I have played a huge variety of titles during my time as a Vita owner. I have explored outer space, navigated dungeons filled with monsters and even customised a living room for my pet cats. But I feel there is one experience I will never forget, and that is battling giant ants whist navigating the River Thames in central London.
That is what I will take away from my time play Earth Defense Force 2. It is big, clunky and unashamedly out-dated, but the sheer scale of its ridiculous concept is impossible to ignore and admire.
Earth Defense Force 2 is a remake of the 2005 PS2 third-person shooter of the same name, whose story follows the invasion of earth by a murderous alien race, hell-bent on destroying mankind. In a bizarre twist, these aliens looks remarkably similar to the creepy crawlies found on earth, such as ants and spiders. These beasts are attacking major cities around the world and it is up to you to end their reign of terror.
For those unfamiliar with the series, like myself, you’ll find yourself unforgivingly thrown in head first to the carnage. With any form of tutorial no where to be seen, it certainly is a baptism of fire when you are dropped straight into central London, standing on Westminster Bridge staring at giant ants crawling all over Big Ben. For fans of the shooter genre, familiarising yourself with the controls shouldn’t be too difficult, but I feel on screen prompts in the first mission should have been implemented, just to gently introduce me to the action.
Each mission contains a certain amount of enemies, with each level ending once they have all been vanquished. Enemies range between giant insects to robots, with levels becoming increasingly more difficult the further you get into the game. Enemies also evolve the further into the game you delve and you may have to rub your eyes in disbelief at what you’re facing in the games final levels. You certainly can’t fault EDF 2’s ambitious size.
Before each level you choose your weaponry, with there being three different classes of soldier to choose from. The first is Infantry, which is your standard foot soldier, that allows you to be armed with standard weapons, including machine guns and shotguns. Next is Pale Wing, that equips you with a jetpack for easy navigation and less conventional weapons, such as a plasma rifle or particle cannon. The final class type is the Air Raider, which enables you to use various pieces of equipments to take down enemies, such as trip mines, sentries and air strikes. Each class allows the player to hold two weapons (with Air Raider having an air strike ability enabled as a third weapon), which can be altered before each mission. Sometimes it is worth experimenting with different weapons and classes, having trial runs of levels. Many times I ran in all gun blazing as Infantry, realising once I’d been sent flying by a angry mob of jumping spiders, that an Air Raider selection would have been more appropriate.
There are five difficulties to choose from in each level, ranging from easy to inferno. Impossible mode is unlocked once you have collected a level on all other difficulties. I played most of my missions on normal, whilst dabbling with hard every now and then. Battles can become hectic very quickly without the right weapons and strategy in place. As soon as you are spotted by a bug or robot, you better be prepared, otherwise you’ll soon find yourself at the bottom of insect/machine based dog pile.
No matter how manic things get, I was impressed at how well the game played. I never experienced any frame rate issues, which was surprising considering the amount of explosions, bugs and spaceships appearing constantly on screen. The game really does play well, and this is complimented by the responsive controls. This really is essential in a game that can very quickly see you backed into a corner. It is clear to see that a lot of effort went into making the game the best it can be on PS Vita.
The game was originally released in 2005, which is easily apparent by the games visuals. The art style has not been updated, which although does not harm the overall enjoyment of the game, is a shame when compared with other Vita ports of classic titles that have much superior art styles. Though saying that, the insects you battle are well designed and do look disturbingly creepy. Killing the creepy crawlies is incredibly satisfying, with the bugs collapsing in a spray of green blood, their mangled bodies littering the battlefield. Getting a direct hit with a rocket launcher will give you the pleasure of witnessing a sea of destruction, the landscape lighting up with fire. A very similar feeling is experienced by this reviewer when a particular annoying fly is swatted after hours of endless buzzing.
Although controls are responsive, the same cannot be said for the accuracy of the weapons at your disposal. A crosshair is on screen to guide your shots, but this more often than not becomes redundant, with bullets flying in random directions and grenades missing targets by hundreds of yards. If the Infantry or Air Raider classes are chosen, two vehicles will be available for you to hop in to at the start of a mission. These sound great on the surface, with tanks and helicopters surely making easy work of the infestation. Unfortunately you may as well be operating a vehicle made of cheese, as your beloved automobiles are quickly destroyed by huge waves of enemies. The helicopter was particularly useless, with it being hard to control and a nightmare to land. Flying above the clouds may be fun, but dropping like a stone into the middle of hundreds of angry spiders certainly isn’t.
At random times, fallen bugs will drop weapons and armour upgrades. Collecting these will allow you to upgrade your weapons for future battles. It is important to keep an eye on the mini-map in the right corner, as these will direct you to their location on the map. With the Pale Wing class, you can easily navigate around a map with your jetpack, flying to different sections in no time at all. With Air Raider, vehicles are easy to operate and although these will not last long in battle, they do allow quick passage to different areas. The same cannot be said for the Infantry class, where slow movement can make it an arduous task travelling from place to place. I found this particularly noticeable, as the Infantry class became my go to load out with the weapons available being generally more effective against large swarms. Tip to the Generals at the Earth Defence Force… Jetpacks should be standard issue to all your squad.
Although at times difficult to navigate, there is no faulting the brilliant size and beauty of each map in the game. It really is quite something destroying a building covered in giant ants, or blowing up a huge spaceship hovering above Japan. The action reminded me of your classic over the top b-movie action flicks from the past, and I found myself enjoying myself immensely. Seriously, crushing those bugs it just so darn satisfying.
Despite my initial reservation, I found Earth Defence Force 2 a perfect fit on the PS Vita. The level structure reminded me of Unit 13, with the mission-based gameplay making it the perfect game to play on the go in short bursts. It may not look or play the best, but its sheer ridiculousness and addictive gameplay are hard to ignore.
To sum up, the image of hundreds of giant ants crushing the Houses of Parliament in London is certainly something I never expected to witness in a PS Vita game.