Exclusive Review: Earth Defense Force 2017

Budget titles have always had a bad reputation. Gamers tend to view them as cheap games, rushed out by the publishers to quickly turn a buck on unsuspecting parents (who may not have the $60 to buy the newest titles for the kids). However, within the last year or so, we have truly seen the tides turn in terms of budget games — Rockstar?s Table Tennis and Atari?s Test Drive Unlimited for Xbox, the Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii and Okami for the PS2. These games should already be in your collection; not just because they’re easy on the wallet, but also because they are really good games that offer hours of quality gameplay. Fortunately, frugal Xbox 360 owners now have an additional budget title worthy of to be added to this batch: Earth Defense Force 2017.

Based on the Japanese-only Earth Defense Force series, EDF 2017 is the first time this planet-saving task force has seen a Stateside release. The story plays out as like so many B-movies that many of us enjoy: You must stop giant, killer insect-like aliens before they take over the planet. In other words, you’ll fight giant ants, spiders, walking robots and the mother ship for 50+ levels using 150 different kinds of weapons — and you save the world. It?s that simple…. well, kinda… it’s easier said than done.

Needless to say, EDF 2017 isn?t short on content. A run-through the 53 levels on “Normal” should put you at just around 10 hours (and for all the achievement fiends out there, like myself, you need to do that four more times to get almost all the points). The gameplay itself is pretty basic: Shoot anything that moves (and there’s a lot of things that move.) One of the true highlights of this game is seeing the sheer number of enemies — like the hordes of hundreds of insects — coming towards you in beautiful 1080p. The previous game in the series, a PS2 budget title, suffered from huge frame rate issues and plenty of graphical clipping; happily enough, EDF 2017 doesn?t suffer from those graphical flaws nearly as much, and any given mission usually displays pretty smoothly. If fact, the explosions, which are usually the biggest perpetrators of slowing down the frame rates in games, are something to be marveled at in EDF 2017. When you take down some of the larger enemies, the result is full, screen-shaking goodness; they’re really some of the most immersive blasts I’ve ever experienced in a video game.

But EDF 2017 isn?t all explosions and killer ants? oh wait, it actually is, and herein lies one of the biggest problems for the game. While it looks great, it’s essentially the same thing over and over in almost every level of the game: The bugs come, and you shoot them. There’s very little variation in the core gameplay, as well as the enemies throughout the game; some of the more seasoned gamers out there might find that to be a bit of a turnoff. But at the same time, if you really don?t want to waste any brain cells thinking about a video game, then this is the one for you. One of the other flaws of the game deals with the vehicles found scattered throughout the battlefield; the handling and the control is atrocious. While it doesn?t really hinder your ability to complete the game, if done right, it could’ve really helped mix up the gameplay a bit. There are also a few other minor issues with the game — ranging from seemingly long load times to comically bad voice-acting (I swear I thought Hulk Hogan was on my team at one point).

However, overall EDF 2017 has quite a few things going for it, as long as you don?t mind repetitive gameplay. Maybe the best way to break up the monotony is to tear into those aliens with a friend (or a significant other) in co-op mode; it really changes up how you approach each level. In any case, the biggest selling point for this game is probably its price point. As I said earlier, the generous people over at D3 Publisher are releasing EDF 2017 as a budget title for only $39.99. You get a whole lot of game for not a whole lot of money, which is great; it’s definitely a game that you can come back to months later and play again. In fact, the hours and hours of gameplay makes it a nice addition to any collection; I’m just saying don?t expect to be getting something of the same caliber as Gears of War, (and certainly not  Halo 3).

Bottom line: I?d give Earth Defense Force 2017 a 1512.75 out of 2017 …or a 7.5 out of 10.