Reviewing a game like Earth Defense Force 2017 can be tricky because on one hand the game is cheesy, mindless, and definitely has the odor of a budget title. On the other hand though, anyone who plays the game will almost immediately get the feeling that a cheesy, mindless, budget title is exactly what the makers of the game (Sandlot and D3 Publisher) were going for from the start. The developers were going for a B-movie vibe and they came up with a perfect Godzilla/War of the Worlds/Startship Troopers mash-up. Well, “perfect” may be a bit of a stretch. While yes, the overall setup and atmosphere does fit the game, it’s hard not to think just how much better the game could have been if the developers had tried to make an epic alien monster game on the level of Hollywood blockbusters like Aliens and the before mentioned War of the Worlds instead of a straight-to-DVD movie.
In the future, man discovers alien life, or rather alien life discovers man. The game starts when multiple UFOs appear above what seems to be a Japanese city. The humans try to set up negotiations with the E.T.s, and while some believe the aliens are peaceful, as a precautionary measure mankind forms the Earth Defense Force just incase the extra terrestrials reveal themselves to be a hostile group. And wouldn’t you know it, those damn alien bastards turn out to be meaner and more dangerous than Rosie O’Donnell after someone ate the last piece of pie. Ranger and Storm teams of the Earth Defense are deployed when negotiations break down and cities are initially attacked by huge ants (a resulting product of the aliens). It’s a standard, no frills plot, and once you get past the first handful of missions you’ll realize the story is basically on pause until the end.
Other than what I just laid out for you, there is absolutely no hint of any plot progression anywhere in the campaign. There is no back story whatsoever for your character. You’re just a nameless cookie cutter soldier with a gun. Sure there are quirky little games without much plot out there (Katamari Damacy, and Mr. Mosquito come to mind), but EDF is on another level when you factor in the all too repetitive and eventually uninteresting action gameplay. After about the 20th mission I was begging for a story about my character just to shake things up a bit. I didn’t even care if it was the most generic story ever told. My character could’ve been named Nash McBullets. He could have been a cop on the edge after his partner was abducted by the aliens. The chief of police could have sent him in to single handedly fight the giant bugs after Nash realizes he is “the one”, and only he has special powers to help him battle the evil forces. Nash could have been part alien, part human, and part vampire for all I cared. But alas, the developers seemed to have said “%^*@ the story, let’s just focus on the gameplay and action.” Maybe this wouldn’t have been such a big gripe of mine if the action had been something to write home about.
The gameplay in Earth Defense Force is a small tragedy unto itself. Your foes are all the same from start to finish. Sure, every few missions you’ll get a “new” bug or alien to fight, but in reality they’re all the same. Case-in-point, the black ants. These overgrown ants are your first enemy in the game. You’ll fight wave after wave after wave of black ants throughout your adventure, and you’ll quickly realize ant #1 is the same as ant #300 is the same as ant #3000. So to spice things up, the developers give you a new foe to battle . . . red ants! Funny thing is, though the red ants are almost exact copies of the black ants except that the red ants are red (obviously) and have projectile attacks, but the new attacks are so weak and easy to dodge that you’ll just be able to run and gun like with the first ants. This redundant rehash formula holds true for other cooler enmesh too. Later you’ll fight U.F.O.s and then bigger U.F.O.s, alien mechs and then bigger alien mechs, or dinosaur mechs to shake things up a bit, and so on and so on.
The controls are about as easy as they can get. Basically all you do is point your weapon at the bug or alien and pull the trigger. The A.I. is extremely simple as they all attack in the same way. For the most part all of your enemies will come straight at you until either they or you die. None of them take cover of any kind. Apparently the aliens are smart enough to fly across galaxies to eradicate mankind, but they are too damn dumb to take evasive maneuvers when they are being shot at.
One of the few places where Eath Defense Force 2017 actually shines is with the weapons. You’ll almost always be finding guns and explosives to add to your artillery. Before each mission you will be able to select two weapons from your arsenal. Choose wisely though because it’s those two weapons and two weapons only for the entirety of the mission, and each weapon has it‘s own reload time. My suggestion is to stay away from the shotguns, grenades and special weapons all together, or at least until you get some of the newer and more powerful upgrades. It’s best to start off with a rifle and either a rocket or missile launcher until you find some of the nastier weapons hidden in the game. One strange problem I noticed wit the weapons is that there is no reload button. To reload you have to empty your current clip to use a fresh one. Even though you basically have unlimited ammo for must guns, the reloading is still an issue because you’ll often forget to reload your weapon by firing it which can sometimes lead to suffering through the seemingly endless reloading times during an intense battle with hundreds of enemies.
Graphically, EDF just barely looks better than an original Xbox game. Everything looks generic, repetitive, and identical from the buildings/houses, to the mountains, to the enemies (as I mentioned earlier), to the humans (be they civilian, soldier, or main character). There are major clipping issues throughout the campaign, and controlling your humdrum character is less than precise to say the least. Controlling the sorry excuse for vehicles in the game is down right unforgivable. Dead enemy aliens and bugs just disappear.
The recycled buildings do crumble in fantastic ways though. There’s lots of bug juice spraying out everywhere from all the firefights. And some of the larger mechs’ explosions are a sight to behold, but only if you’re at a distance (seeing the same explosion up close makes it look quite unimpressive and almost ugly).
All in all you get what you expect from a game like this . . . a nice little weekend rental, and nothing more. Even that statement is a bit of a stretch because the game seems to go on forever which almost guarantees the fact that one weekend may actually prove to be too long for some gamers. Earth Defense Force 2017 could have been more, but as you know, saying that doesn’t add up to much. I mean my aunt could’ve been my uncle if she had balls. So what? Spend about 30 minutes to an hour of time with this game and you will realize that the makers of EDF just didn’t put their all into the title.