Earth Defense Force 2017 Review
Written : Saturday, August 04, 2007
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
Developed by Japanese newcomer Sandlot, Earth Defense Force 2017 has you taking on the role of a faceless, nameless warrior in the mighty alliance of the Earth Defense Force. The year is 2017 and the entire world is under attack by a highly advanced alien life-form. Seemingly impossible odds and a very basic, though thoroughly enjoyable experience meet full-force to create one of the most raw, pleasurable games released for the 360 yet. Much akin to your favorite B-movie, the plot and look of Earth Defense Force take a backseat to the pure enjoyment of the execution. Each stage, a ridiculous 53 in all, you will take on a non-stop barrage of enemies that range from giant ants to flying run-ships, complete with spiders and dinosaur/machine hybrids. That's really about it. No side missions, no clever plot twists. There's some aliens attacking earth and you are just the nameless, faceless soldier to take them down. While it may sound terribly repetitive (and in some respects, it is), the ridiculous enjoyment you'll get out of watching a horde of ants and spiders explode in a downpour of colored blood far outweighs any sense of familiarity to the experience you had on the level previous. The controls are extremely simple and handle well, but at times the game suffers from a drop in the frames per second, and at times slows down to a crawl, especially when large explosions hit close to you.
The red dots are enemies. Yes, all of them.
As I mentioned, the plot and look take a backseat to the gameplay itself, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are terrible. While the motions of your character are extremely stiff (jumping feels almost like stop-animation at times, your body doesn't seem to move positions, but it goes up and down in relation to the background), the functionality is not really lost. You can perform dives, do a 360 turn and fire all your weapons with ease, though it surely doesn't look beautiful. The environments got slightly more attention however, with sprawling cities and elevated roadways which look decent, but the fact that with a single rocket, the entire structure comes down and turns into a very small pile of rubble shows just how little they cared about making the game realistic in anyway. Well, realistic as possible considering there is an alien race made of ants, spiders and robots that are invading the Earth, anyway. The enemies seem to have received the most care graphic-wise. Their movements are much more fluid and believable, especially in the case of the jumping spiders (complete with Spider-Man style web-slinging) and the flying gunships with dual lasers also look quite nice.
The sound in the game is surprisingly good for a Japanese port, although there isn't much of it. Normally the voice-acting gets all confused and makes no sense ("All your base are belong to us" sound familiar?), but the directions from your commander and the news briefs from the radio are all very good. The explosions from enemies are impressive, both the normal kind and when the ants/spiders explode upon death are well done. The best touch I felt was the old-school arcade sound when you make a selection on the menus. Think of Street Fighter or something you used to play at the arcade and that's what you get in this one.
As I mentioned briefly above, the plot is a full-out, planet-wide war against a race of alien invaders, progressed very seldom by updates you get through your headset. An unseen woman provides updates to your squad as the war turns more and more hopeless, accounts of entire countries falling before the alien wave continually come in. It serves to make it feel like it's truly a one man battle at times and that you are the only hope left for humanity. This is executed the best in the final missions against the alien mothership, as you are seemingly the last EDF member left alive, fighting the entire mothership by yourself, as the updates come in that someone is fighting valiantly though all hope seems lost. Upon completion of this battle, even after 53 levels and countless dead aliens, your character is still snubbed of any direct recognition, the final words scrolling by, "...shouting one name: Earth Defense Force!" - At some point, this poor guy should get a medal or something.
Believe it or not, that disco ball is dangerous.
To somewhat break up the monotony of doing the same thing for 53 levels, you are given an extensive arsenal to equip yourself with from level to level, the only catch being a two weapon limit per level. So you can choose to have a machine-gun and some grenades, or perhaps a rocket launcher and an auto-turret, or maybe you'll feel extremely cheeky and go into battle with a shotgun and a flamethrower. However you choose to do battle, your choices could prove your success, or your untimely demise, as a shotgun against the dino-mech most likely wouldn't be a prudent option, and a sniper with a thousand red ants streaming toward you might be a tad overzealous. Luckily, ammo is not a concern, seeing as every weapon has an unlimited supply, once again showing the creators saw to maximize the enjoyment, because there's nothing worse than running out of ammo with a sea of ants headed your way. Although that's not to say combat is a no-brainer. If you pick the wrong weapon for the wrong level, you could be in for some pain. However, if you've made the wrong weapon choice, you may get lucky and find yourself on a battlefield with one of the EDF's four vehicle-based weapons (tank, chopper, airbike and mech suit). To be honest, I did not use a single one of them, as I was too enthused with being on foot and surrounded by countless enemies, spinning 360 degrees and laying down clip after clip into a sea of enemies. Truly an invigorating experience, to say the least.
Achievement-wise, the creators seem to have relied on the genuine enjoyable gameplay, because you have to go through every level separately on Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest and Inferno, as well as collect every single weapon in the game, 171 in all, some only available after completing all the levels on a certain difficulty. The game proves no challenge for the first few play throughs, though Hardest and Inferno will test you at some points, but with a good knowledge of the levels and weapons there shouldn't be too much trouble surviving. If you’re still struggling, co-op mode is always a welcome option, pitting you and a friend against the sea of aliens, rather than standing alone with your useless squad. Unfortunately however, co-op is only available split-screen and not over Xbox Live. Quite a serious omission for an Xbox 360 title.
Overall this is a very good game, albeit a little under produced. There's quite a lot of fun to be had as long as you're not expecting perfect mechanics or anything spectacular graphically. Look past its small flaws and you'll get a very good experience out of it. Definitely a good first outing from developer Sandlot. I'd be very interested to see what they're working on next.
There are a few voices in the game, all acted fairly well. The guns, explosions and dying enemies all sound good, but it’s nothing new or spectacular by any means. Does it’s job and nothing more.
The graphics are severely lacking in most aspects, but they actually help to further the simple, fun vibe of the game. It isn’t all that pretty to look at, but the bugs look decent, and when that’s pretty much all you can see on your screen (which is often), then it’s not half bad.
The entire game is point and shoot, with a few barrel rolls thrown in for good measure. The vehicles are slightly more complicated, but you’ll probably find yourself having more fun on your own two feet anyway, so it’s no real worry.
The sheer enjoyment factor is top-notch and you can really see that the creators were making a simple, effective gaming experience with a largely B-movie feel, and they far exceeded any expectations I had for the title.
This game will take patience and a decent amount of time. Doing the same level 5 times, then doing that 53 times might turn old pretty quick, and even after that, sometimes it can take a while to find your last few weapons, which can get frustrating.
While EDF most certainly won’t win any gaming awards, they also don’t have a category for “Most Enjoyable” which is truly a shame, because this could have a great shot at the title.