Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (Vita) Review
Title: Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Players: 1 local, online co-operative multiplayer also available
Rated: Teen for Animated Blood, Violence, Mild Language
One of the things that really surprised me about the Playstation Vita was how many decent games the platform actually has, and another was how shockingly good the graphics were on a handheld, thanks to the relatively larger, HD-capable screen. It also seems like several developers have taken the opportunity to take some of their older titles and clean them up for a fresh release with a better look. Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (hereafter referred to as EDF) is one of those remakes, as it was originally released for the first X-Box back in 2007.
The story behind the game is that aliens have appeared in the skies over Earth, and initially just sit there, uncommunicatively. At the same time, giant ants begin to invade major Earth cities from unknown sources (although I bet you can figure out where they came from, right?), decimating the world’s military. As a member of the EDF, you are part of the front line of ground troops, sent into the city to destroy these ants. It’s an intriguing concept for a storyline, but really it’s just an excuse to have you run around a city environment shooting enemies until they’re all dead, so you don’t particularly have to pay attention to it.
Admit it, you thought I was kidding about the giant ants.
The gameplay is pretty simple, you’re giving two weapons slots (initially you start with a semi-automatic and a rocket launcher), and it’s all just pointing and pressing the “shoot” button. Reloading is automatic when you reach the end of a clip, and you have all the ammo you could ever need. Later levels introduce new enemies, like flying fighter drones and giant spiders, and occasionally provide you with vehicles (including a giant robot) from which to shoot them, but the basic combat strategy remains much the same. The controls are serviceable, if a little too sensitive, but given the large size and numbers of the crowds of enemies you’ll be firing at, you don’t have to worry too much about missing.
The game itself plays like one of those old arcade-type shooters, except instead of trying to survive as long as possible on a quarter, or reach a high score, it’s all broken up into “missions”. Generally, here’s how each mission plays out. You’re dropped somewhere in the city, with some AI teammates (which can be taken over by other players for online co-op multiplayer action), and pointed in the direction of the enemies. When everything is dead, the mission ends. Some enemies drop power-ups that restore health, add extra hit points to your character, or unlock even unlock new weapons, that you can use for all subsequent missions (although not the one you pick them up on). And that’s about it. There’s no advanced strategy, no variety, just shoot ‘em all, and let somebody else sort it out.
Graphically, EDF has some impressive things going for it. The models are all sharp, and the cityscape is varied and goes on forever in all directions. In fact, the sheer amount of draw distance is incredible, especially for a handheld game (a qualifier that is starting to mean less and less these days). There’s a decided lack of fine detail in the models, which isn’t too surprising given the age of the original game, and there are some instances where the giant bodies of your enemies will clip through the buildings and scenery quite noticeably, but it’s not horribly distracting. Special mention must be given to the destructible environment in this game, as any building, overpass, or monument in the city can be destroyed by a single shot of your rocket launcher. And it’s not just a puff of smoke and the building’s gone, no, they actually animated detailed “collapses” for all the structures in the game, making blowing things up one of the most fun things you can do in the game. And since there’s no penalty for doing so, I often found it easier to create my own “shortcuts” to reach my enemies than to take the streets.
Why would they give me a rocket launcher if they didn’t want me to blow up everything?
The sound in this game is a mixed bag. The music is decent, generic “action” tunes, which is good, because the default setting is to have it the primary sound of the game, with sound effects and dialogue turned to lower volumes. However, if you turn the music down, you’ll quickly realize that the reason why they did this is simple: the dialogue from your AI team-mates is obnoxious, heavily repetitive, and never, ever stops for a second. The soldiers around you literally do not shut up for the entire mission, and the inane things they say, which often have nothing to do with what’s going on around them, will make your ears bleed. Coupled with that, the weapon sound effects are minimalistic at best, and between the music and the dialogue, even with them turned up to maximum, you can barely hear the sound of your gun firing. It leads to a strange environment of noises, and can be a real distraction.
With that said, I have to admit the game is fun to play, at least initially. The simplistic nature of the game feeds into that desire that we all have to play a game where all you do is mow down wave after wave of enemies. No complexity, no consequences, no worries about how this will affect the story or anyone’s ulterior motivations, just the pure, unadulterated fun factor that comes with killing a whole bunch of alien scum and giant insects with an impressive array of digitized weaponry. Of course, that same simplicity means that the game gets pretty repetitive fairly quickly. There’s really only so many times you can shoot the same ant model in the same city setting before tedium sets in, and for most people, that will probably be about a couple hours. And since there is literally no other hidden objective in any level, or even anything like a leaderboard that could provide additional challenges, the replay value is minimal.
Yes, you can bring down a giant robot with a rifle. Why do you ask?
- Fun to play, at least initially
- Interesting story concept
- Surprisingly good graphics
- Extensive variety of weapons
- Destructible buildings!
- No depth beyond “shoot waves of enemies”
- Team AI dialogue is non-stop, repetitive, and painfully annoying
- Imprecise aiming and camera controls
- Some graphical clipping
- Odd font choice for menus may leave you squinting
EDF is a decent game that will give you some enjoyment for a few hours, and as long as you don’t mind the repetitiveness of the missions, there’s just enough story here to make you interested in finding out how it all shakes out. However, the simple and repetitive nature of the game means you’ll probably only play it once, beat it, and then forget about it, because there is no reason to go through it all again, even on a harder difficulty level or multiplayer, which is just the same missions with human players instead of AI. For all that, I would still have recommended this game, because if you’re just looking for a game that’ll give you a good weekend of fun, it has that capability. However, I do find the $39.99 price tag on PSN a little steep given the complete lack of depth and long-term playability. I’d wait for this one to hit the bargain bin.
|Graphics||7.0||Crisp, clear, excellent draw distance and with realistic collapsing buildings a highlight, although there’s definitely some clipping issues.|
|Gameplay||6.5||Simple controls, easy to pick up and play, but the camera and aiming are hit-or-miss, and your AI teammates are no help at all.|
|Sound||5.0||The narration is decent if unspectacular, but you’ll want to kill your AI teammates. The music is decent, but the weapon sound effects might as well not exist.|
|Lasting Appeal||3.0||There’s a lot of missions, but absolutely no reason to play them more than once.|
|Fun Factor||6.5||Shooting hordes of enemies is entertaining for a while, but you’ll start wishing for more variety or depth after a couple of hours or so.|
|Overall||6.0 [ Average ] legend|