With a sci-fi vibe hearkening back to the 50’s with giant ants, spiders, huge robots, and a giant mothership behind it all, the third person action of Earth Defense Force 2017 might seem out of place in today’s world of Half Life 2 and Halo. It may not be what players might expect to see as a ‘next gen’ title, but saving the world from giant bugs and robots is still a lot of fun as Sandlot brings this latest chapter in their long running series to invade Microsoft’s console.
Earth Defense Force 2017 remembered its training on the 360.
We Get Signal
The story that feels like a homage to the kaiju films of old complete with giant dinosaurs, colossal ants, and alien spacecraft ready to crush humanity. Just as Godhand’s campy humor and deliberate cheese gave action fans a unique beat ’em up from Clover, Earth Defense Force 2017 from Sandlot feels like it does the same thing. There’s not much to the story, but it won’t be something that you’ll be worried about while stepping in as Earth’s ultimate Orkin man.
The story starts out with a signal detected in deep space, confirming that we’re no longer alone in the universe although we would soon wish we were. The Earth Defense Force is formed ‘just in case’ the aliens that we know are coming turn out to be the bad kind. In 2017, they arrive, and they’re not asking to be taken to our leaders as they start dumping giant ants on the streets of Tokyo. As a nameless captain in the EDF, you’ll take to the streets, the hills, the beaches, and even head underground with fellow EDF soldiers to send the aliens back into space in a game that can feel like a cross between Konami’s Contra and Sega’s Alien Syndrome.
Gear Up for Battle
Over fifty plus missions tell the story of the fight against the aliens, dubbed the ‘Ravagers’, as you try and do your part to save Earth from being overrun. Before starting any mission, you’ll get the chance to equip yourself with two weapons from what starts out as a pitiful arsenal of destruction that will improve as you find more toys on the battlefield when they are dropped by dead invaders. Machine guns, sniper rifles, missiles, flame throwers, and grenade launchers are only a few of the tools that you’ll be using to wipe out them out with more powerful ones appearing at the higher difficulty levels. Some missions will also allow you to drive or fly a variety of vehicles, although they leave a lot to be desired in the controls department. Fortunately, movement is smoothly handled on foot and the camera gives you a good view of what is ahead of you as you simply point and shoot. There’s no need to worry about ammo, either, only reload times, as the game gets the point across that you’re there to save the Earth and not worry about something so trivial as whether your uniform has enough pockets for your clips. EDF is all about all out warfare against aliens that apparently have never watched Independence Day and takes its cue from old school arcade shooters where the only thing you have to worry about is whether you can survive.
When you’ve picked a mission to play and have your favorite weapons in tow, it’s time to pick a difficulty level. If you’re no stranger to third person action titles, the normal difficulty won’t pose much of a challenge until the final few missions and easy is, well, extremely easy. At the higher difficulties, though, the aliens are much tougher and hit even harder, but the rewards are greater as some of the best weapons will only be dropped by the bad guys when they can laugh at your attempts to stop them. The game boasts about 150 weapons in total with others rewarded at each difficulty level that all of missions are completed at.
Extra armor will also be dropped to help improve how much damage you can take in every battle and with the ability to repeat any of the missions at any difficulty level, working on improving your odds by collecting these spoils can easily become something that can be a lot of fun…even if it is just to test how effective that new missile launcher can really be against a horde of giant spiders. Even then, the game is pretty forgiving to the player, as you won’t get killed if a building falls on top of you or if an alien spaceship explodes in your face. The only damage that you’ll receive is if it coming from the enemy in the form of acid blobs, deadly webbing, or flying plasma bolts just to name a few things that you’ll need to actually avoid. Just don’t forget to save your progress whenever you finish a mission and want to keep any new toys that you had just earned.
Don’t Worry, They Can Rebuild It
When you first start out on the streets of the city, the fact that you can demolish most everything that you can see is what will probably be what you might worry about for a whole two seconds until you realize that it doesn’t matter if those grenades just took out a skyscraper. You’re part of the EDF. Property values aren’t high on your list of priorities when the fate of humanity is in jeopardy. If you can’t get a shot at a cluster of giant ants crawling all over the buildings a block away, level the block. The people have been evacuated. The city has no health bar.
Before being turned into rubble, though, the city doesn’t look half bad with plenty of storefronts, apartments, office buildings, and plenty of street level detail right down to the blinking traffic lights that you can shoot. Everything is destructible, although not everything blows up so don’t expect trees to splinter, signs to shatter into burning metal fragments, or cars to explode when your bullets bounce them down the street. There’s also the fact that huge, crashing alien starships, will clip through the landscape, and you, as it falls from the sky or that a building falling on top of you and your team won’t kill anyone. But it all looks good, if a little strange, and that’s all that the game really cares about. But there’s also a price to pay for all of the pyrotechnics that are thrown around. In exceptionally busy scenes overflowing with fiery explosions and special effects, the game can literally slow to a crawl which was surprising after seeing how smoothly it handles swarms of insect invaders.
There are also little details scattered here and there, such as stairs in some of the buildings that you can use to climb up to the top or windows through which you can actually see shelves and other objects. Unfortunately, you can’t shoot through the windows to enter the store to look for some needed health packs if the aliens haven’t dropped any lately, but the amount of detail is still impressive. The other areas, such as the hills and beaches, are also as vast as the city with bridges and small homes scattered everywhere making much of the game feel like a destructible Grand Theft Auto.
Alien ants are only the first of many invaders that you’ll face, and they’ll scurry around climbing over buildings and swarming you when you get their attention. Seeing your in-game radar covered in red dots that suddenly start surging towards you can get the adrenaline going, especially at the higher difficulty levels when you know that being surrounded usually means that you won’t be coming back alive. Huge spiders will also hop into the scene and giant, chrome plated, walkers that have come to kill humanity’s love for Robby the Robot will rain purple plasma down on your parade. Throw in plenty of spacecraft, giant dinosaurs armed with alien technology, and a mothership with its own theme music, and you’ve got a lot of targets to take out. And when you think you’ve stopped one wave, another might just appear at the edge of your radar map.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Along with the aliens, there are also fellow EDF soldiers that you can hook up with in the field for added firepower. They’ll follow you around as best they can and will fight whatever you lead them to although you can’t give them any orders. If you happen to take one of your buddies out with friendly fire, though, don’t worry. The others will avenge his death by continuing to fight against the aliens, leaving you blameless. You might feel bad, but the game won’t. This can also kind of get silly as you can take command of a troop of soldiers simply by taking out the commander that they start off with without worrying about the game court martialling you.
Plenty of campy dialog that feels as if it were pulled right out from the tongue-in-cheek sci-fi that has apparently inspired it will filter through your speakers as you pick up radio transmissions from HQ or from the soldiers around you. Troops that are with you will talk amongst each other and enthusiastically yell out memorable lines such as “Remember your training!” or scream in terror as they fight the invaders. There’s also plenty of melodrama in between these snippets such as when HQ utters “Damn you, mothership!” when it makes a break to get away.
EDF’s thrifty take on sci-fi isn’t for everyone, though, and might actually be disappointing to those looking for something a little more serious. The dialog fits in with the overall feel of the title as a ‘budget’ shooter and complements the chaotic action onscreen even though the story isn’t anything to write home about. Much like the simple fun of Space Invaders, EDF doesn’t do much more than to give the player a gun and the enemies to use it against which some next-gen players may not expect outside the 360’s Marketplace release of Contra.
The variety of stuff that you can destroy in the game can be a lot of fun but some of the missions and much of what you will be fighting can get really repetitive. Granted, some missions may only take a few minutes to get through, but others can be long, tedious affairs that can test your patience as you try to find and kill that last alien bug that might be stuck somewhere just to continue. The action basically boils down to killing every red dot on your radar screen so don’t expect too much more in the way of objectives. Unfortunately, given the huge spaces that you will be doing battle in, that can also mean a lot of running around to get to where you can take out that last enemy. And if you don’t have the right weapon for a particular mission, it might never end as a flying fighter that refuses to come down and attack you remains out of range which is actually what had happened to me forcing a reload with the right gear.
It also doesn’t help that your fellow soldiers are also as smart as a sack of rocks and will often run blindly ahead into a mass of aliens and get slaughtered…if not by getting hit with acid, then by getting blasted in the back by accident with one of your bullets when they run into your line of fire. They’re still handy to have, but on the higher difficulty levels, they’re only useful enough to distract the enemy while you plan your real attack. At least the aliens aren’t much smarter.
The camera which works pretty well, but often at the start of some missions, the game will take control of it to dramatize something that it thinks you should pay attention to taking it out of your hands when all you want to do is start shooting. This can be annoying, especially since you can still move around and pretend to aim at things that you can’t see. You also can’t cancel out of this view until the game is done with it and if you’ve been running around trying to shake it, it can be disorienting when it finally returns to your control.
There’s also no multiplayer on Live!, such as co-op, which would have been great to have although two players can still help each other out in split screen action with an extra controller to add shelf life to the title. The game can last a little under eight or so hours on normal, which might make it rental material to players hoping for more than just the run ‘n gun action that it delivers, and the number of achievements are as sparse as the gameplay with basic marks awarded for finishing all of the missions at each of the difficulty levels and for collecting all of the weapons.
For Great Justice
It can be repetitive, you might get bored to tears you hunt for that last bug, and the AI is as smart as the rubble you will be leaving in your wake, but the explosive action and devastating firepower that can be liberally sprinkled on every fight in the game helps to keep things oddly fun and exciting. It’s Space Invaders for today’s gamers masquerading as sci-fi fanservice for those looking to save the world while leveling everything in their way to the mothership. It’s not for everyone, though, and its narrow appeal may make it a hard sell to players that may not appreciate its simple approach to saving the world. But if you’re the kind of gamer that is looking to face hordes of alien insects and fondly remembers the days of Godzilla and the Thunderbirds, then Earth Defense Force 2017 may be what your trigger finger is looking for.
– World 1-1