Earth Defense Force 2017 is the epitome of a budget title. The graphics are sub-par, the missions repetitive, and overall has a cheap feeling to it. What I can’t understand though is how addictive this title truly is. EDF 2017 is actually a chapter in the long running series from Japan from publisher D3 called the Simple 2000 series, which is basically a budget line of games usually reserved for the PS2. D3 has finally started releasing them on Microsoft’s console, and EDF marks the first one to make it to US shores.
The premise is simple, you are a member of the Earth Defense Force and it is your job to stop the current alien invasion. The game consists of 53 short and sweet missions that can range from simply eliminating an onslaught of giant ants to fighting back a UFO armada. For the most part the game play consists of simply moving and shooting with a few vehicle-driven levels thrown in to mix up the action. EDF never tries to be something it is not and it never seems to try and disguise its simplistic intentions.
All of this works because of the game’s simple mindset. This is an old school arcade shooter that is designed to satisfy itchy trigger fingers. As you progress through the arcade mode you will slowly upgrade your hit points and armor so that you can tackle the seemingly impossible Inferno difficulty. This kind of progression gives the game a certain charm that most titles gloss over in favor of cover systems and deep involving storylines. This doesn’t make EDF a better game per se but it does differentiate enough from other shooters to make it enjoyable.
There are a total of 150 different weapons in the game and all pack a unique punch. From the simple shotgun to the might grenade launcher collecting them all becomes a task in and of itself. This is another addictive aspect of the game as the process of unlocking these weapons is completely random. During each level certain enemies will drop a weapon icon that you will not know the contents of until after the level is over. These may be firearms that you already possess, but when you do manage to earn a new one it is a rewarding experience.
The difficulty level also plays a factor here as the harder the difficulty you are playing on the better chance you have of finding the rarer guns in the game. For some reason this fails at being tedious, never during a mission did I find myself bored, and even after playing the same level over and over I could still find myself having a good time going back for seconds, thirds, and beyond. For the Achievement buffs out there you can earn one of the six highly coveted marks in this game by collecting all of the weapons, which I am here to tell you is no small feat.
The one area where EDF definitely falls into the budget category is in the visuals. While you will find some cool enemy designs and a few pretty explosions, as a whole the game lacks variety. Most of the character designs are simple and extremely devoid of even decent animation. The levels are also recycled over and over again which will become extremely evident after destroying the same city for the 50th time. The icons littered around the levels for pickups are also flat 2D panels that simply spin around which really shows a lack of effort in some areas.
The most disappointing visual aspect though is the frame rate. Even with these sub-par visuals the game slows down to a crawl almost every time there is an abundance of action onscreen. This is one area that would have caused me to overlook some of the repeating textures and animations, but when your visuals are not impressive and you lack a steady frame rate then we have a problem. It’s even more disappointing when you realize how great this game could look with a bigger budget. Perhaps if the positive feedback on this game continues and more gamers decide to take the plunge (which they definitely should) we will see some upgrades in a possible sequel.
There is one area where this game completely falls apart and that is the sound. While some of the blurbs your squad will utter during combat are hilarious at times, the overall implementation is weak. Random voices can be heard even after your squad has been annihilated. The weapons also sound weak and recycled when compared to other 360 shooters and the environmental ambience ranges from bad to downright pathetic. The music is derivative and not very engaging and the voice over between missions becomes annoying really fast.
The final nail in the budget coffin for EDF 2017 is a complete lack of online support. You can enjoy some co-op action via the same console split screen, but if you are hoping for an online mode you are simply out of luck. This game would also have benefited from some inventive adversarial multi-player, but alas it probably wasn’t available in the tiny budget this game obviously had. Perhaps with a sequel we can at least get some online co-op.
Recommending this game isn’t hard, in fact I can’t think of a reason not to buy this game. With a nice price, fast-paced action, and tons of giant bugs to demolish this is one of the most satisfying experiences on the Xbox 360 to date. It’s a shame there are so many things holding it back from being massively appealing to all gamers. Regardless if you are a fan of mindless shooters and can deal with a few technical hiccups do not hesitate to give this game a whirl, I guarantee you get more than your moneys worth.