Sporting a B-movie charm with outdated animations and over-the-top destruction, Sandlot’s rehash Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable is sure to provide hours of explosive destruction and alien slaying goodness.
It’s not all fun and games though, as a member of the Earth Defense Force, it is your duty to save the Earth from certain destruction at the hands of our would-be insectoid overlords. So grab your rocket launchers and let’s go!
There is not much story to speak of in EDF, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is this: aliens have invaded Earth, and it’s up to you and your expendable allies to rid the planet of the interlopers. This is accomplished in short, portable-friendly, missions that each require only about five to fifteen minutes for completion. There are 60 missions in total, taking roughly 10 hours or so to complete. All of these missions can be completed with friends using the game’s online or ad-hoc cooperative multiplayer modes. The game also features a competitive multiplayer mode, but I was never able to find a game to join.
Prior to each mission, you select two weapons from your arsenal. At your disposal you’ll have assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, missiles, grenades, and specials tools that can stop enemies in their tracks or even heal allies. You’ll also have access to turrets and iconic insect eradication weapons like flamethrowers. Unlike most shooters, you are not limited to a primary and secondary weapon, so if you want to use a rocket launcher with an automated turret, or an assault rifle with a missile launcher, that’s your prerogative. Most weapons have unlimited ammo, leaving you free to reign destruction on not only your enemies, but even your allies and buildings. Just about everything in the game is destructible, so if a building is in your way, don’t bother walking around it, just blow it up and pass right on through. This wanton destruction is fantastic, but may quickly become tedious due to the overused environments.
Missions come in five flavors: Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Inferno. But beware, difficulties above normal are not for the faint of heart. The missions themselves are generally straight forward. You’re plopped in the middle of an alien invasion, or in the middle of a giant ant tunnel, and the objective is simple: kill everything. And I mean everything. There are no objectives; you just blow up every red dot that pops up on the radar until you see “Mission Cleared”. You’ll face various enemies from giant spiders and ants, to alien drop ships and mechs, and even Godzilla sized armored dinosaurs. Killing these enemies causes them to drop not only health packs, but also armor and weapons.
Collectibles are this game’s bread and butter and are essential if you ever plan on conquering the harder difficulties. Collecting an armor token increases your stamina (health), while grabbing a weapon token has a chance to unlock a new, more powerful, weapon. If you’re having trouble with a mission, going back and re-completing old missions for these tokens will make you stronger, giving you a fighting chance in the more unforgiving missions and difficulties. Some will find this grind tedious, but others should enjoy the sense of progression you get when you finally beat a mission or find a truly great weapon.
At first sight, EDF looks underwhelming. The graphics are just plain bad. In fact, this game looks like it was stripped right from the PSP. Jaggies aren’t nearly as bad as some of the Vita’s other recent titles, but the textures are horrible and the landscapes are bland. Pop-in is an ever present problem in EDF, with buildings and enemies in the distance seemingly materializing from nowhere. On top of the graphical issues, frame rate drops are another nuisance. They aren’t nearly as frequent in single player, where I only noticed it during times of intense action (which sometimes leads to dying on harder difficulties), but it was much more frequently present in multiplayer. I did find the 16-bit sprites for the health, weapon, and armor tokens to be a nice touch, though.
The AI in EDF is poor at best. I found my allies to be particularly useless, and really serve no purpose other than running right in front of me when I fire off a rocket. In the cave levels, allies often shoot straight at walls trying to hit something on the other side. Between running straight through your line of fire and getting mauled by giant ants, your allies really don’t stand a chance, so it’s up to you alone to complete the mission. The enemy AI is not much better. Enemies often get caught on environmental objects, or simply run away from the battle causing you to chase them down in order to complete the mission. During one mission, I had to run nearly five minutes out of my way to kill one spider that got caught on a small picket fence. That said, the poor AI is little more than a minor inconvenience, but at full price for a port, one would think that the AI would be updated to modern standards.
Perhaps the biggest issue I have with the game are the vehicles. Vehicles feel clunky and unresponsive; they turn slowly and have no aiming reticle. In the later missions, I found that the poor maneuverability rendered vehicles fairly useless. I would get in a tank, only to have it destroyed five seconds later before I could even turn towards my enemies. The controls work well enough if you’re just running around shooting things, but once you hop into a vehicle everything changes. I play with an inverted y-axis, and always have, but this isn’t an option for vehicle controls. Having to switch control schemes every time I use a vehicle gets annoying very quickly.
EDF’s primary protagonist is an Earth Defense soldier called Storm. He looks just like all of the other EDF soldiers and uses standard weapons. However, completing all of the missions once unlocks a second character called Pale Wing. Pale Wing is a female character who uses a jet pack to traverse through the environments with super-powerful futuristic weapons. Instead of using a reload system, Pale Wing’s weapons rely on energy, which is shared by her jet pack. You’ll have to balance your energy use if you hope to be successful. She cannot use any of Storm’s weapons, and she starts with only 100 stamina, so you’ll have to play through the game again to make her more powerful and unlock new weapons. Because of the jet pack and radically different weapons, Pale Wing plays completely differently than Storm, making it a joy to play through the game a second time with her. The addition of Pale Wing to the roster is one of the biggest changes from the original game on Xbox 360 and greatly improves this games replayability.