Earth Defense Force 2017 Review
Let's face it: you haven't killed enough ants, spiders, robots, and UFOs today. But don't worry! Luckily, there's a new game out for Xbox 360 that will remedy this very quickly: Earth Defense Force 2017. By the time you've spent an hour in this game, you'll easily have met your quota on insect and robot killings.
EDF is the newest game from D3 Publisher and Japanese developer Sandlot. It's actually the third game in a series that previously was only available in Japan, so it got a quick rename for the American market and here we are. You'll play as a mostly nameless soldier with the Earth Defense Force - your only designation is Storm One. And when some alien force comes in dropping thousands of massive, mutant insects and robots all over your precious Tokyo, you're going to have to take it to them with massive firepower.
The game is split up into over 50 levels and five difficulty levels. While your character can get health increases by picking up Armor icons dropped by enemies throughout each level, the real draw here is in picking up new weapons which are dropped a little more rarely. With these new guns you'll be able to dish out more pain and kill more stuff. And you're going to need those guns, because you'll have dozens of things swarming all around you for pretty much most of the game.
Each mission requires a return to the menu once you're done, and each one takes place either in Tokyo itself or in bits of countryside elsewhere in Japan. I enjoy the cities most, as your insect buddies can actually crawl all over buildings, then you can take them out with explosives and spill the creatures down onto the ground (possibly killing them). Destruction on a massive scale is definitely a possibility here in EDF 2017, and in many stages, it's a requirement. From huge bosses to seemingly endless swarms of monsters, the scale of this game simply can't be beat on the Xbox 360. If you ever played theSerious Sam games, just picture that butin a modern Japanese monster movie with even more powerful guns.
You'll get to choose two weapons to take into a level, so careful selection isimportant. It's often a good idea to jump into a level to "scout" it out, then drop back to the menu and pick appropriate guns. The weapon and armor pickups you'll snag aren't actually unlocked until after you've completed the level successfully, so there's no way to swap out the two you chose for others in mid-stage. You will have unlimited ammo, though, but you'll also have to consider the strategy of a weapon that may have awesome firepower but long reload times. You can dodge around to avoid enemies and their attacks while reloading, but time spent dancing around is more time for the swarms to surround you.
In total, there are around 170 weapons in Earth Defense Force 2017. They all fall into one of several categories: Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Rocket Launchers, Missile Launchers (these have homing systems), Grenades, and Special Weapons. Some weapons are tweaked versions of others, where you might lose firing rate or projectile velocity for more damage or something like that. Some weapons will have special properties, like the ability for the bullets to bounce off walls or pass through enemies and onto the next, while you might get unique spread-shot capabilities out of others. And as you go on, weapons do improve; you'll have ten or twenty times the firepower with the final assault rifle as you have with the first. The game supplies lots of numbers so that you can do the math to maximize damage if you want, or you can just pick the one that sounds the meanest and go try it yourself to see what it's like.
Offline cooperative play is also included, with a side-by-side split screen that lets each player choose their own set of unique weapons. At first the strategy behind this isn't obvious, but in the later game and on higher difficulties, the need for precise long-distance fire combined with explosives as well as decent assault rifle fire will be necessary. Toss in a few sentry guns to toss down to keep a perimeter up, and you've got a winning combination. Be careful, though, because in co-op play, you and your buddy can hurt or kill each other fairly easily. There are also often AI soldiers to roll with, and these guys do get improvements in firepower as you get further into the game or turn up the difficulty level. Still, they're often little more than speed bumps for the hordes of enemies, and you'll sometimes have to use them for exactly that purpose - as a small delay before everything starts coming after you.
Vehicles were a pretty important part of past EDF games, but sadly, they're hardly worth even bothering with here. You've got a little speeder bike that reminds me of Return of the Jedi speeders, along with a tank, helicopter, and battle mech. All of the vehicles are sluggish and unwieldy, and there usually isn't an easy way to aim them precisely. A couple of them have multiple weapons which can be fired at the same time, but overall they still don't have as much firepower as what you can hold in your hands (especially once you get into the later stages and difficulty levels beyond Normal). It'd be better if the vehicles could somehow be upgraded or customized to be more in-line with the potency of the guns you've unlocked, but as it is the uselessness of the vehicles becomes apparent long before you've even finished the first 20 stages. The only real, useful strategy I've seen with the vehicles is to use a helicopter to get on top of a tall building to snipe some of the tougher enemies, which can actually be pretty effective in co-op.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few more disappointments you'll find amongst all the badass bug-killing. The voice acting is really bad, and while this can sometimes be a fun or good thing, there's so much of it in this game. From the woman at Command HQ droning out doom and gloom as to how the rest of the world's getting destroyed to your idiot buddies constantly complaining about running out of ammo (despite the fact that your weapons have infinite ammo) and screaming out all kinds of random crap, it got annoying fast - luckily, you have the option of turning off speech entirely as well. But the buildings also are rather unrealistic, as they crumble into basically nothing with the slightest touch of any explosion. Your own character looks exactly like everyone else's, and aside from Armor pickups to increase your maximum health, there's no way to change your appearance. It's fine at the beginning of the game, but by the end, when you're destroying everything in a 3-block radius in mere seconds, you'll still be in your goofy cloth uniform.
Despite the issues, though, Earth Defense Force 2017 is a refreshing kind of fun that the 360 hasn't really seen. Sure, they could have drastically improved the presentation, but this game is coming in at a very reasonable $39.99 price. For that, I can forgive D3 and Sandlot for the super-cheesy aesthetics and lack of online play, and just focus on the big boom booms and great offline cooperative action. If you can get past the goofy presentation and dig into the massive battles, then you'll definitely consider this to be $40 well-spent.