Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable revives a flawed but addictive 5-year old shooter for Vita
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable for the Vita is one of the dumbest, most mindless games I have ever played. The graphics are distinctly last-gen, the controls can be frustrating, and there is little to no plot.
This is essentially a re-release of Earth Defense Force 2017, which came out five years ago for the Xbox 360, only now with seven new levels, a new class, new weapons, and online multiplayer. Hardly awe-inspiring stuff.
Yet underneath the crummy textures, lackluster controls, and silliness of it all, it’s still fun. It just might not be worth the money D3’s asking for it.
It’s a bug hunt
The Defense Force games are a long-running series of Japanese third-person shooters which pit human soldiers against giant bugs and robots. The affair is distinctly B-movie, complete with god-awful voice acting.
EDF 2017 begins with a news announcer, who sounds oddly like Velma from Scooby-Doo, proclaiming the arrival of spaceships in Earth’s atmosphere. “I can’t believe my eyes! A huge spaceship is floating above the city! It looks like something out of a science fiction movie,” she says. “The government has named these extraterrestrials ‘Ravagers.’ They are currently attempting to establish contact with the Ravagers. Are they our friendly galactic neighbors? Or are their intentions more sinister?”
Really? Ravagers. We name the aliens Ravagers and then wonder if they’re friendly?
Every level plays out largely the same: you stare at a spaceship overhead as it releases dozens of giant ants, robots, aerial fighters, and more. The screen fills with enemies. Your task is to blow them all away using any of the 230+ available guns and collect the armor and weapons they drop. And… that’s it. That’s all there is to it.
The game’s minimal structure shines in four-player online co-op, a feature new to the series. The game’s single-player is insane enough, but having three other players shooting lasers, drones, rockets, and more every which way while blowing up dozens of enemies and leveling city blocks without so much as a frame rate stutter is truly a sight to behold.
This is where I spent most of my time, and the 3G-compatible Vita’s extreme portability lends itself well to weary travelers in need of some excitement. On the road with friends and bored in the back seat? Start up EDF 2017 and jump into multiplayer. The mode doesn’t really add anything unique - there’s no bonus teamwork controls, no mix-and-match of special abilities - but playing with multiple people amplifies the simplistic nature of the game’s love of carnage.
How to squash bugs
Players run with left stick, aim with right, fire with the right trigger, so for the most part, controls are as you’d expect. There are a couple head-scratchers in the default scheme though. For one, jump is mapped to the left trigger, which takes some getting used to. There’s also no reload button, which means that if you’re low on ammo between scuffles, you need to fire those bullets at something.
I’d suggest taking aim at buildings, since it takes very little to reduce them to rubble. There’s no penalty for property destruction, and since everything can be demolished, it can be ridiculous fun to level the city. One of my favorite ways to take out the giant bugs was to find one crawling up a building, blow the building up with a rocket, and hit the bug with a second rocket as it tumbled down.
Maybe I wouldn’t make a good candidate for Earth Defense Force, considering I spent more time blowing Earth up than saving it.
There are 60 missions to complete, and difficulty ramps up appropriately after the game’s first level, which plods along at a frustratingly slow pace. Running for a solid minute towards battles with nothing to do but push the thumbstick forward is not particularly fun. The game has five difficulty levels, but completing harder difficulties won’t net you the bonuses that come from completing lower ones. Completionists, therefore, will have to play through a total of 300 missions to unlock everything.
Thankfully, those who have the patience to make it through the game’s 60 levels a first time are rewarded with the Pale Wing class, a jetpack-wielding, schoolgirl-looking character that plays very different from the ground soldier you’re otherwise saddled with. Blasting through the skies changes the flow of combat dramatically, and I highly recommend sticking it out to give her a spin.
Bad in the best way
If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll have a good time here. Don’t pop in Demolition Man expecting an Oscar nominee, and don’t download EDF 2017 expecting Game of the Year. This is schlock, but it’s still fun schlock.
Earth Defense Force 2017 probably won’t win over many new fans. If the EDF games aren’t your thing, there’s nothing in the portable Vita version to entice you. If you can’t deal with the occasional frustration of missing features like a reload button, EDF 2017‘s imperfect nature will grind on your patience.
The largest obstacle for fans, however, is the cost. EDF 2017 is fun, but as a five-year old game with minimal enhancements that you could download for $15 on Xbox, it fails to justify its $40 price. It’s fun, but not that fun. Unless you’re a diehard Defense Force fan or in dire need of a Vita game, you may want to wait on the sidelines of this battle, at least for awhile.
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable is available now through the PlayStation Vita store.