Earth Defence Force 2017 is a low budget Japanese third-person shooter developed by Sandlot, and published by D3 Publisher, for the Xbox 360. The game is the sequel the to the game Global Defence Force. Earth Defence Force 2017, or EDF 2017, as it is commonly referred to (and will be for the remainder of this review) is the first game in the Defence Force series to be released to North America.
As stated, EDF2017 is a low budget game, released for a budget price. This is something that is imperative to keep in mind when both playing and reviewing this game, as to compare it to its high budget, large development team brethren, including such obvious comparisons as Lost Planet and Gears of War, is to do both the game, and the developers a disservice. Going forward, this is something that should be kept in mind. Also, due to both this fact, and how much fun this game really is, at least to the subset of gamers to which it appeals, I feel compelled to break one of my own self imposed rules and speak from in first person, at least during certain moments of this review.
I have reviewed from the first person a few times in the past, but generally try to avoid doing so, as I find it to be somewhat distasteful for a review, as I like reviews to maintain some semblance of professionalism, and this can quickly be lost if too much subjectivity and personal experience is injected into the review. However, for games that a reviewer truly holds dear, or for certain games for which the reviewer finds it imperative that he or she convey certain ideas, I believe it's often the only real recourse.
I truly believe that EDF2017 is a game that is easily misunderstood, or shrugged off due to either its premise, graphics, budget status, or some combination of the above. I also firmly believe that a strictly objective review would do this game a great disservice, as from an objective standpoint, this game is a complete and utter turd. The thing is though, the game is actually far from that, as a number of gamers will attest to, myself included. This game is so damn fun, and to review it categorically and with no other insight, would just be plain unfair, to both the game and its creators, and also any prospective players, who may miss out on dozens of hours of silly and somewhat inexplicable fun. All of this being said, let's turn to actually assessing the game's qualities.
Here's the premise of the game in a nutshell: Aliens are attacking Earth, and the Earth Defence Force is tasked with being a welcoming party of sorts. A welcoming party armed with 150 different weapons and a slew of vehicles to pilot. And the aliens that are attacking? Giant acid spitting ants, gigantic web slinging spiders, gigantic, several stories tall laser shooting robots, and cybernetic dinosaur mech....things. Think an organic/robotic hybrid that resembles Godzilla.
You are a part of the EDF, and as a member of this elite group, you are tasked with aiding your brothers and sisters in arms in taking on these giant monstrosities across 53 stages and several difficulties, ranging from as easy as could be to so hard you might be able to tackle it if you spend 50-80 hours levelling up enough (although the term levelling up is used loosely, as all that really denotes in this game is picking up enough health pickups, for some reason named armor, to increase your total hit points). Well, that, and attaining the proper firepower.
The gameplay structure is as follows: you choose your weapons (you can carry two) and head into battle. Then, all you do is shoot. The only objectives you have are to shoot.....and shoot some more. You are, for some inexplicable reason, gifted with infinite ammo, for every single weapon in your possession, whether it be a lowly shotgun or a fire-20-missiles-at-once missile launcher. You do most of your travelling on foot, but on occasion, you will encounter various other methods of transport (and attack) such as mechs, tanks and helicopters. All of which should be avoided like the plague, as they control so terribly it's not even worth bothering. I'll get to that later, however.
So, basically, you're on foot, you hold down the right trigger, and take on hundreds of gigantic enemies at once. The enemies, upon death, which has them explode into piles of green goo/blood, drop really cheesy looking 2D powerup icons by the dozen. These powerups come in the form of health boosts, the aforementioned armor tokens (which add to your hit point total, as you'll recall) and weapon icons which grant you a randomly selected weapon unlock (you don't even find out what you got until you complete the level). As you complete levels, you gain HP and weapon unlocks, so there's a tangible sense of progression which fuels the desire to carry on.
The game should last a good 15-20 hours on a first playthrough on the Normal difficulty. Less if you're playing co-op (the whole campaign can be played in 2 player splitscreen co-op). Once you complete Normal, you can, if you're so inclined, then start to tackle the higher difficulties, which require you to unlock more and better weapons, and to also add to your HP total. This of course means level grinding. Weapon unlocks, while random, do have some deterministic element as well, as there are differing possibilities for each level on each separate difficulty, which means it's somewhat random, but the weapons are tied to a few select levels and difficulties, so it's not entirely as random as it may seem.
This design encourages the player to attempt later levels at harder difficulties in order to unlock better weaponry, which will enable them to tackle the challenges that lie farther ahead. It's a system that encourages multiple playthroughs and, if the game grabs you, will keep you going and going and going.....It's the classic carrot on a string game design.
The weapons that you unlock, while incredibly numerous, do come in specific categories, which include things like shotguns, assault rifles, snipers, grenade launchers, missile launchers, rocket launchers, and special weapons, which include things like acid guns, flamethrowers, firecracker bombs, and some others that will not be spoiled here. If you manage to complete the game on Inferno, the highest difficulty, and unlock every single weapon in the game, you are granted the ultimate weapon. I will leave this for you to discover, but suffice it to say that if this game were more popular, it would go down in history as one of, if not the, craziest video game weapons of all time.
While newer weapon unlocks are generally just stronger versions of your current weapons, the weapons on display are still a huge standout, with such things as automatic rocket launchers that shoot several rockets in rapid succession and can level entire skyscrapers in one shot (note that the rubble disappears into the ground within seconds).
The bosses in this game are completely humongous and over the top, which fits right in with the rest of the game, seeing as how it's all humongous and over the top. The aforementioned dinosaur mech....things are one example of what types of bosses you will face in this game. Another boss type are skyscraper sized robots, and gigantic spaceships that are equipped with turrets and give birth to flying robots.
So, for those of you who happen to be so called old school gamers, you're probably recognizing the fact that the label of old school very much applies to this game. Completely over the top, B movie plot and elements, enemy drops, ridiculous weaponry, no objectives other than kill, gigantic enemies and humongous bosses. This game is completely old school, and makes no apologies for it. This would have fit right in in an early 1990's arcade, or on the Genesis or SNES. In 2D of course, but the game design would be exactly the same.
If the previous few sentences appeal to you, or stir up some latent old school gamer feelings within you, then this game is probably for you. Of course, there are some (several, really) caveats to mention. As previously stated, on a technical level, this game fails miserably. If you you can look past this (being aware of the games budget status certainly helps) or that things like this take a backseat to fun for you, then the following statements likely won't dissuade you from playing this game, but I would suggest reading through the criticisms to try and be sure (or to try and approach whatever level of certainty reading a review affords you).
As mentioned earlier, the vehicle controls are horrid. They're so clunky, it seems as though the team ran out of time, and had to leave them unfinished. The animations are really bad. Your characters' run/walk animations are so incredibly strange, you really have to see it. It looks as though the characters' midsection is comprised of a Jenga tower that has sustained a massive blow to its' structural integrity.
The graphics are poor. The sound design is screwed up, in that the 5.1 mix doesn't work properly, and the crude music is mixed too far into the background (which isn't too much of a negative, in retrospect). The physics and collision detection are completely screwy. There are major framerate issues present. When things get really hectic, the slowdown is absolutely horrendous. The powerup icons look like Doom 1 quality sprites. Your dead allies still somehow speak, apparently not appraised of the fact that they are in fact dead. The gameplay basically defines repetitive.
And yet, despite all of that, the game actually rocks. The framerate issues somehow don't matter, and in some way, add to the fun, as you see 20 rockets flying towards a group of 50 or so ants climbing buildings, and running towards you, spitting acid as they do so, all in slow motion. Also, the framerate issues aren't infrequent, but they're also not constant.
The 2D sprite icons spur nostalgic feelings in the veteran gamer. As does, well, everything. I experience major nostalgic feelings when I play this game. The weapons you can toy around with are simply ridiculous, and very fun to both unlock and wield. The enemy designs are really fun, and reminiscent of cheesy B science fiction movies. The action is nonstop, and the infinite ammo means that o matter what weapons you choose to bring with you into a mission, you'll be able to use them from start to finish. No matter if it's an acid gun, a blockbusting claymore type bomb, or the Air Tortoise, which is an agonizingly slow missile that is incredibly fun to watch slowly fly towards its target, which it misses as often as it hits for devastating damage. The co-operative play with two like minded gamers approaches the level of sublime. One could say it's gaming nirvana.
Basically, if you're into mindless fun, love over the top enemies and weapons and B movie plots, and basically don't require every game you play to be a big budget, flashy effects laden so called AAA masterpiece, then this game may very well be the most refreshing thing you have played in a long time. You really have to be able to look past technical issues though. That's the key. I can, and do, and I have put over 60 hours into this game, and I don't plan on ever shelving it for good. I think this is going to be one of those games that I will play sporadically throughout the years. This may not be on anyone's best of lists, but damn it, it's on my most fun list.
I have thought long and hard about the score I assign to this game, and I am absolutely torn. Truly, absolutely torn. My brain wants to simultaneously award this game a 9, 7, and 3. The problem is, I am trying to review, and subsequently score, the game for several types of gamers. This is a game that will really divide gamers. If you only play the ''best'' games, if you don't like mindless fun, but rather, more coherent and at least somewhat cerebral gameplay; if you need a compelling narrative and/or if you didn't grow up with the 8 and 16 bit systems, it's quite likely, although certainly not necessarily a given, that you will think this game to be an absolute piece of junk, to be categorized with the likes of Superman 64 and Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. A 3 out of 10 would be a fitting score for you, perhaps even too generous on my part.
Ya, try rating me a 3!
On the other hand, if you are me, you really, really love this game, despite being absolutely cognizant of the fact that it's kind of a piece of crap. You know you probably sound like an EDF 2017 apologist, but you're really tempted to score the game a 9, because, damn it, games are about fun. Games are about entertainment. And this game entertained the hell out of you. It provided you with an amount of fun that's nearly unquantifiable (it is, in numbers of hours, but it's a really high number, damn it!). The technical issues really, honestly, and truly don't matter to you, at least not for this game. It's charms absolutely won you over.
However, this also puts you in the awkward position of scoring this game as highly, or very close to as highly, as something like a Gears of War or a Metal Gear Solid. And that can't be right, can it? I mean, okay, if gaming is about fun, then it makes sense that for you , at least, this was subjectively a ton of fun. But don't game designers deserve to be credited for their technical mastery, artistic vision, innovation, etc? If Kojima and co. really busted their asses to make MGS4 as fantastic as possible, do they deserve to be rated around the same as a technically horrendous game?
Then again, EDF2017 had an absolutely miniscule budget, and amount of other resources, like actual developers, so perhaps it's not fair to score them lower than these other games based on those particular variables. Especially since the game not only costs less to make, but is actually selling for less. Doesn't that mean the gamer should expect less? Or should games be judged solely on their merits, independent of such concerns? I mean, a 9 for a game with literally broken mechanics and such glaring technical flaws, plus the repetition.....
Okay, and so gamer number three pipes in and says that it all should be factored in. The game is fun, fun, fun, but also very, very flawed, and even has some broken mechanics. However, it's a budget title, selling for a budget price, and it really is quite fun, despite the issues. So, we factor it all together, and objectively, the game deserves that 3, but then you factor in the budget status, and the subjective assessment of its entertainment value, which is very positive, and you meet somewhere halfway. You can't give it a terrible score, as it really does rise above its problems (depending upon the type of gamer you are, of course) but you also can't give it a really high score, as you're then telling people, at least on the face of it, that the game is as good as those so called AAA games you so adamantly say it's not fair to compare it to.
And so, after a lengthy internal debate, and the several paragraph long, incredibly informal and non traditional section of this review, which not only breaks but demolishes my self imposed but cherished rule of keeping personal comment out of reviews, a decision has been reached, although not without mixed emotions. I hereby award Earth Defence Force 2017 a seven point five out of ten.
Overall Score: 7.5/10