operatively and, unsurprisingly, this adds a lot to the game. Whilst you may be in the process of handling a tightly packed swarm of giant red ants your friend can be taking down multiple alien UFO carriers so as to stop the enemies from being re-spawned. Admittedly, it isn't overtly cerebral but the sheer amount of opposition is something that can be approached tactically. On top of this co-operative aspect, there is 'Vanilla Deathmatch Versus'. In all honesty, the deathmatch facet of The Chikyuu Boueigun is a little flaky because both opponents appear relatively small (especially when compared to the alien horde that has to be smited in the main campaign). This can make matches a tad drawn out and a little frustrating due to not being able to clearly see your opponent, though the in-game radar does help to partially locate your foe and assuage this problem.
The Chikyuu Boueigun is by no means a faultless game though. The framerate can be very shoddy at times, normally when there are troupes of angry ants around. That being said, whilst the framerate is shocking on occasions, the sheer amount of enemies that the player has to deal with normally means that the last thing they can think about is the dodgy framerate. So, it is a point to the game's discredit but the sheer freneticism of the gameplay almost eclipses this.
The physics is also somewhat non-existent (exiting a helicopter from a dizzying height will not have the player splat themselves upon their return to firm ground). Yet, for all these faults, The Chikyuu Boueigun remains an impressively enjoyable experience for one very good reason; it doesn't try to be anything else than a romp of insect trashing carnage, and a romp that is remarkably affordable at that.
For those that want something a little off the beaten track, in gaming terms, but still want to be entertained by utterly stupendous levels of alien butchery and not thrashed by some immortal learning curve, then try The Chikyuu Boueigun. You will most certainly love every ant squishing minute of it.
Text by Ollie Barder